Porgy and Bess

Porgy and Bess, George Gershwin’s classic 1935 opera about Black life in America’s old South, is at the Metropolitan Opera in Lincoln Center for fourteen performances between September 23, 2019 and February 1, 2020. From $30

Get tickets from $30 at metopera.org

The opera is set in the 1920s on the streets of a poor Black fishing community in Charleston, South Carolina.

Porgy is a disabled beggar living on the streets. He is trying to save his friend Bess from her abusive boyfriend Crown and her drug dealer Sportin’ Life.

The opera is controversial because it is a white creative team’s depiction of Black life. Gershwin was a Jewish New Yorker. How does an outsider tell an insider’s story without falling into stereotype and appropriation? How do members of the community participate in the story without stereotyping themselves?

Perhaps you have to just swallow the thing whole. Yes slavery was evil and that evil has been perpetuated after it was outlawed, even to the present day. Yes it’s a white team’s perspective of Black culture. Yes it perpetuates some negative stereotypes. Yes it is appropriation of another’s culture.

Yes there is some Black culture in there. Yes it puts Black artists on the world’s greatest stages. Yes it is a beautiful work. Like it or not, yes this opera is part of who we are as Americans of the United States. Yes it matters how we relate to the whole thing today.

The creative community has slowly begun responding to the persistence of racism in our society in recent years. By staging Porgy and Bess, perhaps the Metropolitan Opera is saying, “One of these mornings you’re going to rise up singing.”

Porgy and Bess 2019 at the Metropolitan Opera

Jame’s Robinson produced this version of Porgy and Bess for the English National Opera in London in 2018.

Reviewing the new production, Erica Jeal of The Guardian wrote, “If you’re going to stage Gershwin’s opera, this is how to do it.”

2019-20 Cast

Bess is soprano Angel Blue (Los Angeles)
Porgy is bass-baritone Eric Owens (Philadelphia) with Kevin Short substituting
David Robertson (Santa Monica) conducts.

Clara is sung by Golda Schultz and Janai Brugger
Serena is sung by Latonia Moore
Maria is sung by Denyce Graves
Sportin’ Life is sung by Frederick Ballentine
Crown is sung by Alfred Walker
Jake is sung by Ryan Speedo Green and Donovan Singletary


  • Composer: George Gershwin
  • Libretto: DuBos Heyward and Ira Gershwin
  • Adapted from Dorothy and DuBos Heyward’s play Porgy (1927) and DuBose’s novel Porgy (1925)

This is James Robinson’s 2018 production

  • Set Designer Michael Yeargan
  • Costume Designer Catherine Zuber
  • Lighting Designer Donald Holder
  • Projection Designer Luke Halls
  • Choreographer Camille A. Brown
  • Fight Director David Leong

Fall 2019 Performances

Monday, September 23 at 6pm ~ Opening Night Gala
Friday, September 27 at 8pm

Monday, September 30 at 7:30pm
Sunday, October 5 at 1pm

Thursday, October 10 at 7:30pm
Sunday, October 13 at 3pm

Wednesday, October 16 at 7:30pm

Spring 2020 Performances

Wednesday, January 8 at 7:30pm
Saturday, January 11 at 7:30pm

Saturday, January 18 at 8pm

Friday, January 28 at 7:30pm

Tuesday, January 28 at 7:30pm
Saturday, February 1 at 1pm ~ Live on HD

Get tickets from $30 at metopera.org

Porgy and Bess Productions

The Opera premiered at the Colonial Theatre in Boston in September 1935. It moved to Broadway in October that year and ran for 124 performances.

The show had its first Broadway revival in 1942, but was long dogged by concerns about perpetuating racial stereotypes, and whether or not it was really an opera.

Otto Preminger directed a 1959 film version starring Sydney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis Jr. and Pearl Bailey.

A Houston Grand Opera production in 1976 is the foundation for the Porgy and Bess that we know today. It restored the original score and left out the changes that were made for Broadway and film. The production won a Grammy Award and a Tony Award, becoming the only opera to ever win a Tony. The opera community also finally accepted the work as opera.

The Metropolitan Opera first staged Porgy and Bess in 1985, and revived it in 1986, 1989 and 1990.

A 2011 Broadway revival at the Richard Rodgers Theatre starred Audra McDonald. It was nominated for ten Tony Awards and won Best Revival of a Musical. McDonald won Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical.

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