The Curious Case of 'Porgy and Bess'

As the opera heads to Broadway as a musical, debate goes on: Is it a relic or still relevant?

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Going back to the original format, people like my friend Bertie Ray lll, an entrepreneur who is on the board of the Cincinnati Opera, which will present the opera next summer, say that people should accept this as what opera is: oversize. "People are drawn to Porgy and Bess like they are drawn to Faust because of the drama, the intrigue, the passion. It's Faustian! It's opera in its highest and finest fashion. And it is uniquely American."

Be that as it may, performers like Sebron say it is time for more opportunities to open to black, classically trained performers -- especially black men. "You will not get many singers to publicly speak against a production of Porgy and Bess, but privately I reckon that there is a certain amount of artistic fatigue ... Our community also has to support artistic productions that don't necessarily have the instant recognition that Porgy and Bess brings."

Editor's note: A previous version of this article misstated that Suzan-Lori Parks was the only black women to win a Pulitzer Prize for drama. Lynn Nottage won in 2009 for "Ruined."

E.R. Shipp, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is a frequent contributor to The Root.

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