Artful Thursday: Porgy and Bess

Porgy and Bess is perhaps the most controversial opera in the history of American music, and you can get the lowdown on it when cast members of the Houston Ebony Opera company join the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for a preview and discussion at Artful Thursday: Porgy and Bess. Believe us, there’s plenty to talk about. Written by author DuBose Heyward and composer Ira Gershwin (based on Heyward’s novel Porgy), it was, in 1935, the first major opera production with an all-black cast, and it was filled with drinking, drugs, violence, prostitution, slum life and “Negro” folk idioms the white Heyward and Gershwin probably didn’t quite understand. From the get-go, many black musicians found it insulting (though the song “Summertime” was extracted and became a jazz standard). A Miles Davis recording of the score helped redeem it; several dumbed-down Broadway productions helped soil it. Only in 1976, when our own Houston Grand Opera performed the original libretto and score in their entirety, did it get a full reappraisal, leading to a Met performance (and also to some cultural critics sharpening their condemnation). Artful Thursday: Porgy and Bess starts today at 6:30 p.m. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit Free. The show Porgy and Bess, a concert of excerpts, is 8 p.m. August 29 to 30. Miller Outdoor Theatre, One Concert Drive. For information, call 281-373-3386 or visit Free.
Thu., Aug. 21, 2008
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Nick Keppler