The first premier at the Hungarian State Opera might go down in opera history as a world sensation. András Almási-Tóth is to put The Gershwins®’ Porgy and Bess® on stage with Hungarian singers at the Erkel Theatre thus breaking the restriction of lmost forty years that only allowed all-black casts to perform the piece.

When George Gershwin’s masterpiece Porgy and Bess®was first produced in 1935, some – misunderstanding the intention of the composer – felt aggrieved at the prejudice strengthening against Afro-Americans.

Nothing could be further from Gershwin, who had studied their music for a long time, but to prevent their emancipation.

With the operatic hit like I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’ or Summertime that had such success as pop chart hits, the composer managed to put the Afro-American culture into the spotlight.

As an act in favour of the emancipation the librettist (and brother) of the composer, Ira Gershwin introduced the rule of the all-black cast in the 1980s, a few years before his death. Before this rule was introduced, the Hungarian State Opera had put Gershwin’s piece on stage with its own artists in the 1970s. Although this production, directed by András Mikó even had a revival a decade later, in the past four decades neither the Hungarian State Opera, nor any other company were not allowed to put Porgy and Bess®on stage if not complying with the rules.

This restriction is broken by the Hungarian State Opera in January 2018 following a two-year negotiation with the copyright holders. Having got the permission, the Opera produces the Gershwins®’ masterpiece with excellent Hungarian singers. Hopefully, this historic and sensational premiere can pave the way for other opera companies in the world so that this brilliant opera can be heard in more and more places.

Venue: Erkel Theatre


Premiere: 27 January 2018
Further performances: 28 January, 1, 8 February 2018

For cast and creative CLICK HERE.

“The worldwide copyrights in the music of George and Ira Gershwin® for this presentation are licensed by the Gershwin Family.”


According to Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc.:

The Hungarian State Opera did not receive permission to produce Porgy And Bess with a cast of Hungarian singers.

“The manner in which this production of Porgy And Bess is being produced is unauthorized and is contrary to the requirements for the presentation of the work.”

Source: Press release

  1. If someone as big as HSO wants to put on Porgy and Bess, they should be able to import the singers they need to do it properly.

  2. Why take away the all black casting when the composers intent was on having it? This opera was created for the timbres of black voices. While there are a plethora of white European operas intended for white casts that you obviously are not content with, you prove what by performing this opera without black voices? When will colorless people stop abusing their power to steal from what was intended for those with color?

  3. I don’t even know where to begin. The intentional dismissal of the intent of this production. The blatant disregard of the plight of the black artist and their ability to tell their own stories with authenticity and accuracy. The willful hubris of breaking a tradition that means only dishonor and desecration. This is not a good thing. I’m so sorry this company believes that it is. I’m so sorry that these negotiations happened. I’m appalled that they went through. This was not meant for voices that cannot culturally communicate and convey the anguish of the African American. There are plenty of those voices in the world. Instead of seeking them out, you’ve chosen to override them. That should not be praised or supported.

  4. I am confused by this story. If Tams-Witmark licensed this production without the Gershwin’s cast restriction, how can they now be heard to complain and require the opera company to place disclaimers in the advertising, etc. It could have just withdrawn the rights or enjoined the production. An earlier story said however that the restriction was not in the contract with the opera company – presumably an oversight by someone at Tams.
    When NY City Opera did their excellent production many decades ago, and when the Met did theirs more recently, they were required to hire all-black choruses at significant expense (since the regular chorus is already under contract and presumably being paid anyway). I am curious how the Met plans to handle the issue for their upcoming production in a year or two.

    By the way, there are a couple of roles that may be played by whites – the policeman/detective who investigate Crown’s murder, but they are non-singing roles.

  5. If the Opera House succeeds in accurately interpereting a classic American play while giving full credit to its rich African American origins and truth, then this play could be another successful variation on a theme, Hungaian style. The fact that the cast is really trying to get into character and identify with the true spirit of the original, colorful characters, is the real story, and is a positive one. That in is itself is huge, and would put Hungery on the right side of history, as innovative creators of the arts and of not being manipulated by propaganda campaigns to whitewash history. Fortunately, the age-old Othello, and Aida remained free of propoganda through most of history. Let’s hope hungarians will succeed in relating to the stories of Porgy and Bess because tens of thousands of desperate Hungarians emmigrated to America during this same period and mixed in with African American communities, and many experienced similiar American stories. The Hungarian cast absolutely should be able to relate to Porgy and Bess and should continue to make that intent very
    clear. It would be even more successful if it were to include a mixed cast, as the record breaking play ‘Hamilton’ demonstrated, and worldwide audiences have grown to expect in this new millenium. Next season.

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