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Monday, September 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Met Live: ‘Porgy and Bess’ and Gershwin

Dan Webster

Everything, it seems, becomes a musical. That is, if you consider opera a musical.

Take "Porgy and Bess," the opera that will be a featured presentation of "The Met: Live" series at 9:55 a.m. Sunday, with encore performances at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and at 12:55 p.m. the following Saturday.

With music composed by George Gershwin, and lyrics by Ira Gershwin, "Porgy and Bess" opened in Boston in 1935 before moving to Broadway. The work, though, had begun as a 1925 novel by writer DuBose Heyward and then was adapted by Heyward and his wife, Dorothy Heyward, as a play.

And as Michael Cooper pointed out in the New York Times, the Gershwin-DuBose-Gershwin project wasn't without controversy. Among the questions asked over the years are the following: Is “Porgy” a sensitive portrayal of the lives and struggles of a segregated African-American community in Charleston, S. C? Or does it perpetuate degrading stereotypes about black people, told in wince-inducing dialect? Is it a triumph of melting-pot American art? Or is it cultural appropriation?

In his review of the The Met's production, Times critic Anthony Tommasini wrote, "All these questions are valid. But they were pushed aside for me in the moment when hearing Gershwin’s masterpiece on Monday, especially in a performance so authoritative and gripping."

By the way, George Gershwin had his own description of "Porgy and Bess." He described it as a "folk opera." So, at least that question is settled. As for the rest, go see and make up your own mind.

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