Essay on An Analysis Of George Gershwin 's ' An American Folk Opera '

1641 Words Dec 11th, 2016 7 Pages
“An American Folk Opera.” George Gershwin’s most successful piece of expansive musical drama was subtitled with this term that no musician or critic had applied to a work of musical drama before the 1935 premiere of Porgy and Bess. Much has been written about the work’s subtitle; its literal meaning, its evolution, and its implications for a changing cultural landscape. Porgy and Bess was the last in a triptych of literature and theater surrounding the character of Porgy, a crippled beggar living in Charleston’s semi-fictitious Catfish Row. Porgy, the 1925 novel written by white author DuBose Heyward, was “the original.” The novel received mixed reviews; white critics praised Heyward’s vivid descriptions of “the life of the Negro” while “black critic Theophilus Lewis of the Messenger, argued that, as a white man, Heyward was “no more capable of interpreting Negro character than I [as a black man] am of interpreting Chinese character.” While the novel was successful in bringing Southern black culture to the fore of American intellectual circles, there were doubts as to the relevance of Heyward’s interpretation of that culture from his perspective as a white man. In 1927, Heyward’s wife, Dorothy, helped him to turn his successful novel into a play, also titled Porgy. The play was premiered on Broadway and featured an all-black cast, which played a role in its success among white audiences as an “uncontested authentic performance” of Southern black culture. It wasn’t until…

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