Porgy and Bess

Black History Month, or National African American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. The event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history.

Here, belatedly, is a tribute to both Valentine’s Day and Black History Month.

Gershwin’s most ambitious composition was Porgy and Bess (1935). Gershwin called it a “folk opera,” and it is now widely regarded as one of the most important American operas of the twentieth century. “From the very beginning, it was considered another American classic by the composer of ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ — even if critics couldn’t quite figure out how to evaluate it. Was it opera, or was it simply an ambitious Broadway musical? ‘It crossed the barriers,’ says theater historian Robert Kimball. ‘It wasn’t a musical work per se, and it wasn’t a drama per se – it elicited response from both music and drama critics. But the work has sort of always been outside category.”[21]

Based on the novel Porgy by DuBose Heyward, the action takes place in the fictional all-black neighborhood of Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina. With the exception of several minor speaking roles, all of the characters are black. The music combines elements of popular music of the day, with a strong influence of Black music, with techniques typical of opera… Even the “set numbers” (of which “Summertime“, “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin'” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So” are well-known examples) are some of the most refined and ingenious of Gershwin’s output…  The work was first performed in 1935; it was a box office failure. (Wikipedia)
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