* Notes *
Porgy and Bess had a strong opening last night at San Francisco Opera. Francesca Zambello's production works well, the set, from Peter J. Davison, is particularly striking. The scene changes were nearly flawless and Mark McCullough's lighting impeccable. Having the opera set in 1955 was not at all a distraction, though one is not sure the audience really noticed. Denni Sayers' choreography fit the singers, though the part at end of the hurricane scene seemed gratuitous.
John DeMain lead the orchestra skillfully, and there were only a few moments in which the singers and musicians were slightly off from each other. The singing was very uniform, everyone was fully engaged, and the chorus sounded lovely. Angel Blue (Clara) sang "Summertime" perfectly cleanly, though perhaps a bit coldly. This did make for a nice contrast when Laquita Mitchell (Bess) reprises this song in Part Two. Mitchell also has a clean, brilliant sound, though with a slight metallic harshness at the top. As Serena, Karen Slack was heartbreaking in "My Man's Gone Now."
Lester Lynch was terrifying as Crown, cruel, and with a powerful voice. Chauncey Packer danced his way through the role of Sportin' Life with aplomb, unctous and charming. His "It Ain't Necessarily So" with the chorus was impressive. Eric Owens (Porgy) had a promising role debut, though he did start off underpowered compared to the sopranos. Perhaps he was pacing himself for the end, which was incredible. The plaintiveness of "Bess, o where's my Bess?" built up to a glorious "Oh Lord, I'm on my way."
* Tattling *
The music is much more dissonant than one might expect, yet is put together deftly. The audience seemed absorbed by the work, there was only a bit of talking, but no electronic noise.