George Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess, a major document in American cross-genre and interracial musical exchange, began a new moment in the late 2010s with a new production at New York's Metropolitan Opera. This 2021 release came from a live Philadelphia Orchestra concert, and it may make a good choice for those wanting to hear the new generation of Gershwin singers without investing in the entire Met production. It offers a generous selection of numbers from the opera, hitting most of the high points. The biggest attraction here is that the concert shared with the Met production the presence of rising star Angel Blue, not only in the title role of Bess but also as Clara, Serena, and a soloist in the chorus. She's an exceptionally intriguing Bess who merges African American inflections with the Italian opera that has been her specialty, and a quick sample of "Summertime" will establish her ability to bring a fresh outlook to this well-worn tune. She has good chemistry with baritone Lester Lynch as Porgy, who shares with her the experience of having to travel to Europe to find gigs. Another strong attraction is conductor Marin Alsop, always a strong presence in music with American rhythms, and the Morgan State University Choir is unusually lively. Chauncey Packer is the broadly comedic type of Sportin' Life, and the listener's reaction to this will be purely a matter of taste, but it is likely that almost anyone will find something to like here. The PentaTone label's work at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts is superbly clear.
Gershwin: Porgy & Bess Highlights Review
by James Manheim