Opera "Porgy and Bess" - Facts, video, content

D. Gershwin opera "Porgy and Bess"

The cult composition "Summertime" is perhaps known to every jazz fan thanks to the wonderful performance of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. This is Clara's lullaby from the first act of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. The performance is entirely built on jazz compositions, blues intonations, Negro hymns and psalms, spirituals are present here. In addition, it presents a sea of ​​improvisation, as without it, because we are talking not just about classical opera, but about jazz. That is why it differs from the usual patterns.




Porgybaritonepoor beggar
Besssopranoyoung crown girl
Crownbaritoneporter in the port
ClarasopranoJack's wife
Sporting LifetenorDrug dealer
RobbinstenorCatfish Row
Sirinsopranospouse of robbins
Petertenorhoney seller
LilysopranoPeter's wife


The plot is taken from the novel by Duboz Hayward "Porgy" and its action takes place in Catfish Row, the poorest Negro quarter, where the life of the African-American people is shown in the open. The plot is striking in its directness, introduces good people who are doomed to suffer and at the same time evoke deep sympathy for the poor, deceived Porgy.

Woman's love is inconstant, especially if it is beauty Bess, whom the poor cripple Porgy saved from troubles and sheltered when a young man escaped from her. Inflamed with fiery feelings, Porgy fights for Bess with his main rival and kills him in a fight. Having overcome the enemy, he loses the one who sang to him about a week ago and now has fled to another city with another fan who promised her a good life. All that remains for Porgy's lover is to follow his dream to New York.

Duration of performance
I ActAct II
75 min.75 min.

A photo:

Interesting Facts

  • This is a sample of the first US national opera, as critics christened it after the premiere. On July 14, 1993, the US Postal Service recognized the cultural significance of the opera by issuing a commemorative 29 cent postage stamp. In 2001, Porgy and Bess was proclaimed the official opera of South Carolina.
  • Interestingly, the author himself in his will wished the folk opera to be performed necessarily by dark-skinned artists, which is why he once refused the tempting contract with the Metropolitan Opera, where only white singers are present. This is not surprising, because not everyone is able to convey African-American culture and rich color of the work.
  • In our country, the original, full-fledged production of the play was staged more than 50 years ago; it was performed by the Negro troupe "Evrimen Opera". And in 1983, the ballet of the same name was put to music by George Gershwin.
  • By the way, the first production of folk opera was carried out in Boston under the direction of Ruben Mamulyan, a native of Tbilisi, who was educated in Moscow. The conductor was Alexander Smolensky, and the artist - Sergey Sudeikin, and he himself George Gershwin - the son of an emigrant from Russia.
  • "Porgy and Bes" was the first opera by American composers, staged in the famous Italian opera house "La Scala".
  • Experts called this work a folk opera, which occupied an intermediate position between the Broadway musical and opera.
  • During the creation of the opera was called "Porgy", and only then added "and Bess" to avoid confusion with the novel Dubose Hayward.
  • Working on this opera, Gershwin specially spent several months in Charleston to get acquainted with the culture, way of life and singing of the people as closely as possible.
  • A special role in the expression of national identity is played by the lad-intonation system. A major minor minor minor major is widely used.
  • Most of the verbal text was written by Dubozo Hayward, only some of the numbers are written by the composer’s brother.
  • In 1957, the album Porgy and Bess by the legendary Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong was released, which included the summertime aria. It was he who was listed in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001, and also recognized as the best opera treatment.
  • The work was written by Gershwin for twenty months. However, the composer continued to make various edits and revisions to the score even during rehearsals. Fully completed work on the musical text was exactly one day before the premiere.
  • After the premiere, many American magazines and newspapers recognized Gershwin as a "serious composer."
  • Curiously, but today there are about 20 thousand variants of the legendary hit Summertime. It is this composition that entered the world top 10 best jazz tunes.
  • According to one version, Gershwin created his masterpiece, impressed by one lullaby. There is an opinion that the Ukrainian song "Oh, go to sleep Kolo Vikon" formed the basis of the hit Summertime.
  • It is curious that jazz versions of this opera have appeared several times. For the first time - in 1957 thanks to Elle fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. And it is this version that most admired music lovers. For the second time in 1958, Miles Davis already made his jazz version.
  • During the first tour of American cities in 1936, the troupe demanded that all spectators, including blacks, be allowed to attend the theater. They put forward this proposal shortly before the performance in Washington, and the management of the theater went to the meeting, agreeing with this, so as not to disrupt the long-awaited premiere.
  • Despite the great success during the premiere, the material costs of the opera were not able to pay off, and the Gershwin brothers lost about 10 thousand dollars.

Popular arias

Clara's Lullaby "Summertime" (listen)

Porgy's song "I Got Plenty o 'Nuttin'" (listen)

Bess's song "What you want wid Bess" (listen)

Porgy and Bess duet "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" (listen)

History of creation

The libretto of the play was written by Duboz Hayward and Ira Gershwin based on the play by Dorothy and Duboz Hayward "Porgy". The authors were able to preserve in the text of the opera the national language of the original source, as well as a mixture of naivety, superstition, and an extraordinary temperament. When the composer first became acquainted with the work of Duboz Hayward in 1926, he was so impressed that he immediately wrote him a letter with a proposal for cooperation. He immediately had the thought of writing an opera. After a while they were able to get to work. In 1933, a contract was signed with the New York Theater Guild.

There is information that at first there was a long debate between the authors of the play and the composer, as the Haywards insisted on the inclusion of conversational episodes (without musical accompaniment). Naturally, Gershwin, as a composer, had a different opinion and preferred precisely the musical part. This is not surprising, because he created the first national American opera with a rich color.

Gershwin himself called his opera "folk drama", thus emphasizing that the main character is the people. For the same reason, a large role is given to choral numbers, which are skillfully woven into solo.


The premiere of the performance was a great success on September 30, 1935 in Boston, in the Colonial Theater. Music and theater critics were fascinated by the piece. The conductor was Alexander Smollens.

The premiere in New York was less successful (directed by Ruben Mamulyan), despite this, in just 1.5 years the performance withstood 124 performances.

On European stages, the opera was in 1945 - In Denmark and Switzerland, by local artists. However, the performance was truly successful only when it was performed by the American Negro troupe.

The Russian public was able to evaluate the work of Gershwin only in 1956, thanks to a troupe from the United States.

The opera was filmed in 1958 by director Otto Preminger. Subsequently, this particular film won an Oscar in the nomination for "Best Soundtrack."

In 1983, choreographer Mikhail Lavrovsky staged his version of the jazz ballet Blues based on the work of Gershwin. The premiere was held at the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater. In 1987, the ballet film "The Imaginaire" was released, based on the opera Porgy and Bess, with M. Lavrovsky and N. Trubnikova playing the main role.

We offer you to get acquainted with the first national American opera, plunge into fascinating jazz rhythms and feel the love story along with Porgy and Bess. George Gershwin.

Watch the video: Luciano Pavarotti Recital - Nessun Dorma. Metropolitan OperaNew York ᴴᴰ (January 2020).


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