There was nothing secondary about the second cast of Washington National Opera's "Porgy and Bess," which took the stage Saturday night at the Kennedy Center Opera House. The four singers, all making company debuts, gave first-rate performances. Bass-baritone Kevin Short portrayed an endearing Porgy, who accepts his lot in life with a sunny disposition. The richness of his voice commanded attention. He sang the long phrases intelligently and held the extended notes passionately. It was a poetic and moving performance.
As Bess, soprano Morenike Fadayomi sang with fluid clarity and purity of tone, whether in a tender duet with Porgy or in a vehement exchange with Crown. Fadayomi brought a depth of character to Bess, and was convincing as a reformed woman tempted back into the fast life. Lester Lynch's Crown had all the belligerent and menacing qualities of a town bully and a big baritone voice to match. He made his character dislikable from the beginning -- a perfect counterpoint to Short's Porgy.
As Clara, Alyson Cambridge began the opera with an assured and hopeful "Summertime," sung languidly with spot-on pitch. Her reprisal of it in the second act was haunting.
The rest of the talented cast, led by conductor Wayne Marshall, embraced these four newcomers without bobbling a note. Performances continue through Nov. 19, with the two casts alternating.
-- Grace Jean