Porgy and Bess was hailed as the first national American opera with its own musical forms and styles – blues, spirituals, ragtime.
The plot is based on a 1925 novel by DuBose Heyward. Gershwin got acquainted with it in 1926, but it wasn’t until 1932 that he decided to turn the text into a libretto. In 1930 the Metropolitan Opera House in New York commissioned him to write a “major work”. In 1933 he began work on the opera, and in 1934 he went to Charleston to study the lives and music of his characters. He continued his work in New York and completed the opera on August 23, 1935. On September 30, the opera triumphed in Boston.
The plot goes like this: in the afro-american working-class settlement of Catfish Row, a fight breaks out during a game in which Crown kills Robbins. He goes into hiding on Kittiwah Island. The residents begin to ostracize Crown’s girlfriend, Bess. Only the poor invalid Porgy offers help and housing to the girl. After some time Bess becomes Porgy’s wife. But during one of the picnics on the Kittiwah Island, Bess meets Crown and accepts his courtship.
After some time, Crown returns to Catfish Row and tries to take Bess with him. She chooses to stay with Porgy, who, in an effort to protect her, kills Crown. The police officers take Porgy to identify the corpse. Meanwhile, a drug dealer suggests to Bess that her husband has been charged with murder and will not return. He lures her with promises of a better life in New York and, under the influence of drugs, takes her away. Porgy returns, learns of what has happened, and cries “Where is this New York?” Despite the admonitions of his fellow citizens, he hitches the goat to his wagon and sets off in search of Bess.