1. "George had a very special feeling for Porgy and Bess, and he felt that it was his great master work. And he wanted to depict these characters in a way that was taken very seriously, at a time when many people didn’t want to know or see a work that consisted entirely of an all African-American cast. It’s a very volatile period in our history because it’s 1935, it’s the Depression, and when George undertook the writing of Porgy and Bess, everybody was against him.

    "He was considered by some to be a Tin Pan Alley and how could he have the nerve to write an opera? The classical world said: This is absurd, who does he think he is? The Jewish community was agog. Of course the black community said: Our own people should be writing about our race, who is this guy to do it? I mean everybody was against him — except he had this vision and he had to fulfill it, and he absolutely believed in what he knew, what was inside of him. … And even after it opened, and it was financially a failure, he still maintained that it would one day be regarded as his greatest work, and of course, he was right."

    — Michael Feinstein on why George Gershwin would not let white actors and singers perform in his opera, Porgy and Bess


    Photo :Audra McDonald (left) and Norm Lewis play the title characters in the recent Broadway production of Porgy and Bess.

    Credit: Michael J. Lutch/Courtesy of the American Repertory Theater

  2. Michael Feinstein

    Gershwins and Me

    Porgy and Bess

    Fresh Air

  1. Feinstein still remembers his early meetings with Ira Gershwin in Los Angeles in 1977: “Ira was in state of great depression because one of his close friends had passed away,” he recalls. “And Ira was already reclusive, and very sedentary.” An eager scholar of the Gershwins’ work, Feinstein would ask Ira questions about the recordings he was finding, some of them dating back to 1917. “By playing these Gershwin recordings that I pulled out of the closet … it brought him back and suddenly, he had a spark.”

    — via Michael Feinstein’s Fresh Air interview about the time he spent with songwriter, Ira Gershwin

    In the photo: Michael Feinstein (right) worked for six years as Ira Gershwin’s cataloger and archivist.

    Credit: Simon & Schuster

  2. Michael Feinstein

    Fresh Air

    The Gershwins and Me