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Emotional take on masterpiece.

Porgy and Bess

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

You would easily be forgiven for assuming a company touring just the one opera around the world since January 1993 would deliver stale, work-a-day performances.

But it is evident that the forces assembled by producer Peter Klein to present Gershwin's Porgy and Bess feel an acute sense of privilege to be involved in what must always be one of a rare few productions of this undoubted masterpiece; everything is fresh and brimming with emotional commitment.

Not that this Wolverhampton season is faultless; lighting-cues are disconcertingly erratic, some of the minor-role voices are puny, diction (more so from the women) is not always clear, and Stefan Kozinski's orchestra needs a few more strings.

But such cavils fall by the wayside in the face of what emerges as a stunning operatic experience. James Fouchard's set suggests a complex, multilayered Catfish Row on which this drama of squalor and aspiration is played out by an ensemble in which every singer is a character, every response conveys something telling about the human condition.

Attractive in their conjugal bliss are the Clara and Jake of Sharon Edwards and Danrell Williams, a context against which to set the Carmen-like passions of La-Rose Saxon's Bess, the Caliban-like Crown of Stephen B. Finch, the gorgeously louche Sportin' Life of Duane A. Moody, and, above all, the amazingly dignified, poetic Porgy of Samuel Clark Stevenson (though one fears the infamous Redditch Council would accuse him of patronising cripples as he zooms around on his ramshackle invalid-cart).

Until Saturday, with varying casts. Running-time 2 hours 50 minutes.

Christopher Morley
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Author:Morley, Christopher
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 22, 1999
Words:265
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