Opera Western Reserve to present ‘Porgy and Bess’ as additional show

Thursday, December 7, 2017

By GUY D’ASTOLFO

dastolfo@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Opera Western Reserve will add a second production next year when it stages “Porgy and Bess” on March 9 at Stambaugh Auditorium.

For several years, OWR had been toying with adding a show, and the idea is finally coming to fruition. Whether the second show becomes an annual event will depend on the success of “Porgy.”

“We hope it is something that will blossom,” said OWR chief David Vosburgh, who is co-directing “Porgy” with Karen Clark-Green.

The second show is a collaboration between Stambaugh Auditorium, which is the producer; the Warren Philharmonic Orchestra and Opera Western Reserve.

Tickets range from $25 to $55 and go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. at stambaughauditorium.com, by phone at 330-259-0555 and at the Stambaugh box office.

“Porgy and Bess” will mark another departure for OWR, which has presented an opera every November since 2004.

It will be the first contemporary opera, the first American opera and the first presented entirely in English that the company has done.

“Porgy and Bess” is a good choice to kick off the additional performance, as it is considered the first great American opera. “It is the first American grand opera to be added to the repertoire,” noted Vosburgh.

Another difference is that “Porgy and Bess” will be presented in a semi-staged concert version. The principal characters will be acting, but there will be minimal scenery, and the ensemble will simply be a chorus standing on risers on the stage, instead of engaging in the scenes as actors.

“This will allow us to concentrate on the opera,” said Vosburgh, who noted there are 16 principal roles in “Porgy.”

The opera – by George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward and Ira Gershwin – features many beloved musical numbers such as “Summertime” and “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’.”

A tragic love story set in 1930s Catfish Row, it follows the friendship of Porgy, a crippled beggar, and the beautiful Bess, who was left behind after her abusive partner, Crown, fled from a crime.

Rhea Olivacce will return to OWR to play the role of Bess. Olivacce’s last performance with OWR was in the title role of the 2016 production of “Carmen.”

Porgy will be portrayed by Johnathan Stuckey, who appeared in last month’s production of “Lucia di Lammermoor” as Raimondo.

Susan Davenny Wyner will again conduct the Warren Philharmonic for the performance, while Jon Simsic returns as chorus master.