Porgy and Bess in Charleston

One of the highly anticipated performances scheduled for the Spoleto Festival is Gershwin's opera, Porgy and Bess. Its arrival has excitedly permeated the town.

To learn more, we viewed the new Special Collections exhibit at the college's library. Featuring an informative and interesting collection of art, rare manuscripts, personal letters and more, the exhibit celebrates the creation, history, and staging of Porgy and Bess. It also sheds light on the life of novel's author, DuBose Heyward and his Charleston.
We were unfamiliar with this novel.  Porgy, published in 1925 by native son Heyward (and set in Charleston), proved to be on the leading edge of the great southern renaissance. I appreciated Kendra Hamilton's summary, "Briefly, it is the story of a crippled beggar who witnesses a murder during a dice game and later gives shelter to the murderer's woman, the beautiful, haunted Bess. The Catfish Row community is united in its opposition to the union, but Porgy and Bess make each other happy, and their happiness only increases when they take in a child orphaned by a hurricane. Their idyll is brief, however. The murderer, Crown, returns for Bess, and Porgy, defending his family, kills him. The police detain him for questioning but never dream that a cripple could have been the killer, so Porgy returns triumphantly to the Row. The triumph turns to tragedy, however, when he learns that, while he was away, Sporting Life, the dope pusher, beguiled Bess with 'happy dus' and took her away to New York City to resume, it is implied, her career as a prostitute."
I thought this copy was pretty cool. Armed Services Editions were small, compact, paperback books printed by the Council on Books in Wartime for distribution within the American military during World War II. The slogan of the Council was, "Books are weapons in the war of ideas."

George Gershwin read Porgy and saw an opera within its pages. In 1933, he and Heyward began work on Porgy and Bess. DuBose, with the help of Ira Gershwin, converted the novel into an opera libretto while George composed its music.  Two years later, Porgy and Bess premiered in Boston.

Incredibly, after early attempts to desegregate the Dock Street Theatre failed, the opera would not be performed in Charleston until 1970. So here we are over 90 years after the novel's publication, in the town in which the story was set and we get to see it- sort of. We had hoped to secure tickets to the performance but the Spoleto Festival's production sold out almost immediately. Excitedly, it was just announced that a live broadcast of Porgy and Bess will be shown in one of Charleston's parks on Memorial Day- a free concert on a warm summer night.
Summertime,
And the livin' is easy

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