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Porgy and Bess with Santa Barbara Symphony May 2015


A Rousing Season Finale for the Symphony at the Granada on Saturday, May 16

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

SBCS Performing Porgy and Bess with SBS May 2015

The symphony’s season finale concert featured one of the ambitious yet community-centered collaborations that have become a Kabaretti specialty. A version of George and Ira Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess brought the orchestra together with two outstanding vocalists, soprano Laquita Mitchell and bass-baritone Michael Sumuel, and the Santa Barbara Choral Society under the direction of JoAnne Wasserman. Wasserman and Kabaretti have developed into a formidable team, and Saturday’s program may have been their most spectacular success yet. The combination of heartfelt musical virtuosity and Broadway razzle-dazzle on display hit just the right spot with a large and appreciative audience.

The first half of the program showed off another aspect of what the Santa Barbara Symphony has become under Kabaretti’s leadership — an exemplary orchestra for teasing out what’s most poetic and sophisticated in the American music that has grown up around the motion picture industry. Both the Arioso for Oboe, Percussion, and Strings of Dan Redfeld and the Symphony No. 2, Op. 30 of Howard Hanson participate in the cosmopolitan yet accessible style pioneered by other Americans such as George Gershwin and Elmer Bernstein.

Speaking of the Gershwin brothers, Porgy and Bess remains their greatest single contribution to American music. There’s no better love duet than “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” and Mitchell and Sumuel swung it to the rafters. The chorus sounded magnificent, as well, especially on the encore, “Oh Lawd, I’m on My Way.”