Porgy and Bess


MUSIC: What’s Bess’ For Porgy?

A quick thought on the announcement that there will be a “re-imagined” version of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess from the producers of Hair, with the music re-arranged and done as a musical rather than an opera. The very fact that people are talking about doing Porgy “as a musical” is good news of a sort, because it means that the show has finally been accepted as an opera. For many years after Gershwin’s death, there were constant arguments over whether it was an opera at all. In fact, the most commonly-seen versions of Porgy did more or less what the current production plans to do: they eliminated most of the recitatives and other linking musical material, replacing them with dialogue and leaving only the separate musical numbers. This was done in the 1942 Broadway revival of Porgy, which finally established it as a popular success, and in the now hard-to-find 1959 film version. It wasn’t until the mid-’70s, when some productions and recordings started using the full uncut published score (which wasn’t performed in Gershwin’s lifetime; he made many cuts before the original opening, but died before he could establish a definitive final version), that the idea of Porgy as a full-fledged opera started to become accepted.


The man who loves Porgy and Bess

An Austrian Bach specialist fulfills a 40-year dream: a recording of Gershwin’s ‘folk opera’


MUSIC: Strangest Combination Of Conductor and Music

This may not be actually be the strangest choice of repertoire that a famous conductor has made, but it’s up there. A few days ago, the conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt, one of the fathers of the early-music movement who also built a successful parallel career conducting 19th century European music (his recordings of Beethoven, Schumann and Dvořák are mostly very fine) decided to conduct his first work of 20th-century American music… Porgy and Bess. At the Styriarte Festival in Graz, he led concert performances of Gershwin’s jazz opera; Canada’s Measha Brueggergosman was originally supposed to be Bess, but unfortunately had to pull out due to illness.