Great Performances at the Met: “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” Coming Friday, July 17 at 9 p.m.

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Great Performances at the Met: The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess

Premieres nationwide Friday, July 17 at 9 p.m. on PBS


Season 14 of Great Performances at the Met continues Friday, July 17 at 9 p.m. on PBS with Gershwin’s folk opera The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. Eric Owens and Angel Blue star as the sympathetic duo Porgy and Bess in this primetime production. The all-star ensemble features Alfred Walker as Crown, Frederick Ballentine as Sportin’ Life, Latonia Moore as Serena, Golda Schultz as Clara and Donovan Singletary as Jake. David Robertson conducts.

Angel Blue as Bess in the Gershwins' "Porgy and Bess."
Angel Blue as Bess in the Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess.”
Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

James Robinson’s production takes place in the 1920s inside Catfish Row, a tenement neighborhood of Charleston, South Carolina, beginning with its inhabitants relaxing after a day’s work. Drug-dealer Sportin’ Life, Jake and some of the other men gather to play craps under the disapproving eye of the religious Serena. Disabled beggar Porgy arrives and is about to join the game when Crown and his partner Bess appear. Drunk and high on drugs, Crown loses, starts a fight and kills Robbins, Serena’s husband. Before the police arrive, Crown runs off to hide, telling Bess that he’ll be back for her. Sportin’ Life offers to take Bess to New York with him, but she refuses. Only Porgy is sympathetic to Bess; he offers her shelter and his protection, which she accepts. A collection is being taken to meet the cost of the burial, and Bess offers Serena a contribution which she refuses, thinking it must be Crown’s money. Serena finally accepts when she realizes the money is from Porgy.

A month later, Sportin’ Life enters, but before he has an opportunity to peddle any of his “happy dust,” Maria, the matriarch of Catfish Row, chases him away. Sportin’ Life asks Bess to come to New York with him again and tries to give her more drugs, which she refuses. Porgy threatens Sportin’ Life and chases him away; he and Bess reflect on their happiness. That evening, Crown, who has been hiding on the island since Robbins’ murder, calls out to Bess. He wants Bess to come with him, but she explains that she now has a new life with Porgy. Crown forces her to stay with him. A week later, the fishermen leave for a day’s wor

Angel Blue as Bess and Frederick Ballentine as Sportin' Life in the Gershwins' "Porgy and Bess."
Angel Blue as Bess and Frederick Ballentine as Sportin’ Life in the Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess.”
Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

k at sea despite a storm warning, and Bess is heard talking deliriously from Porgy’s room. Serena prays for Bess’ recovery, and her prayers are answered when Bess emerges into the courtyard, free of the fever. She explains to Porgy that she wants to stay with him, but when Crown returns she’ll be forced to go back to him.

As a hurricane rolls in, everyone cowers together in Serena’s room to pray for deliverance from the storm. At the storm’s height, Clara sees Jake’s boat overturn and rushes out to save her husband. Bess calls for one of the men to go after her, and Crown responds. The women grieve for those who have been lost, including Jake, Clara and possibly Crown. Under the cover of darkness, Crown appears and approaches Porgy’s door. Porgy is ready for him and kills him instantly. Detectives, accompanied by the coroner, return to Catfish Row to investigate Crown’s murder. They go to Porgy’s room and tell him he must come with them and identify Crown’s body. Horrified to look at Crown’s face, Porgy refuses to go but is dragged away. Taking advantage of Porgy’s absence, Sportin’ Life tries to convince Bess that Porgy will go to prison for the crime, and he attempts to lure her away to a new life. A week later, Porgy returns from jail in a jubilant mood and distributes gifts he bought with money won by playing craps in jail. He calls out for Bess and learns that while he was in jail, Bess took off to New York with Sportin’ Life. Now, Porgy must make a decision. Audra McDonald hosts.

Latonia Moore as Serena in the Gershwins' "Porgy and Bess."
Latonia Moore as Serena in the Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess.”
Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Notable Talent

  • Eric Owens – Porgy
  • Angel Blue – Bess
  • Alfred Walker – Crown
  • Frederick Ballentine – Sportin’ Life
  • Latonia Moore – Serena
  • Golda Schultz – Clara
  • Denyce Graves – Maria
  • Donovan Singletary – Jake
  • Audra McDonald – Host