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

Norm Lewis, Audra McDonald, George Gershwin, David Alan GrierAudio CD
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 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: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,997 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
58 of 61 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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53 of 58 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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8 of 8 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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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Et tu, Audra? May 25, 2012
Format:Audio CD
It makes sense to buy this CD if you want to hear the glorious voice of Audra McDonald. But if you want to hear the even more glorious voice of George Gershwin stay away. This is a tampered version of his Porgy and Bess. It isn't just because the story and libretto have been changed--although that's bad enough. It's that, in the process of re-imagining and re-orchestrating the music, one great Gershwin idea after another has been done away with, sometimes to be replaced by nothing at all, sometimes in favor of something banal.

This starts happening right away during the "Introduction," when the orchestra suddenly veers off into a medley of song hits. It's like cutting the West Side Story "Prologue" short to give the audience previews of "Maria" and "Somewhere."

To get an idea of what's being done here to Gershwin's music you can compare the real "There's a Boat That's Leaving Soon For New York" (it's on YouTube, sung by Damon Evans and conducted by Sir Simon Rattle), which has Gershwin's brilliant harmonies, rhythms and orchestration, to the watered down version on this recording.

And it has to be asked: why isn't DuBose Heyward's name on the cover? He wrote all of Porgy and Bess's libretto and most of its song lyrics, including "Summertime." Of course, these days Ira Gershwin's name appears on works he didn't write, including "Summertime." The title of this production gives him co-billing with George while Heyward has been shown the door. Because Ira outlived George by forty-six years and Heyward by forty-three, attaching Ira's name to a song means its copyright will last longer. Moreover, by making substantial alterations to the original score and giving the opera a new title there can be an entirely new copyright and, thus, a guaranteed royalty flow for generations to come.

It turns out that the heirs to the estate of this great composer are tone deaf--except when it comes to a little melody that goes ca-ching!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 1 month ago by Judith R.Schneider
1.0 out of 5 stars Broadway "Porgy"
When this new version of "Porgy and Bess" starts out with a re-written typical "Broadway" overture, you know you're in trouble. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Laurence G. Dorning
5.0 out of 5 stars Heaven
This CD is heaven! I have never seen this musical. Now I'm not sure I could listen to it if Norm and Audra were performing!!!
Published 3 months ago by Debbie Cassady
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully executed tribute to George Gershwin.
If my memory serves me well this musical went from a stage production to an opera production and has now
returned to it's original intent. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Ben J. Bostelman
1.0 out of 5 stars Desecration of Gershwin's masterwork
Missed the show in New York, but I was intrigued to listen to the discs. I wasn't prepared for how awful this is. As much as I love Gershwin, I'm hardly a purist. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Randy C. Baer
5.0 out of 5 stars For anyone who loves music!
This is an album every music lover should have. The voices
are extraordinary, especially Audra McDonald and I'm so
glad to add this to my collection.
Published 4 months ago by Barbara A. Millina
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess
Being a huge fan of Audra McDonald, I spent my 58th birthday at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in NYC seeing this wonderful revival. Excellent all-round cast! Read more
Published 5 months ago by PDS
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect, As Expected
No one sings like Ms McDonald and the rest of the cast is also great. Everyone should hear this version of Porgy and Bess, whether they know the score or not.
Published 6 months ago by Borders Buddy
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic voices and interpretation
This production is simply magnificent. The music, which I have always loved, is very well executed and the voices and directorial interpretation as simply wonderful. Read more
Published 6 months ago by K.H.Jarva
4.0 out of 5 stars GREATNESS
GREAT SINGERS IN A GREAT AMERICAN OPERA, TOO RARELY PERFORMED, OPEN YOURSELF TO GREATNESS. SIX MORE WORDS NEEDED, SO YOU AD THEM IN YOUR HEAD.
Published 7 months ago by Lloyd G. Kay
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