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Porgy and Bess opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on October 10, 1935, receiving decidedly mixed reviews and playing a disappointing 124 performances. Subsequent to its brief Broadway run, there was a short tour, then two years later a West Coast production with much of the same cast. There was a Broadway revival in 1942, drastically cut and played more in the style of musical theatre. That run lasted 286 performances. That same year, the European premiere took place at the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen.
In 1952, there was another touring version, this one restoring many of the cuts done for the 1942 revival, putting the opera in two acts, and played more as an opera than musical theatre. In that tour was William Warfield as Porgy, Leontyne Price as Bess, and Cab Calloway as Sportin’ Life, and once again the conductor is Alexander Smallens. A tour of Europe was financed by the US State Department, which was warmly received and which is what you’ll be hearing in this historic performance, originally broadcast on radio in Berlin live from the Titania Palast on September 21, 1952.
This CD is derived from a tape of the broadcast from Berlin. Our brilliant mastering and restoration engineer, Chris Malone, has done great work in cleaning it up and making it sound as good as it’s ever going to. The cast is superb, especially William Warfield and Leontyne Price, who is a glorious Bess. And Cab Calloway is sublime as Sportin’ Life – but the entire company is tops and the conducting of original conductor Alexander Smallens is great. It’s an exhilarating performance.
Porgy and Bess has had its share of troubles over the years, but it endures because it is clearly a masterpiece – and because of its timeless music, which is, all these decades later, still refreshing, vital, and as tuneful as an opera has ever been. We’re pleased to have this historic performance in better sound and we hope you will be, too. -KRITZERLAND
Act One Scene One
1. Introduction – “Summertime”
2. “A Woman is a Sometime Thing”
3. “Here Comes the Honeyman”
4. “They Pass by Singin’”
5. “Oh, little stars – touch that money
and meet yo’ God”
6. “Wake up an’ hit it out”
Act One Scene Two
7. “Gone, Gone, Gone”
8. “Overflow, overflow”
9. “A saucer burial setup, I see”
10. “My Man’s Gone Now”
11. “How de saucer stan’ now, my sister?”
12. “Oh, the Train is at the Station”
13. “Oh, he’s gone, gone, gone”
Act Two Scene One
14. “It Takes a Long Pull To Get There”
15. “I Got Pleny o’ Nuttin”
16. “Mornin’, lawyer, lookin’ for somebody?
17. “Bess, You is My Woman Now”
18. “I stayin’ with Porgy”
19. “Oh, I Can’t Sit Down”
20. “Goodbye, Porgy”
Act Two Scene Two
1. “I Ain’t Got No Shame”
2. “It Ain’t Necessarily So”
3. “Tell me”
4. “What You Want With Bess?”
Act Two Scene Three
6. “Honey, dat’s all the breakfast I got time for”
7. “Oh, Doctor Jesus”
8. “Oh dey’s so fresh an’ fine”
9. “I’m Talkin’ About Devil Crabs”
10. “Porgy, Porgy, dat you there?”
11. “I Wants to Stay Here”
12. “What you stand and watchin’ for, Clara?”
Act Two Scene Four
13. “Oh, de Lawd shake de heavens”
14. “Oh, dere’s somebody knockin’ at de do”
15. “A Red-Headed Woman”
16. “What’s de matter?”
Act Three Scene One
17. “Clara, Clara, don’t you be downhearted”
18. Interlude (Death of Crown)
Act Three Scene Two
20. “Wait for us at the corner, Al”
21. “Oh, Gawd! They goin’ make him look on Crown’s face”
22. “There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon for New York”
Act Three Scene Three
24. “Thank Gawd I’s home again”
25. “Oh, Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess”
Music Composed by George Gershwin
Lyrics by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin
Conducted by Alexander Smallens
Recorded Live at Titiana Palast, Berlin
September 21, 1952