American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory, Exhibit Object Focus

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Porgy and Bess

Porgy and Bess, title page
Porgy and Bess, title page

Porgy and Bess, title page
Porgy and Bess, interior page

George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Ira Gershwin (1896-1983)
DuBose Heyward (1885-1940)
Holograph full score, 1934-35
Music Division

Porgy and Bess, an opera written by George Gershwin (1898-1937) in collaboration with DuBose Heyward (1885-1940) and Gershwin's brother Ira (1896-1983), is the one American opera to become fully established in the international opera repertory as well as in the popular musical imagination. Its tunes have become standards for jazz improvisation, and the lullaby "Summertime" has by now achieved the status of a folk song.

Porgy and Bess is based on DuBose Heyward's 1925 novel Porgy and on the 1927 Broadway play of the same name by DuBose and Dorothy Heyward. Gershwin sketched the opera in 1934 and prepared the orchestra score (its opening page shown here) from September 1934 to September 1935.

The manuscript score-sketch of Porgy and Bess and the full orchestral-vocal score were given to the Library by Rose Gershwin, George and Ira Gershwin's mother, to whom George gave the manuscripts of all his major concert works after having them elegantly bound.

The Library's Gershwin Collection also includes considerable manuscript music for the Gershwin stage musicals and material from their late songs for Hollywood musicals, with artfully crafted piano accompaniments in Gershwin's own hand.

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