Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Porgy and Bess Original Broadway Cast

   First album offered out as original Broadway cast of Porgy and Bess was recorded in October 1935, just days after stage opening on Alvin Stage Theatre. It was not even close to the original cast. Album of four 78 rpm shellac records labeled by Victor Records was a moderate success. This was due to the fact that in contrast to the stage cast with African American actors, studio recording was made with white opera singers pretending to sing Gullah-influenced language. In 1940 and in 1942 Decca Records released two sets of 78 rpm vinyl discs. First set was 4, second 3-recording and both were marked by one title – Decca Presents Selections from George Gershwin's folk opera Porgy and Bess. And these recordings were made with original stage cast members participation.
   Although these recordings are closest to the shape accepted by composer and to the production giving this work prominent position in history of American culture, this was not exact the original cast. Featured artists from original cast were Todd Duncan (Porgy), Anne Brown (Bess), Georgette Harvey (Maria), The Eva Jessye Choir and conductor Alexander Smallens. Avon Long sung Sportin’ Life in 1942 Broadway revival. The Decca Symphony Orchestra was hired specially for this recording. Combination of this material was re-edited on one LP record in 1950 by Decca as Selections from Porgy and Bess (DL 7006). After merging Decca with MCA in 1962, this record was reissuing just as Porgy and Bess (Original Cast) (DL7-9024) and in 1972 as George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess with headline Original Broadway Cast Album (MCA-2035).

Porgy and Bess Original Broadway Cast Album (1972)

   The star of this record is without fail Todd Duncan, who sings Porgy and Sportin’ Life’s  song It Ain’t Necessarily So. His perfectly trained baritone has a strong operatic background. His achievements, including his debut in Cavalleria Rusticana with Aeolian Opera and his later career made him prominent personality of American music. Anne Brown sung with nice, clear voice and in many fragments one can look for George Gershwin’s influences, because it is known fact the composer hired Anne Brown for the role. Although today her performance looks weak in expression and marked by old fashion mannerisms, it still can be valuable document of the style of early performances. The fragments with original cast members are the best parts of the recorded material. Prior performing routine could be helpful. Better understanding the place of the fragment in the whole narration once more gave artists a chance to find quite a relevant interpretative idea.

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