A new production of “Porgy and Bess” — the classic set in a poor, black neighborhood in the American south — will open the Metropolitan Opera’s next season, the New York company announced Wednesday.
The 2019-20 season at the prestigious house will open September 23 with its first run of the bluesy opera by American composer George Gershwin in nearly three decades, with Eric Owens and Angel Blue cast as the leads.
The new Met season — the second under the leadership of Music Director Yannick Nezet-Seguin — will feature five new productions total, including two making their house debuts: Philip Glass’ “Akhnaten” in November and Handel’s 18th Century satire “Agrippina” in February, which will feature the star mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.
Next season’s highlights also include Sir Bryn Terfel for the first time since 2012 in a new rendition of Wagner’s “Der Fliegende Hollander,” and a new production of Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck” developed by South African artist William Kentridge.
Revivals include Tchaikovsky’s “Queen of Spades” and Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice,” as well as a handful of performances of popular operas like Puccini’s “Turandot” and Verdi’s “La Traviata.”
The 2019-2020 season will also be the first to feature Sunday matinees.
Gershwin’s only opera, “Porgy & Bess” first appeared in Boston in 1935 before moving to Broadway later that year.
The opera set in Charleston, South Carolina tells the tale of a disabled beggar, Porgy, and his love for the drug-addicted Bess. It features classic songs like “Summertime” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”
The Met’s relaunch of the piece, last seen at the Manhattan company in 1990, comes at it seeks to attract a more youthful audience as its aging fanbase shrinks.
African Americans will take on all of the show’s singing roles, a Met spokeswoman said.
The work has a storied — and at times fraught — history, facing criticism over depictions accused of perpetuating stereotypes of black people.
It is based on a 1925 novel by DuBose Heyward, who, like Gershwin, was white.
The novel was “written at a time when blacks and whites were not commingling,” Audra McDonald, who won a Tony in 2012 for playing “Bess” on Broadway, told NPR that year.
“So even though (Heyward) researched as much as he possibly could, there were some aspects he couldn’t possibly know,” she said.
“As African Americans, we can bring something to it that is our own experience, which is a truer experience just by the fact that it can’t possibly be anything but a truer experience because we actually are African American.”
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