Porgy in Paris: music by Francis Poulenc and George Gershwin
George Gershwin and Francis Poulenc wrote some of the jazziest music of the twentieth century. Born within a few months of each other (Gershwin in September of 1898 and Poulenc in January of 1899) they could not have come from more contrasting backgrounds. Poulenc was raised in a wealthy, pious Roman Catholic Parisian family with a successful family pharmaceutical business. Gershwin, on the other hand, was raised in the tenements of Brooklyn and New York City’s Lower East Side to a Russian-Ukrainian Jewish family. His father worked a variety of jobs, and the family moved around frequently.
But both men wrote music that pushed the boundaries of their respective cultures. Poulenc was a member of a group of contemporary French composers known as Les Six that worked to forge a new way of expressing music that was distinct from the Romanticism of Wagner and the impressionism of Debussy and Ravel. Penned in 1950, the Stabat Mater was dedicated to the memory of Poulenc’s friend and artist Christian Bérard. Its text is a medieval meditation on the suffering of Mary during the events leading to Jesus’ crucifixion. Poulenc uses the resources of the soprano solo, full chorus, and orchestra to create a ravishingly beautiful and dramatically varied work.
Porgy and Bess was first performed in 1935 and remains one of Gershwin’s most performed stage works today. The first performance featured a cast of African-American singers that created much controversy at the time. Gershwin called the work a folk opera, the first of its kind: “Its people naturally would sing folk music...Therefore I wrote my own spirituals and folksongs.” The score contains some of the most memorable tunes of all time, including Summertime, I got plenty o’ nuttin’, and Bess, You Is My Woman Now.
Don’t miss Porgy in Paris - two game-changing works from America and France showcasing the jazziest harmonies, snappiest rhythms, and the most luscious choral music!