Personalities | George Gershwin | Modern Era | Opera

1898–1937, American

On the night of 12 February 1924, Gershwin became an instant sensation when performing his Rhapsody in Blue at New York’s Aeolian Hall. Written in less than a month and advertised as ‘An Experiment in Modern Music’, Rhapsody melded Classical structures with jazz, ragtime and the blues, heralding a new era in American music.

While George and his lyricist brother Ira turned out a string of hit songs and successful stage musicals, George also wrote several highly acclaimed orchestral works. However, his initial operatic outing Blue Monday (1922), a 20-minute jazz opera, did not sit well with audiences and was dropped soon after opening. In 1926, Gershwin found the subject for his next opera. Gershwin regarded DuBose Heyward’s novel Porgy as the perfect vehicle for a ‘folk opera’ incorporating jazz and blues phrases and rhythms. The result, co-written with Ira as well as DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, was Porgy and Bess, which premiered in Boston on 30 September 1935 after seven years of negotiations with Heyward. It opened on Broadway 10 days later, but despite using classically trained singers it was not well received. Only over time would it earn a place as one of the best-known of all American operas, emphasizing the tragic loss caused by Gershwin’s untimely death from a brain tumour.

Introduction | Modern Era | Opera
Major Operas | Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin | Modern Era
Personalities | Beniamino Gigli | Modern Era | Opera


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