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Porgy and Bess (New Broadway Cast) [Cast Recording]

Norm Lewis, Audra McDonald, George Gershwin, David Alan GrierAudio CD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)

Price: $11.88 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 22, 2012)
  • Original Release Date: 2012
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Cast Recording
  • Label: P.S. Classics
  • ASIN: B007FEHA34
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,248 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews

Two CD set. New production of the Gershwins' Porgy And Bess starring four-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald, Drama Desk-nominee Norm Lewis, and two-time Tony Award-nominee David Alan Grier. The Associated Press hailed it as "a gorgeous version of the Gershwin masterpiece," while Newsday proclaimed it "a luscious piece of musical theatre: a gripping, in-your-face, vibrant revival that bursts with fierce immediacy''. Revered for its legendary score by George Gershwin, Dubose & Dorothy Heyward and Ira Gershwin -- featuring such classics as "Summertime," "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" and "I Got Plenty of Nothing" -- The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess has been reimagined and reinvigorated for the modern stage by a team that includes Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, musical adapter Diedre L. Murray and director Diane Paulus.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
64 of 68 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You can like it and still agree with Sondheim. June 8, 2012
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Stephen Sondheim did the new production a huge favor by writing an angry letter about the revamped P&B to the "NY Times" long before it hit the stage at the beginning of the year. The producers of the present version could not have paid for better publicity. Sondheim's main focuses were: 1. the substituion of a mere crutch for the formerly crippled Porgy's goat cart; 2. the insistence on "fleshing out" the characters with "back stories" that would explain their behavior more completely for a modern audience; 3. the "softening" of the ending (i.e. less Shakespearean and more Disney); 4. the misleading title for what is, essentially, a rewrite of Gershwin's original. In addition, Sondheim was offended by the presumptuous tone of the show's producers, cast and stars, who seemed eager to suggest that the play was dated, that modern audiences wouldn't sit still for the duration of the original and, worst, that the present directors and cast knew better than Gershwin about how the story and orchestrations should be realized.

Frankly, it's hard to disagree with any of Sondheim's points--providing you've experienced anything like the original Porgy and Bess. If you haven't listened to, say, the Houston Opera production George Gershwin's "Porgy & Bess", none of Sondheim's objections need apply. And even if you have experienced the original "American Folk Opera," the current "Porgy and Bess" plays better than most Broadway musicals you're likely to see. Sure, it's more "racially sensitive," more optimistic and "beautified" (Porgy exudes masculine charisma and virility, and we can only surmise that he will successfully meet up with Bess at play's end).
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54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars New interpretation is not quite satisfying May 24, 2012
Format:MP3 Music|Verified Purchase
I was astonished to discover that new orchestrations had been created for "Porgy and Bess" because Mr. Gershwin himself wrote his own orchestrations for the original. This was unusual for the time; Rodgers, Porter, Berlin, etc. relied on orchestrators to accomplish this task. Reportedly, Gershwin spent a great deal of time orchestrating "Porgy and Bess" so we can be fairly certain that the original was just the way he wanted it with no "middleman" on the way to the orchestra pit. My bigger concern, to quote another reviewer, is that this is a staccato performance. Take "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" for example - in my opinion this version is choppy and overacted. They work so hard to make the music sound like dialog that Gershwin's lovely, flowing lines of melody are lost in fits and starts as they "act". Audra is, as always, in lovely voice, but the overall effect is not as pleasing to my ear as I had hoped when I heard that she would be doing this production. In addition, Norm Lewis is not her vocal equal as was, for instance, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and this does not help matters. I recommend listening to samples before you make the purchase to be sure it is what you are looking for in a recording of "Porgy and Bess".
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The most disappointing anticipated recording ever August 11, 2012
Format:Audio CD
As a huge admirer of Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis, this had been the most anticipated cast recording for me in many years.

Ignoring Paulus et al's need to "improve" on Gershwin's flawed masterpiece, and their shameful disrespect to Dubose Heyward (Stephen Sondheim's editorial was spot on), everything about this recording is a disappointment, except for Ms. McDonald's work.

The "new and improved" orchestrations are awful. The music itself sounds as though the singers performed their parts in separate parts of the country, and then someone edited them together in a studio. The result is a work that is emotionally "flat" and lifeless (and often actually flat as well). While Ms. McDonald is, as always, lovely, even Norm Lewis sounds "wrong" to me.

This recording has very little to recommend it. Although the sound quality is "modern", I'll keep my Anne Brown/Todd Duncan recording for a "Broadway" version, as well as the Glyndebourne Opera version. Even the much maligned film soundtrack has more "life" than this mess of a recording.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars NOT the Gershwins' Porgy and Bess August 19, 2012
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I haven't read all of the other reviews, but I share the views of those who find this recording not only disappointing but also distressing. I will assume that the producers of this "revival" had good intentions - possibly trying to bring this brilliant classic to the masses - but they've done so by dumbing it down. First, they've eliminated the Gershwins' orchestrations and in some cases even their rhythms; for example, they've replaced the lush orchestration and beguine-like rhythms of "Bess, You Is My Woman..." and replaced it with a flimsy fox trot. They've also made bad casting choices. I mean no insult when I say that Norm Lewis has a Broadway voice; for Broadway it's a fine voice. However, it's not adequate for the grandeur of this role. Similarly, the Crown - he's not listed on the cover, but having listened to good recordings of this opera (and having had the great pleasure of seeing it staged twice), Crown should be sung by someone whose voice is riveting and commanding; in the great confrontation scene with Bess, I found it hard to believe that Crown could subdue her.

Which brings us to the recordings strongest point - Audra McDonald. Is there anything that she can't do brilliantly? She was trained as an opera singer, and it shows. Her voice may actually be a tad light for the role, but when she sings, you listen. The only other artist who does his role justice is David Alan Grier - his Sportin Life is also fantastic.

However, these two strong assets don't make up for the weakness of the overall recording. It should have been called "Porgy and Bess Lite" - or, better yet, it shouldn't have been done in the first place.

If you really want to hear this opera as it should be sung, go get yourself the great recording with John DeMain and the Houston Grand Opera or the more recent recording by Simon Rattle. THOSE are the Gershwins' Porgy and Bess.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't have too much MacDonald
Beautiful interpretation of this classic.
Published 3 hours ago by Vulcan Isadora
1.0 out of 5 stars but "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" would clearly like you to forget...
Before anything else, let's get something straight right away: not only is this NOT George and Ira Gershwins' "Porgy and Bess," it isn't DuBose Heyward's "Porgy and... Read more
Published 27 days ago by Jeffrey Rockwell
2.0 out of 5 stars Not worth the time to listen
I love Porgy and Bess but this recording was not anything worthy of the great Gershwin.
Published 1 month ago by Carol Zeits
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
their is no Gershwin today so thanks for this recording to remind us of genius
Published 1 month ago by Ida Pfeffer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Daughter loved it
Published 2 months ago by Gordon Jenkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning recording of a classic
This recording brings to life the classic story told by the Gershwins and Dubose Hayward of life on Catfish Row. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jay Donal
5.0 out of 5 stars Porgy and Bess the Opera
Just as good as the play at the Ahmenson! Love the music. I choose to purchase the album from Amazon after seeing the play.. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars "Gershwins" soars
This is an elegant restructuring of the opera - shortened from the over three hour production to a well-paced two. Read more
Published 3 months ago by William Collins
5.0 out of 5 stars Bess,you IS my woman forever
I have the original 1935 on Decca Golden label!.I saw the one done in London. an immotral piece of American theater opera.
Published 3 months ago by rh
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply divine
I have always loved the music and this is a particularly good recording. The voices were marvelous and so moving.
Published 5 months ago by Judith R.Schneider
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