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Seattle Opera.

The Gershwins'®
Porgy And Bess®

Aug. 11-25, 2018

“One of the best Seattle Opera productions ever.”
-Seattle Weekly

Overview

By George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gershwin

The great American opera boasts some of the best songs ever written—including “Summertime,” “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’,” “I Loves You, Porgy,” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” Our full-length operatic presentation retains all of the rhapsodic orchestral music and superb choral writing that enchanted sell-out McCaw Hall crowds in 2011. The vibrant mix of action, humor, romance, struggle, and celebration returns with a “perfect” (ClassicsToday.com) new staging that will inspire you to “rise up singing.”

Don’t miss this fully-staged Glimmerglass co-production that Bachtrack calls “an overall theatrical and musical success, proving one more time that Gershwin’s opus remains America’s most important 20th-century opera.”

Watch the preview

Photo: Porgy and Bess, The Glimmerglass Festival, 2017. © Karli Cadel.

Listen to the music

Photo: Porgy and Bess, The Glimmerglass Festival, 2017. © Karli Cadel.

In English with English Subtitles | at McCaw Hall
Performance Time: 3 hours, including 1 intermission.


This opera contains some mature themes.   Read Content Advisories

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Synopsis

Read perspectives from Black artists and advocates, plus learn more about the history of the work on our blog.

PART ONE
In the courtyard of Catfish Row, Clara sings a lullaby to her child while her husband, Jake, and some of the other men are playing craps. Porgy comes in to join the game; he defends Crown’s woman, Bess, whom the others are gossiping about. When Jake accuses him of being soft on her, Porgy says that he isn’t soft on any woman; he believes his disability is God’s way of saying he is meant to be lonely. Crown arrives with Bess. He is drunk, and when he loses at craps, he provokes a fight and kills Robbins with a cotton hook. Crown runs to hide but tells Bess he will be back. Sportin’ Life, the local pimp and drug dealer, offers to take Bess to New York with him, but she refuses. No one will give her shelter before the police arrive except Porgy.

Later, Porgy and Bess show up at Robbins’s funeral, where his widow, Serena, is leading the mourners. The police enter and arrest Peter as a “material witness.” Serena convinces the undertaker to bury Robbins for less than his usual fee. As the scene ends, Bess leads the mourners in a spiritual as they reluctantly allow her a place in their community.

A few weeks later, Jake and the fishermen are working on their nets as Porgy compares his life to theirs. Maria, the matriarch of Catfish Row, dispatches Sportin’ Life when he tries to sell his “happy dust.” A chance sighting of a bird of ill omen troubles Porgy, who resolves to defy anything that threatens his newfound happiness with Bess. Sportin’ Life asks Bess again to come with him to New York and tries to give her more dope, which she refuses. Porgy chases him away, and he and Bess sing about their newfound happiness. All except Porgy leave for the church picnic on Kittiwah Island.

At the picnic, Sportin’ Life sings about his own brand of religion. All are getting ready to leave when Crown, hidden in the bushes, calls out to Bess. She tells him that she is Porgy’s woman now, but Crown forces her to stay with him.

INTERMISSION

PART TWO
Back at Catfish Row, some time later, the fishermen are getting ready to go to sea. Bess, who escaped from Crown and walked eighteen miles back to town, is lost in a feverish nightmare. Peter wants to send her to the hospital, but Serena would rather pray over her. The street fills with people. Bess eventually emerges and explains to Porgy that she wants to stay with him but that when Crown comes she will be forced to go with him. Porgy tells her that she does not have to go with Crown.

The hurricane bell sounds. Everyone gathers in Serena’s room and prays for shelter from the hurricane. There is a knock at the door. Crown enters and tries to take Bess away. He laughs at the frightened townspeople and sings a bawdy song to mock their prayers. Clara sees Jake’s capsized boat and runs out to find him. Bess calls for a man to go out after her. After taunting Porgy, Crown goes.

After the storm, the women are crying for their men; Sportin’ Life teases them and Bess. Crown enters, looking for Bess; he and Porgy fight, and Porgy kills him.

The police and the coroner come to Catfish Row the next morning; they want to take Porgy down to identify Crown’s body. Telling Bess that Porgy will be locked up indefinitely, Sportin’ Life forces some dope on her and leaves more outside her door as he departs. She emerges, ready to accompany Sportin’ Life to New York.

Porgy returns one week later. While he tries to distribute the gifts he bought with the money he made playing craps in jail, he learns that Bess has gone off with Sportin’ Life to New York. He decides to leave Catfish Row forever and find her.

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Cast

Alfred Walker

Porgy

At Seattle Opera in 2018/19: Porgy, Porgy and Bess

Hometown: New Orleans, LA 
Seattle Opera Debut: Orest, Elektra (’08) 
Previously at Seattle Opera: Amonasro, Aida (’18); The Dutchman, The Flying Dutchman (’16); Lindorf/Coppélius/Dr. Miracle/Dapertutto, The Tales of Hoffmann (’14) 
Recently: Orest, Elektra (San Francisco Opera); Josh Gibson, The Summer King, world premiere (Pittsburgh Opera); Titurel, Parsifal (Metropolitan Opera)
Upcoming: Jochanaan, Salome (Oper Köln); Thoas, Iphigénie en Tauride (Oper Stuttgart); Speaker, The Magic Flute (Metropolitan Opera)

Last updated: July 2018

Alfred Walker

Porgy

Aug. 11, 15, 17, 19, & 25

Kevin Short

Porgy

At Seattle Opera in 2018/19: Porgy, Porgy and Bess

Hometown: Washington, DC
Seattle Opera Debut: The Bonze, Madame Butterfly (’89)
Previously at Seattle Opera: Orest, Elektra (’96); Don Ferrando, Fidelio (’12)
Recently: Nick Shadow, The Rake’s Progress (Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg); Jack Rance, La fanciulla del West (New York City Opera); Le Duc, Romeo and Juliet (Metropolitan Opera)
Upcoming: Tutor, Elektra, and Dr. Grenvil, La traviata (Metropolitan Opera); Speaker, The Magic Flute (Washington National Opera); Porgy, Porgy and Bess (Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra)

Last updated: July 2018

Kevin Short

Porgy

Aug. 12, 18, 22, & 24

Angel Blue

Bess

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Mimì, La bohème

Hometown: Apple Valley, CA
Seattle Opera Debut: Clara, Porgy and Bess (’11)
Previously at Seattle Opera: Bess, Porgy and Bess (’18); Violetta, La traviata (’17)
Recently: Bess, Porgy and Bess (Metropolitan Opera); Beethoven's 9th Symphony (Philadelphia Orchestra)
Upcoming: Leonora, Il trovatore (Los Angeles Opera); Violetta, La traviata (Arena di Verona and Teatro alla Scala); Tosca, Tosca (Semperoper Dresden); Aida, Aida (Santa Fe Opera)

Last Updated: February 2020

 

Angel Blue

Bess

Aug. 11, 15, 17, 19, & 25

Elizabeth Llewellyn

Bess

At Seattle Opera in 2018/19: Bess, Porgy and Bess

Hometown: London, UK
Seattle Opera Debut
Recently: Cio-Cio-San, Madame Butterfly (Royal Danish Opera); Magda de Civry, La rondine (Opera Holland Park); Tosca, Tosca (Theater Magdeburg)
Upcoming:  Manon Lescaut, Manon Lescaut (Opera Holland Park); Luisa Miller, Luisa Miller (English National Opera, London)

Last updated: July 2018

Elizabeth Llewellyn

Bess

Seattle Opera Debut
Aug. 12, 18, 22, & 24

Lester Lynch

Crown

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Rigoletto, Rigoletto

Hometown: Cleveland, OH
Seattle Opera Debut:  Crown, Porgy and Bess (’95)
Previously at Seattle Opera: Crown, Porgy and Bess (’18), Di Luna, Il trovatore ('19, '97)
Recently: Enrico, Lucia di Lammermoor (English National Opera); Doktor Faust, Doktor Faust (Semperopera Dresden); Shylock, The Merchant of Venice (Royal Opera House)
Upcoming: Macbeth, Macbeth (Florentine Opera); Simon Boccanegra, Simon Boccanegra (Washington Concert Opera); Judge Turpin, Sweeny Todd (Bergen National Opera)

Last updated: July 2019

Lester Lynch

Crown

Aug. 11, 12, 15, 17, 18, 19, 22, 24, & 25

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Serena

At Seattle Opera in 2018/19: Serena, Porgy and Bess

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Seattle Opera Debut: Leonora, Il trovatore (’10)
Previously at Seattle Opera: Elisabetta, Mary Stuart (’16); Abigaille, Nabucco (’15); Tosca, Tosca (’15)
Recently: Serena, Porgy and Bess (Teatro alla Scala); Santuzza, Cavalleria Rusticana (Teatro Nacional de Sao Cãrlos); Leonora, La forza del destino (Welsh National Opera)
Upcoming: Abigaille, Nabucco (Opéra de Lille and Opéra de Dijon); Amelia, Un ballo in maschera (Welsh National Opera)

Last updated: July 2018

 

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Serena

Aug. 11, 12, 15, 17, 18, 19, 22, 24, & 25

Jermaine Smith

Sportin' Life

At Seattle Opera in 2018/19: Sportin’ Life, Porgy and Bess

Hometown: St. Louis, MO
Seattle Opera Debut: Sportin’ Life, Porgy and Bess  (’11)
Recently: Soloist, Concert (South Florida Symphony Orchestra, Broward Center); Sportin' Life, Porgy and Bess (Sydney Opera House and Oper Köln)
Upcoming: Director, Porgy and Bess (South Florida Symphony Orchestra); Sportin' Life, Porgy and Bess (South Florida Symphony Orchestra and Fort Worth Opera)

Last updated: July 2018

Jermaine Smith

Sportin' Life

Aug. 11, 12, 15, 17, 18, 19, 22, 24, & 25

Brandie Sutton

Clara

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Musetta, La bohème

Hometown: Huntsville, AL
Seattle Opera Debut: Clara, Porgy and Bess (’18)
Recently: Clara, Porgy and Bess (Metropolitan Opera); La Fee, Cinderella (Opera Birmingham); Pamina, The Ma