Harlan Greene, Head of Special Collections at the College of Charleston, was interviewed along with Charleston artist Jonathan Green on PBS NewsHour about Spoleto Festival USA’s featured opera, Porgy and Bess. Greene, a noted Porgy scholar, spoke about DuBose Heyward’s contribution to the literary world. “What he did that was truly earth-shattering,” Greene said, “is that he showed a love story between a black man and a black woman…He shattered all sorts of conventions at the time.”
Since the first performance of the opera in 1934, Porgy and Bess has earned acclaim as one of American history’s best pieces of musical theater. But over time, many have come to view the opera’s black characters as stereotypes. Now, Spoleto’s new production in Charleston aims to rectify the issue by emphasizing the characters’ – and the city’s – African roots. “Porgy and Bess and Porgy has always been sort of a lightning rod to give us reasons to discuss race in this country,” said Greene.
Can’t get enough Porgy and Bess? Visit the Marlene & Nathan Addlestone Library to see Special Collections’ exhibition, Porgy and Bess: A Charleston Story, on view now on the third floor through August.