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Black OperaHistory, Power, Engagement$
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Naomi André

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780252041921

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252041921.001.0001

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Contextualizing Race and Gender in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess

Contextualizing Race and Gender in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess

(p.85) 4 Contextualizing Race and Gender in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess
Black Opera

Naomi André

University of Illinois Press

This chapter addresses Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess story as it was told in 1935 awash in minstrel characterizations and then adapted in 2011 on Broadway to rethink how the depth inherent in the original characters could be made more visible. This analysis fleshes out the larger view of black womanhood in the 1930s and the first decades of the twenty-first century. This chapter also explores the opera in terms of constructions of the folk, the Harlem Renaissance, and the efforts of black writers (Alain Locke, James Weldon Johnson, Harold Cruse, and James Baldwin) to come to grips with its negative stereotypes and celebrated opportunities for black performers in virtuosic roles.

Keywords:   Porgy and Bess, George Gershwin, Jim Crow, American folk opera, folk, Harlem Renaissance, minstrelsy, the Great Migration, Jewishness and whiteness, black womanhood, Alain Locke, James Weldon Johnson, Harold Cruse, James Baldwin

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