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Porgy and Bess

Tales from the Stave, Series 9 Episode 3 of 3

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 25 June 2013

In the last of the current series of Tales from the Stave Frances Fyfield returns to the Library of Congress in Washington to see one of their most treasured possessions. George Gershwin's Opera Porgy and Bess still provokes debate today from those uneasy at the work of three white men, George, his brother Ira and the lyricist Dubose Heyward, in depicting the world of what amounts to a black Ghetto in early 20th century South Carolina. However, the brilliance of the music, and the complexity and craft of Gershwin's score is beyond dispute.

Frances is joined by the conductor and writer Nigel Simeone, the library's expert Raymond White and most important of all by Solomon Howard of the Washington National Opera. Solomon, who's sung the role of Porgy and has himself experienced life at the bottom end of American society, is given the chance to perform from Gershwin's original manuscript. In doing so he finds small but vital changes from the texts he's used to, as well as evidence of the detailed but vital changes George Gershwin made to the lyrics delivered to him by Heyward - lyrics including famous hits like 'Summertime'.

As well as a full orchestral score there are also the fragments and sketches Gershwin made while living in Carolina where he sought inspiration for this, his most ambitious work.

Producer: Tom Alban.

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