Porgy and Bess: A Black Perspective

Porgy and Bess: A Black Perspective

Sunday, Feb 23, 2020 3:00 PM

Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History
101 Auburn Avenue, NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30303

The Auburn Avenue Research Library, in collaboration with the Baton Foundation, Inc., and the Atlanta Opera, will present an afternoon of music, discussion, and reflection on the Gershwins’ "Porgy and Bess." 

Dr. Naomi André, professor and author of "Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement" (University of Illinois Press, 2018), will join cast members from The Atlanta Opera production of Porgy and Bess as they give their perspective on the celebrated, but complex, opera. As Dr. André states, “Porgy and Bess is a double-edged sword for many people. It has heartfelt melodies and terrible stereotypes that reference minstrel images, it shows an inner depth to its main characters and also dooms them to terrible outcomes.” In addition to discussing the challenges of Porgy, the panel will give insight on recent Black operas and steps to move the operatic field towards a more equitable artform. Selections from Porgy and Bess will also be presented as a part of the program.

A Cappella will have copies of "Black Opera" available for purchase. This program is free and open to the public.

About the Book

From classic films like "Carmen Jones" to contemporary works like "The Diary of Sally Hemings," American and South African artists and composers have used opera to reclaim black people's place in history. 

Naomi André draws on the experiences of performers and audiences to explore this music's resonance with today's listeners. Interacting with creators and performers, as well as with the works themselves, André reveals how black opera unearths suppressed truths. These truths provoke complex, if uncomfortable, reconsideration of racial, gender, sexual, and other oppressive ideologies. Opera, in turn, operates as a cultural and political force that employs an immense, transformative power to represent or even liberate. 

Viewing opera as a fertile site for critical inquiry, political activism, and social change, "Black Opera" lays the foundation for innovative new approaches to applied scholarship.

About the Author

Naomi André is an associate professor in the departments of African and Afroamerican Studies and Women's Studies and the associate director in the Residential College at the University of Michigan. She is the author of "Voicing Gender: Castrati, Travesti, and the Second Woman in Early-Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera" and coeditor of "Blackness in Opera."