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YMMV / Porgy and Bess

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  • Alternate Character Interpretation: One of the central themes of the opera is the question of whether people are in love or simply using each other. As such, many relationships in the show are open to interpretation, particularly Porgy and Bess. Are they both in love with each other, is it just one-way, or are they just using each other (Bess needing shelter, and Porgy needing companionship)?
  • Covered Up: Modern audiences can be so used to hearing Summertime as a jazz standard that the original aria can be jarring.
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  • Fair for Its Day: The opera has often been criticized for racial stereotyping, especially the dialogue. But contrary to many other depictions of the time, George Gershwin went out of his way to make sure that his portrayal of African Americans was respectful, even living among Gullah communities in South Carolina while composing to research authentic musical idioms. Ira Gershwin, as George's executor, specifically stipulated that the lead roles should always be performed by black singers, nixing any opportunities for blackface performances (even at the Met!), which gave several African American opera stars their big breaks.
  • Misattributed Song: The revival entitled "The Gershwins' Porgy And Bess" took some flak from people who pointed out, correctly, that DuBose Hayward had even more to do with the lyrics than Ira Gershwin did.
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