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Porgy And Bess (1963)
To download this album via iTunes, click here: Leontyne Price - Great Scenes from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
To buy this album via Amazon.com, click here: Porgy & Bess: High Performance


Porgy & Bess - Highlights

Leontyne Price & William Warfield

RCA Victor 5324-2-RG

1. Introduction; Summertime 4:53
2. A Woman Is A Sometime Thing 1:52
3. Gone, Gone, Gone 6:09
4. My Man’s Gone Now 4:05
5. I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’ 2:49
6. Bess, You Is My Woman 5:04
7. It Ain’t Necessarily So 2:55
8. What You Want wid Bess? 7:58
9. I Loves You, Porgy 2:21
10. There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon for New York 3:58
11. Oh, Bess, Oh, Where’s My Bess 4:14
12. Oh, Lawd, I’m On My Way 1:21

Leontyne Price – William Warfield – John W. Bubbles
– McHenry Boatwright

RCA Victor Orchestra and Chorus
Leonard de Paur, Chorus Director
Skitch Henderson, Conductor
(Recorded in May 1963)

Produced by Richard Mahr
Recording Engineer: Lewis Layton

Leontyne Price, soprano
William Warfield, baritone
John W. Bubbles, tenor
McHenry Boatwright, baritone

With Robert Henson, tenor
Barbara Webb, soprano
Miriam Burton, mezzo-soprano
Alonzo Jones, baritone
Berniece Hall, soprano
Maeretha Stewart, soprano

Without the services of the U.S. Mail, Porgy and Bess might never have been written. Gershwin rarely saw his collaborator-librettist, DuBose Heyward, who preferred working in the quiet of his South Carolina home. As he completed each scene he mailed it to New York and Gershwin, who thrived on the supercharged bustle of big city life. Here, in his penthouse apartment on Riverside Drive, Gershwin painstakingly composed his “labor of love,” as he described Porgy and Bess. It was here, in fact, that Gershwin first conceived the idea.

One evening in October 1916 Gershwin came home from rehearsals of his musical comedy Oh, Kay! Hoping to relax, he picked up a copy of a new book titled Porgy, by DuBose Heyward – the poet’s first novel. He read until he finished the book, and at four in the morning impulsively wrote to Heyward suggesting that they make an opera of Porgy.

Not until February 1934, however – almost nine years after that letter – did Gershwin actually begin composing the music. In the interim, Porgy had been produced as a play; Gershwin had composed An American In Paris, the Second Rhapsody and the Cuban Overture as well as a number of musical comedy hits, including Girl Crazy and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Of Thee I Sing; and Ira Gershwin had been asked to join the Porgy and Bess venture.

The mail collaboration continued until midsummer of 1934, when Gershwin was finally able to clear his schedule and leave Manhattan for a visit to Folly Island, South Carolina, where Heyward had a summer home. For five weeks they worked together on songs and scenes, visiting Negro churches and settlements nearby to absorb authentic musical ideas.

By January 1935 Gershwin had completed the vocal score and was ready to the orchestration. “It goes slowly,” he wrote his brother Ira, “there being millions of notes to write.” Finally, just three days before rehearsals were to begin for the Boston opening, he inscribed the last page of the manuscript: “Finished August 23, 1935, George Gershwin.”

Porgy and Bess was produced in Boston and New York by the Theater Guild. “The reason I did not submit this work to the usual sponsors of opera in America was that I hoped to have developed something in American music that would appeal to many rather than to the cultured few,” wrote Gershwin.

“It is not the few knowing ones whose opinions make any work of art great,” he stated, “it is the judgment of the great mass that finally decides.” Gershwin proved to be his own best prophet. The “few” knowing ones, “the critics, did not approve of Porgy and Bess in 1935, and it closed after only 124 performances, a $70,000 financial loss. Gershwin did not earn in royalties what he had spent to have the orchestrations copied.

As long as he lived, though, Gershwin loved his “labor of love.” He never tired of it; he never lost faith in it. “I think the music is so marvelous,” he remarked one day, mingling that naïve candor and objectivity that so frequently shocked those who did not know him. “I really can’t believe I wrote it.”

But happily he did, for no one but George Gershwin could have.

 – Edward Jablonski

It was during the memorable revival of Porgy and Bess that began in 1952 that critics and the public hailed the discovery of the finest of all its leading singers, Leontyne Price and William Warfield. Their consummate artistry and unerring musicality, which was capable of the entire range of operatic literature, endowed George Gershwin’s work with a new depth and beauty. It was as if Porgy and Bess were newly discovered. In the almost two years Miss Price remained with the company, she sang Bess in London, Paris, Berlin and Vienna as well as in New York. Mr. Warfield sang Porgy for seven months during that historic tour and returned to the role in the 1961 revival.

This recording also includes John W. Bubbles – known to followers of vaudeville as just plain “Bubbles” – who sang Sportin’ Life in the original production. “Many people questioned my choice of a vaudeville performer for an operatic role,” wrote Gershwin, “but an opening night they cheered Bubble.” McHenry Boatwright, who sings Crown, made his concert debut in 1958 with the Philadelphia Orchestra and went on to win acclaim not only in the United States but also in Europe and the Far East.

TMK(S) ® Registered – Marca(s) Registrada(s) RCA Corporation, except BMG Classics and Gold Seal logos TMs BMG Music © 1963, BMG Music. All rights reserved. Manufactured and Distributed by BMG Music, New York, NY. Printed in U.S.A.

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