PBO Summer Festivals Tour 2011
Ensemble Parallèle's 4 Saints in 3 Acts

Porgy and Bess at Seattle Opera

11XPorgeBessXeb-152 * Notes * 
Porgy and Bess (Mary Elizabeth Williams as Serena and Gordon Hawkins as Porgy pictured left, photograph by Elise Bakketun) had a sixth performance at Seattle Opera on Sunday afternoon. Chris Alexander's production is serviceable, though perhaps blunt. The set, from Michael Scott, is attractive, but does not facilitate scene changes. The music was often interrupted by applause, and a fidgety silence predominated during the short breaks between scenes. Christina Giannini's costumes were nice enough, but Bess' initial red dress was not particularly flattering in cut. Duane Schuler's lighting was simple and elegant. Kabby Mitchell III choreography looked wonderful on the dancers, and on most of the singers, especially Michael Redding and Jermaine Smith.

John DeMain held the orchestra together, though there were times when singers and musicians were not precisely together. The soli were all very clear, almost jarringly so. The singers were strong, even the small roles of Strawberry Woman (Ibidunni Ojikutu) and Crab Man (Ashley Faatoalia) were cast perfectly. The chorus sounded fine, and were only occasionally not tightly synchronized. Angel Blue (Clara) sang "Summertime" beautifully, her voice lucid and icy. Gwendolyn Brown's Maria was sympathetic and funny, and her diction is marvelous. Mary Elizabeth Williams was impressive as Serena, her "My Man's Gone Now" was incandescent. A couple of notes were slightly throaty, though this actually fits the aria well.

Michael Redding was a force as Crown, he had a lot of volume, yet good control. Jermaine Smith played Sportin' Life with the right amount of sneaky, greasy charm. He was occasionally overwhelmed by either the chorus or orchestra. Lisa Daltirus was a curious choice for Bess, though one should note that she has sung the role quite a lot. Daltirus is oddly devoid of sensuality, especially in the way she moves, and there were occasional unattractive gasps or catches at the bottom of her voice. She can sound perfectly clarion, and this came through in her reprisal of "Summertime." Gordon Hawkins (Porgy) had a better sense of his own body, and though his voice is perhaps not the richest, he sang well. His speaking voice is quite lovely and effective. Both he and Daltrius contributed to a particularly moving "Bess, You Is My Woman Now."

* Tattling * 
The audience seemed unprepared for how long the first half of this opera was. The person next to me in CC 6 was the ideal standee: silent, attentive, and aware of the space around her. The couple standing at CC 8 and 9 were also pretty quiet, and kept their whispering to a minimum. A watch alarm was heard at 3pm, and a person in the last row of the orchestra did check her mobile phone during the pauses between scenes.

I must remember to use the NATO phonetic alphabet when spelling my surname, as there was all sorts of confusion at the box office when I picked up my ticket. Thankfully, the people at the box office are both polite and kind.