REVIEW: Porgy and Bess

The UMS production of Porgy and Bess was hyped up to be a surefire showstopper of a production.  It did not disappoint.  The University Symphony Orchestra, directed by Professor Kenneth Kiesler, sounded great and did a particularly good job of playing well in relation to the singers.  They had a unique assortment of instruments for this performance, incorporating banjo, saxophone, and a lot of percussion into the standard orchestral instrumentation.  In addition, there were a lot of cool sound effects coming from the back left corner of the stage including, police whistle, hurricane bell, siren, and an alarm.  Despite the mental and physical challenges that come with a four hour performance of music for any group, I thought that the orchestra finished the night even better than they started.  It was clear that they had put a lot of hard work into learning this music.  The chorus sounded fantastic as well and provided a powerful force at the back of the concert hall that added a multitude of different elements to the performance.  The spots where everyone sang as the orchestra played their hearts out made for some truly special moments.  All of the student actors and singers who had singing and speaking roles were exceptional.  Even if they only had a few lines or a few bars of song, they really shined and made the most of their opportunity to perform on a stage of that caliber.  As great as the student performers were, the professional singers that UMS brought in to play the principal roles really put the production over the top.  Chauncey Packer, the cast member who played “Sportin’ Life” gave a flamboyant and incredibly entertaining interpretation of the song, “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and it suited his portrayal perfectly.  It seemed more like a Broadway number than an opera aria with his slick dance moves and high kicks.  Talise Trevigne and Karen Slack, who played Bess and Serena, were sensational on their arias and duets.  “Summertime” started the show off on a high note an it only got better from there with the performances of “My Man’s Gone Now” and “What You Want Wid’ Bess” amongst other songs.  The man who really stole the show was none other than Porgy, played by Morris Robinson.  His voice sounded so rich in such a low register.  It was perfect for the role.  He brought the type of dramatic power that many think of as stereotypical for opera that other characters in this work just lack the capability of bringing.  The way he sang “Oh Lawd, I’m On My Way” allowed the show to end in a triumphant manner musically, even if the storyline doesn’t match up.  As incredible as the performance was, there are some negatives that have to be noted.  The opera was about as interesting as a 4 hour opera can be, but at the end of the day 4 hours is a long time to focus whether one is watching or performing.  In spite of this, the performance was fantastic and I would love to see UMS put on more productions like Porgy and Bess that can put student musicians from SMTD on stage with world renowned talent.


ajayw is a freshman in SMTD and Economics. It is his first year reviewing for art[seen]. As a music student, ajayw takes great interest in reviewing the music events on campus, especially those brought in by UMS.

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