George Gershwin (1898-1937)
"It ain't necessarily so"
"Porgy and Bess" Act II Scene 2
from "Porgy and Bess" Act II Scene 2
Porgy and Bess is an opera, first performed in
1935, with music by George Gershwin, libretto by DuBose Heyward, and lyrics by
Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward. It was based on DuBose Heyward's novel Porgy
and the play of the same name which he co-wrote with his wife Dorothy Heyward.
All three works deal with African American life in the fictitious Catfish Row
(based on the real-life Cabbage Row) in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early
Originally conceived by Gershwin as an "American folk opera", Porgy and Bess premiered in New York in the fall of 1935 and featured an entire cast of classically trained African-American singers -a daring and visionary artistic choice at the time. Incorporating a wealth of blues and jazz idioms into the classical art form of opera, Gershwin considered it his finest work.
The work was not widely accepted in the United States as a legitimate opera until 1976, when the Houston Grand Opera production of Gershwin's complete score established it as an artistic triumph. Nine years later the Metropolitan Opera gave their first performance of the work. This production was also broadcast on NPR as part of their ongoing Saturday afternoon series of live Met broadcasts. The work is now considered part of the standard operatic repertoire and is regularly performed internationally. Despite this success, the opera has been controversial; some critics from the outset have considered it a racist portrayal of African Americans.
"Summertime" is by far the best-known piece from the work, and countless interpretations of this and other individual numbers have also been recorded and performed. The opera is admired for Gershwin's innovative synthesis of European orchestral techniques with American jazz and folk music idioms.
Porgy and Bess tells the story of Porgy, a crippled black man living in the slums of Charleston, South Carolina. It deals with his attempts to rescue Bess from the clutches of Crown, her pimp, and Sportin' Life, the drug dealer.