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Gershwin: Porgy and Bess, Summertime

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: It begins on June 21.

The idea of composing a full-length opera based on DuBose Heyward’s novel Porgy about life among the black inhabitants of ‘Catfish Row’ in Charleston, South Carolina, first occurred to Gershwin in 1926. After many delays, Heyward and the Gershwin brothers signed a contract in October 1933 with the Theatre Guild in New York, and the collaboration was under way. Gershwin began the score in February 1934; during most of the next summer he stayed in South Carolina, composing and absorbing local color. By early 1935, the composition was finished, and Gershwin spent the next several months orchestrating the work. Billed as ‘an American folk opera’, Porgy and Bess opened in New York in October 1935 – in a Broadway theatre and not an opera house. It ran for 124 performances, not even enough to recover the original investment.

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