Hungarian State Opera To Break ‘Porgy And Bess’ Rule

By Francisco Salazar

The Hungarian State Opera will present a new production of Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” with a twist.

The new production by András Almási-Tóth will break the restriction of almost 40 years that only an all-black cast can perform the piece.

According to the Hungarian State Opera’s press release, “When George Gershwin’s masterpiece ‘Porgy and Bess’ was first produced in 1935, some felt aggrieved at the prejudice strengthening against Afro-Americans. Nothing could be further from Gershwin, who had studied their music for a long time but to prevent their emancipation. With the operatic hit like ‘I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’ or ‘Summertime’ that had such success as pop chart hits, the composer managed to put the Afro-American culture into the spotlight.”

“As an act in favor of the emancipation the librettist (and brother) of the composer, Ira Gershwin introduced the rule of the all-black cast in the 1980s, a few years before his death.”

But this will not be the first time the Hungarian State Opera puts on the work with a white cast. Before the rule was placed on the piece, the opera house presented the work with its own artists in 1970. Since the rule was placed the Hungarian State Opera, nor any other company have been allowed to perform “Porgy and Bess” on stage if not complying with the rules.

However, for this new production, the Hungarian State Opera negotiated with the copyright holders for two years and got permission to stage the work with the new Hungarian cast.