by George Gershwin, Dubose and Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gerswhin
Performance from November 3, 2021
David Robertson, conductor.
Eric Owens (Porgy)
Angel Blue (Bess)
Alfred Walker (Crown)
Frederick Ballentine (Sportin' Life)
Latonia Moore (Serena)
Janai Brugger (Clara)
Tichina Vaughn (Maria)
Ryan Speedo Green (Jake)
World Premiere: Alvin Theatre, New York, 1935. A supremely American operatic masterpiece and the most ambitious work by one of the nation’s greatest musical talents, Porgy and Bess focuses on the joys and struggles of a black neighborhood in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 20th century. The overall combination of music, word, and idea among a complex blend of Americana make this a unique and impressive work both within and beyond the operatic repertory.
The opera is set in slightly fictionalized versions of real places in and around Charleston, South Carolina. Catfish Row is a sea-side version of the actual Cabbage Row, a group of old mansions historically inhabited by the descendants of freed slaves.
Far beyond being a compendium of classic songs, the score of Porgy and Bess maintains a level of musical unity and a rich, descriptive language that compares with the greatest operatic achievements.
George Gershwin (1898–1937) was one of America’s greatest composers—creating a diverse collection of works spanning the classical, jazz, and theatrical worlds—while his brother, Ira Gershwin (1896–1983), was one of the most prominent lyricists of American song. Novelist and poet DuBose Heyward (1885–1940) collaborated with his wife, Dorothy (1890–1961), to adapt his novel Porgy into a successful Broadway play, which later inspired the Gershwins’ opera.