Reprising a highlight of the 2011 Tanglewood season, English conductor Bramwell Tovey, the BSO, a distinguished cast of soloists-headlined by Alfred Walker and Laquita Mitchell in the title roles-and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus present concert performances of George Gershwin's great American masterpiece, the blues-and-jazz inflected Porgy and Bess. Described by the composer as an "American folk opera,"Porgy and Bess premiered on Broadway in 1935 and only slowly gained traction in the traditional world of opera. Three quarters of a century later, it has assumed its rightful place among the greatest works of America's music.
The show runs nearly three hours, and garnered a mixed review from the Boston Globe. I was shocked to learn after the fact that the singing of the soloists was amplified. Hitherto, management has assured us that they never amplify the music, so this represents an unsettling precedent. It also explains why the singing was ear-piercingly loud at times. If you listen on the radio or internet, you can adjust the volume, an option I didn't have in Symphony Hall on Thursday evening. I suppose it was worthwhile as part of the experience a cultured person should have, and it's good to know how the highlights I had heard work as parts of the overall drama — and it is effective as drama. I just can't get over my disappointment that they decided to artificially amplify those operatically trained voices in a supposedly acoustically perfect hall.
As always, you can listen to the broadcast or the webstream from Classical New England. But they say that on Sunday, instead of rebroadcasting/streaming it, they will reprise the John Williams 80th Birthday concert from last summer at Tanglewood.