Tonight, Met on Demand is streaming their 2020 performance of Porgy and Bess. This is the second time Metropolitan Opera staged the work, first in 1985 then this 2019-2020 production. Eric Owens and Angel Blue lead this production as Porgy and Bess. You can watch it here, starting at 7:30 on February 1st, 2021. It will be available to watch for free until 6:30 on February 2nd.
This opera is truly unique as an American art form. George and Ira Gershwin’s background in popular music and jazz are the musical building blocks for this work. George added blues, folk, work songs, spirituals, and other musical elements that drew on black music–specifically the James Island Gullah community in South Carolina. George included the alto and tenor saxophone in his original orchestration. The saxophones represent the outsider, the big city, in this case the character of Sportin’ Life–a drug dealer from New York–who offers a contrast to the rural simplicity of the island life.
The music from Porgy and Bess is instantly recognizable. “Summertime,” “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and others make up the American Song book. The music from Porgy and Bess has been covered by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Ray Charles, Nina Simone, and so many others. I discovered the music by playing it or listening to covers before I ever got to see the actual opera. I imagine I’m not the only one.
For a little levity, before Angel Blue played Bess, she starred in this video teaching kids what it’s like to be an opera singer. Enjoy this amazing video of the future opera diva in the making.