Porgy and Bess is an opera, first performed in 1935, with music by George Gershwin, libretto by DuBose Heyward, and lyrics by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin. It was based on DuBose Heyward’s novel Porgy and subsequent play of the same title, which he co-wrote with his wife Dorothy Heyward. All three works deal with African-American life in the fictitious Catfish Row (based on the area of Cabbage Row) in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 1920s.
Originally conceived by George Gershwin as an “American folk opera”, Porgy and Bess premiered in New York in the fall of 1935 and featured an entire cast of classically trained African-American singers—a daring artistic choice at the time.
Andrew McKinnon staged the first Australian-mounted production with a concert version at Sydney Opera House in 1995, featuring Aboriginal, Torres Strait and Pacific Islander singers. He has also co-presented Australian and New Zealand tours of fully staged productions from the United States.