Porgy and Bess
Composer: George Gershwin
Composer Bio: George Gershwin, born in Brooklyn, New York on September 26, 1896, began his musical training at thirteen. At fifteen he left high school to work as a Tin Pan Alley "song plugger" and within three years he had seen his first song published. Although "When You Want 'Em You Can't Get 'Em, When You've Got 'Em You Don't Want 'Em" created little interest, George's "Swanee", popularized by Al Jolson in 1919, brought Gershwin his first real fame. In 1924, when George teamed up with his older brother Ira, "the Gershwins" became the dominant Broadway songwriters, creating brisk, infectious rhythm numbers and affectingly poignant ballads. This extraordinary collaboration lead to a succession of musical comedies, among them Of Thee I Sing (1931), the first musical comedy to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Starting with his early days as a composer of songs, Gershwin had ambitions to compose serious music. His Rhapsody in Blue caught the public's fancy and opened a new era in American music.

In 1926 Gershwin came across DuBose Heyward's novel Porgy, and immediately recognized it as a perfect vehicle for a "folk opera" using blues and jazz idioms. Porgy and Bess was the Gershwin brothers' most ambitious undertaking, tightly integrating unforgettable songs with dramatic incident. The opera was made into a major motion picture by Samuel Goldwyn in 1959.

In 1937, Gershwin was at the height of his career. His symphonic works were becoming part of the standard repertoire for concerts and recitals, and his show songs had brought him ever-increasing fame and fortune. Gershwin died of a brain tumor at the age of 39 on July 11, 1937.

Source: www.gershwin.com
Librettist: DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin
Other Artistic Personnel: Eva Jessye (Choral Director)
Alexander Smallens (Conductor)
Rouben Mamoulian (Director)
Original Cast: Todd Duncan (Porgy)
Anne Wiggins Brown (Bess)
Warren Coleman (Crown)
John W. Bubbles (Sportin' Life)
Ruby Elzy (Serena)
Edward Matthews (Jake)
Georgette Harvey (Maria)
Ford L. Buck (Mingo)
Premiere Date: September 30, 1935
Producing Company: Rouben Mamoulian
Description: Part One

In the courtyard of Catfish Row, Clara sings a lullaby to her child while her husband, Jake, and some of the other men are playing craps. The beggar Porgy comes in to join the game; he defends Crown’s woman, Bess, whom the others are gossiping about. When Jake accuses him of being soft on her, Porgy says that he isn’t soft on any woman; God made him a cripple and meant him to be lonely. Crown arrives with Bess. He is drunk, and when he loses at craps, he provokes a fight and kills Robbins with a cotton hook. Crown runs to hide but tells Bess he will be back. Sportin’ Life, the local pimp and drug dealer, offers to take Bess to New York with him, but she refuses. No one will give her shelter before the police arrive except Porgy. Later, Porgy and Bess show up at Robbins’s funeral, where his widow, Serena, is leading the mourners. The police enter and arrest Peter as a “material witness.” Serena convinces the undertaker to bury Robbins for less than his usual fee. As the scene ends, Bess leads the mourners in a spiritual as they reluctantly allow her a place in their community. A few weeks later, Jake and the fishermen are working on their nets as Porgy compares his life to theirs. Maria, the matriarch of Catfish Row, dispatches Sportin’ Life when he tries to sell his “happy dust.” Lawyer Frazier arrives and sells Bess a divorce for a dollar; when he learns that she and Crown were never married, he raises his fee to a dollar and a half. Sportin’ Life asks Bess again to come to New York with him and tries to give her more dope, which she refuses. Porgy chases him away, and he and Bess sing about their newfound happiness. All except Porgy leave for the church picnic on Kittiwah Island. At the picnic, Sportin’ Life sings about his own brand of religion. All are getting ready to leave when Crown, hidden in the bushes, calls out to Bess. She tells him that she is Porgy’s woman now, but he forces her to stay with him.

Part Two

Back at Catfish Row, some time later, the fishermen are getting ready to go to sea as Bess raves, still delirious after escaping from Crown. Peter wants to send her to the hospital, but Serena would rather pray over her. The street fills with people. Bess eventually emerges and explains to Porgy that she wants to stay with him but that when Crown comes she will be forced to go with him. Porgy tells her that she does not have to go with him. The hurricane bell sounds. Everyone gathers in Serena’s room and prays for shelter from the hurricane. There is a knock at the door. Crown enters and tries to take Bess away. He laughs at the frightened townspeople and sings a bawdy song to mock their prayers. Clara sees Jake’s capsized boat and runs out to find him. Bess calls for a man to go after her. Crown goes, after taunting Porgy and asking him why he won’t go. After the storm, the women are crying for their men; Sportin’ Life teases them and Bess. Crown enters looking for Bess; he and Porgy fight, and Porgy kills him. The police and the coroner come to Catfish Row the next morning; they want to take Porgy down to identify Crown’s body. Telling Bess that Porgy will be locked up indefinitely, Sportin’ Life forces some dope on her and leaves more outside her door as he leaves. She emerges, ready to accompany Sportin’ Life to New York. Porgy returns one week later. While he tries to distribute the gifts he bought with the money he made playing craps in jail, he discovers Bess is gone. He learns that she has gone off with Sportin’ Life to New York, and he decides to leave Catfish Row forever and find her.
courtesy of San Francisco Opera
Character List (Major): Porgy (bb)
Bess (s)
Crown (bar)
Sporting Life (t)
Clara (s)
Jake (bar)
Serena (s)
Maria (con)
Character List (Minor): Mingo (t)
Robbins (t)
Bit Parts: Peter (t)
Jim (bar)
Frazier (bar)
Undertaker (bar)
Annie (mz)
Nelson (t)
Crab Man (t)
Detective (speaking)
Policeman (speaking)
Coroner (speaking)
Mr. Archdale (speaking)
Scipio (small boy - speaking)
Strawberry Woman (mz)
Video Clip:
Length: 03:00
Total Acts: 3
Chorus: Minimum 24
Orchestration: 2 fl(picc), 2 ob(Eng Hrn), 3 cl(asax), bcl(tsax), 1 bsn - 3 hrn, 3 tpt, 2 tbn, 1 tba - timp, perc, pf, bnj - str; onstage pf
Contact: Schott Music Corporation
Composer Web Site: http://www.gershwin.com/
Publisher Web Site: http://www.schott-music.com
Schedule of Performances Listings
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Monday, November 17, 2014 - Lyric Opera of Chicago
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, January 25, 2014 - Opéra de Montréal
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Thursday, June 28, 2012 - Cincinnati Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, July 30, 2011 - Seattle Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, February 26, 2011 - Atlanta Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, October 23, 2010 - Dayton Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, May 14, 2010 - Opera Carolina
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, April 10, 2010 - Virginia Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, March 20, 2010 - Washington National Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, March 12, 2010 - El Paso Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, March 5, 2010 - San Antonio Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - San Francisco Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, February 14, 2009 - Opera Theater of Pittsburgh
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 - Lyric Opera of Chicago
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Monday, June 9, 2008 - San Francisco Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, April 25, 2008 - Opera Birmingham
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Sunday, February 24, 2008 - Townsend Opera Players
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, February 22, 2008 - Dallas Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Wednesday, August 1, 2007 - Opera Queensland
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Thursday, July 12, 2007 - State Opera of South Australia
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, May 4, 2007 - Los Angeles Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, April 14, 2007 - Tulsa Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, February 9, 2007 - Opera Philadelphia
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, October 21, 2006 - Michigan Opera Theatre
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, October 14, 2006 - Opera Memphis
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, January 28, 2006 - Mobile Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Thursday, November 17, 2005 - Atlanta Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, May 6, 2005 - Edmonton Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, May 6, 2005 - Natchez Opera Festival
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, February 18, 2005 - Pensacola Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, April 2, 2004 - Piedmont Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Thursday, February 5, 2004 - Opera Carolina
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, November 15, 2003 - Opera Tampa
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, February 28, 2003 - Nashville Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, February 1, 2003 - Shreveport Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Sunday, November 10, 2002 - Amarillo Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, October 25, 2002 - Opera Idaho
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Thursday, April 11, 2002 - New Orleans Opera Association
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Thursday, March 14, 2002 - Fort Worth Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, March 1, 2002 - New York City Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Wednesday, April 25, 2001 - Opera Philadelphia
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, March 9, 2001 - Dayton Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, October 6, 2000 - Indianapolis Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, April 29, 2000 - Opera Colorado
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, April 28, 2000 - Virginia Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, March 3, 2000 - New York City Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, October 23, 1999 - Mercury Opera Rochester
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, March 13, 1999 - Augusta Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, May 30, 1998 - Michigan Opera Theatre
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Wednesday, April 1, 1998 - Eugene Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, January 10, 1998 - Mercury Opera Rochester
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Tuesday, April 29, 1997 - State Opera of South Australia
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, February 1, 1997 - Townsend Opera Players
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Thursday, April 25, 1996 - Opera Carolina
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Wednesday, July 19, 1995 - Portland Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Wednesday, June 7, 1995 - Los Angeles Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Wednesday, May 24, 1995 - San Francisco Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Wednesday, April 5, 1995 - Opera Cleveland
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Thursday, March 16, 1995 - Seattle Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Wednesday, March 8, 1995 - San Diego Opera Association
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Wednesday, February 15, 1995 - Dallas Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, January 27, 1995 - Houston Grand Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, March 5, 1993 - Edmonton Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, August 1, 1992 - Opera Saratoga
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, March 6, 1992 - Virginia Opera
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Monday, February 17, 1992 - Opera Roanoke
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Saturday, October 12, 1991 - Opera Memphis
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
Friday, September 20, 1991 - Indianapolis Opera
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