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This DVD from EMI began life at Glyndebourne in 1986, going on to Covent Garden six years later for eventual recording at Shepperton Studios. Much of the cast remained throughout, as did the LPO, Glyndebourne chorus, Simon Rattle on the rostrum and Trevor Nunn for the staging. The work is in the safest possible hands, with Willard White tender, moving and powerful as the lovable cripple, Cynthia Haymon ravishing to look at as Bess, helplessly at the mercy of the men who manipulate her. Nunn's Catfish Row teems with vitality in its rundown seediness, warmth of heart, and latent violence.

Paula Ingram as Clara. DVD screenshot © Primetime/BBC/EMI Records
Paula Ingram as Clara. DVD screenshot © Primetime/BBC/EMI Records

Clara, acted by Paula Ingram and sung by Harolyn Blackwell, begins with a song Schoenberg should have bit his lip and twisted his racquet not to have written [watch and listen -- 'Summertime' (Act 1 Scene 1), chapter 2, 4:38-5:50]. The Glyndebourne chorus has never looked more southern American, wandered its part with more aimless certainty, or responded more generously to each of the main characters. The stevedore Crown, Bess's lover, has brutally slain a member of the community, as witnessed by Porgy, and Bess mourns for the future as the dead man lies in his coffin [watch and listen -- 'Oh, the train is at the station ...' (Act 1 Scene 2), chapter 10, 54:14-55:24].

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Copyright © 18 May 2006 Robert Anderson, London UK


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