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John Quinn
MusicWeb International, December 2014

Recorded live in 2009, this is a knock-out production and performance. There isn’t a weak link in the cast; the chorus is superb and all the principals are excellent. Dominating the whole production is the Porgy of Eric Owens. He’s a big man in every sense and his voice fits the part like a glove. John DeMain has long experience of conducting this opera and, my goodness, it shows. Francesca Zambello’s direction is surefooted and the video direction by Frank Zamacona is just as successful. I was gripped and moved by this performance and I have no hesitation in selecting it as my Recording of the Year. © 2014 MusicWeb International Read complete review

John Quinn
MusicWeb International, May 2014

There isn’t a weak link in the cast with even the smaller roles sung and acted marvellously…

All aspects of the theatrical side of the production are expertly handled. The large sets are simple and flexible and are atmospherically lit at all times. Francesca Zambello has clearly thought deeply about the opera but having done so she has taken the decision to let it speak for itself rather than seeking to impose any sort of weird and wonderful director’s theories upon it. The production is direct, clear—and masterful. The direction of the production for the screen by Frank Zamacona is just as successful. The camera work is expert, focussing the viewer’s attention at the right place at the right time and also giving us a compelling view of the production as a whole.

Finally, everything is right in the pit. Gockley chose his conductor for this production very wisely. DeMain has long experience of conducting this opera. My goodness, it shows. He gets razor-sharp, idiomatic playing from the orchestra and the coordination between pit and stage is evidently flawless. The performance is zesty and crackles with energy. It also has huge romantic sweep and ardour. DeMain, Zambello and the cast understand that this is a big opera in the great tradition and they play it as such.

The Blu-Ray disc gives an excellent, crisp and vibrantly colourful picture and the sound is excellent. I was gripped and moved by this performance and I urge you to see it. My colleague Robert J Farr made this a Recording of the Month a few weeks ago. I can only second his enthusiasm. Bravo, San Francisco. © 2014 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Lawrence D. Devoe, MD, May 2014

This is the Blu-ray premiere of the quintessential American opera and sets the proverbial bar at an extremely high level. Karen Slack’s Serena literally stops the show with “Since my man is gone,” and every time we turn another corner, there is another magic vocal moment. Case in point, Owens’s rendition of “I Got Plenty of Nuttin”. A production as good as this one will make us temporarily overlook the obvious racial stereotypes of segregated America that was the norm in 1930s America, the decade of this opera’s composition. Maestro John DeMain has always championed this work, and has made the strongest case that Porgy and Bess should be designated as an opera rather than as a Broadway musical. With voices like those that we get in this SFO production, who would argue with that decision? As much as I enjoyed the 2011 Broadway revival of this work, this one is significantly better. A terrific Blu-ray disc that should be in all of opera video libraries, this Porgy and Bess is an easy one to recommend. © 2014 Read complete review

International Record Review, May 2014

GERSHWIN, G.: Porgy and Bess [Opera] (San Francisco Opera, 2009) (NTSC) 2059638
GERSHWIN, G.: Porgy and Bess [Opera] (San Francisco Opera, 2009) (Blu-ray, Full-HD) 2059634

This San Francisco Porgy and Bess is an outstanding release: a live staging of Gershwin’s masterpiece that does it the fullest possible justice, superbly sung and conducted, in a very sympathetic and intelligent production. © 2014 International Record Review

Bruce Surtees
The WholeNote, April 2014

The two leads are sung by bass-baritone Eric Owens and soprano Laquita Mitchell. Included in a perfectly cast production are Karen Slack as Serena, Chauncey Packer as Sportin’ Life and Lester Lynch as Crown.

The set, choreography and stage direction create a mise-en-scène that immediately draws us into Catfish Row.

…this is a performance of genuine stature and an important release. © 2014 The WholeNote Read complete review

Jeffrey Kauffman, April 2014

The image here is very clear and well defined…Contrast is generally very strong…making the transitions between dimly lit and brightly lit scenes look clear and detailed.

The orchestra is well conducted by John DeMain, who looks absolutely delighted to be leading “the band”. Fidelity is excellent and dynamic range is extremely wide.

Even those without a particular fondness for opera really should try to experience the original version of Porgy and Bess at least once, and there’s no better way than in this handsomely mounted and impeccably sung production. Highly recommended. © 2014 Read complete review

Philip Campbell
Bay Area Reporter, March 2014

GERSHWIN, G.: Porgy and Bess [Opera] (San Francisco Opera, 2009) (NTSC) 2059638
GERSHWIN, G.: Porgy and Bess [Opera] (San Francisco Opera, 2009) (Blu-ray, Full-HD) 2059634

Nothing will ever top the experience of witnessing a performance live, but this high-definition recording has been successful on its own in movie-theatre screenings and on TV for its wonderfully vivid representation of the opera-house experience. Needless to say, you are also getting the best seat in the auditorium, and the acoustics are fabulous.

Conductor John DeMain leads the orchestra with a symphonic sweep and tight control that still manage to loosen up and enjoy the Tin Pan Alley passages. Ian Robertson directs the close to 50 members of the ensemble through the deceptively naive call-and-response of Brother Robbins’ funeral sequence with better control and feeling than I can ever remember.

All the beloved numbers, such as “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” “My Man’s Gone Now” and “I Loves You, Porgy,” make better sense and flow more naturally within the rich context of Gershwin’s gorgeously orchestrated, through-composed version.

The central characters, portrayed marvelously by Eric Owens and soprano Laquita Mitchell, giving a lusciously sung and sexy performance as Bess, keep the story intimate…

As the murderer and abuser Crown, Lester Lynch is an ominous and physically impressive bad guy. Chauncy Packer’s feisty and well-sung Sportin’ Life provides an energetic shot of life whenever he appears. Karen Slack as Robbins’ widow Serena is memorably powerful…

Fight director Jonathan Rider and choreographer Denni Sayers make the movement of the huge cast look naturalistic and thoroughly believable. © 2014 Bay Area Reporter Read complete review

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4:47:12 AM, 31 August 2015
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