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is coming, and the second annual Asian American Performers Panel is fast approaching…and The Fairy Princess has put together some of the most frequent breakers of the yellow ceiling to talk about how they got there, how far they have come, and where they intend to go.


Ali Ewoldt, Shoba Narayan, Raymond J. Lee, and Telly Leung

January 27th at 10AM at The Javits Center

Bring coffee.

UPDATE- after the following blog was written, the Gershwin Estate and licensing company avowed that Hungarian State Opera did NOT have permission to do a Non Black Production of P&B.

They are still going ahead with it.

Because as Christmas Eve says ‘Everyone’s a little bit racist’.


Now…TFP learned of something today that really has her like…


Because she has learned that The Gershwin Estate…the Estate of George and Ira Gershwin…that allows/does not allow people to perform/not perform the works of the two brothers…has LIFTED the rule that was put into place by Ira Gershwin, of having the landmark opera, PORGY AND BESS, performed by an All Black Cast.


This is, as the kids say, fer realz.

The Hungarian State Opera petitioned and received permissionfrom The Gershwin Estate, to have non-Black performers do the quintessential opera that represents the time period of post Civil War, economically depressed 1930’s in America, where many people were free, technically, but still bound by their lack of education and job mobility, to poverty.


For those of you not familiar with the story, TFP will sum up:

It follows the story of Porgy, who is a disabled man living in the slums of Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina.

Porgy attempts to ‘rescue’ Bess, a good girl gone wrong, from the clutches of her violent lover, Crown. This is complicated business because while Bess has initial affection for Porgy, she is always being tempted to run off as well with her drug dealer, Sportin’ Life.

There are additional plots going on – for example, Crown murders a fellow dice player, Robbins. This has Crown fleeing to Kittiwah island off the coast, and leaving Bess to fed for herself against the police. She knocks on all the doors in Catfish Row, but only Porgy will open his to hide her from the police. This is where the romance between Bess and Porgy begins. She cleans herself up, starts going to church, but then she goes to a picnic on Kittwah Island and boom, just like that, she is back in Crown’s clutches.

Eventually, there is a struggle between Porgy and Crown, with Porgy winning. However, while he is held in jail for refusing to look upon the body of Crown (Because the thought was that if a murderer looks on the body he killed, it will bleed), Bess ‘falls’ with ‘help’ from Sportin’ Life, and runs off to New York.

Porgy winds up walking free for lack of evidence, and when he finds Bess not at home, he decides to head off to New York and find her.

The opera was adapted fromDuBose Heywards novel, Porgy. The novel became a play, also called Porgy, and then with Mr. Heyward, the Misters Gershwin turned it into PORGY AND BESS.George Gershwin wrote the score, Ira Gershwin wrote the lyrics, and DuBose wrote the lyrics and libretto.

The music that George Gershwin wrote for this piece, he self described as ‘a folk tale.’ – and he has been bothpraised for the lushness of the score anddecried for the image it set forth about Black Americans and how they were viewed. Both are valid points of view.


The piece was original presented in 1935, and has been edited and adapted several times, for a variety of venues, Broadway, The Metropolitan Opera, a Film Version, and Opera Companies around the world.

Which is not the point of this post at all, except to say – yes, PORGY AND BESS has been viewed quite a variety of ways by the Black American Community – but that is their purview and the rest of us – and whatever color we happen to be, or how we identify – have to acknowledge that though it was written by non Black people, it was written FOR Black American performers.


That was the intent.



In the 1980’s, Ira Gershwin, knowing that time was a ticking and he was not going to be around forever, Ira, one of the lyricists of the piece, put in place the ‘rule’ that there were only to be Black Performers in PORGY AND BESS.

This rule has now been broken, after two years of negotiation with the Estates.

While it is a great piece of music and theater and opera – and should be heard more often around the world, it should not be heard at the cost of negating it’s essential casting.

While TFP understands that the Hungarian State Opera may have empathy or some sort of connection to the American Deep South,


their willingness to blithely displace performers who have connection to that heritage is troubling to say the least, racist to say the most.

It’s racist.

Yes, she said it. It is racist to do PORGY AND BESS without the People of Color that the Composer, Librettist, and Lyricist intended.

When you erase People of Color, in this case, specifically Black Americans from stories that are theirs alone to tell, it is not only wrong, it is racist. It is dictating how and when People of Color are ‘allowed’ to get on the stage and sing a story that has been written for them.

This story was not written for Hungarian singers – it was written for Black Americans. To deny them their right to sing it, is to deny them one of their essential stories – whether or not individuals have issues or not with it, it is their story to tell.

The show does NOT work without the nuance and the majesty that an All Black cast can give it.

Does it represent ALL the Black people in America?


Does it tell a story that some have issue with?


Have there been non Black performances of PORGY AND BESS before?

Yes, there have.

In 1943 in Copenhagen, which was Nazi occupied at the time. The singers wore blackface. It has also been performed in Europe in Switzerland and Sweden where they had all white singers in 1945 and 1950 respectively.

Not ok.

Let’s put it this way – if the Nazis thought it was a good idea – ‘we’ of the world should be against it.


Some of you out there will say – “Well, TFP does that mean only Egyptians should sing AIDA?” Or only Japanese people should sing BUTTERFLY?” “Should OTELLO only have a Black or PoC person as OTELLO?”

Ideally, yes.


Cue people raining down on TFP about not knowing too much about classical music and the requirements for those roles. They would be wrong.

TFP is well aware that there are specific kinds of voices that are needed for those roles, and they do not always live in the body that would be most ideal for that story – Heldentenors do not grow on trees….nor do Puccini Sopranos – however this is a specific case, it is different from those roles. This is not about one voice type for a specific role, this is about an entire company.

This show, this opera, is written specifically for Black Americans.

It is not set in Ancient Anywhere or Foreign Euro-pea or Geishaland – no one is dying of consumption on a couch, sorry, chaise – these are meant to portray a specific instance in the American South that – while fiction – does represent what could have happened to people at that time.


For PORGY AND BESS to work, it needs to have a few feet grounded in reality – and the toll that it takes on it’s audience – of all colors – is what is needed right now in America.

We are battling racism every day in this country – every, damn, day. So what we do NOT do – oh Gershwin Estate – what we do NOT do – is allow ourselves to EXPORT racism to other countries.

We do not allow them to white wash PORGY AND BESS, hate it or love it,  in all it’s glory.

If they want to do it, and they do not have the singers – there are two options:

  1. Import the singers and show the opera as it is supposed to be.
  2. Do not do it.

There are hundreds of operas by composers that Hungarian State Opera could do – and this is where white privilege really gets TFP’s goat.


She knows that People of Color are gorgeous and talented and alluring – but their culture and skin tones are not to be picked up and put down as a matter of whim by White Creatives and their staffs.

If you want to do a show, to diversify your stages – give them diverse faces, and not just on stage – Directors, Stage Managers, Crew!

To the Gershwin Estate…TFP does not know what Intern allowed this to go through, or if y’all just want to make some money and you thought no one in the States would find out about this…but this is a HUGE mistake.


We are living in an America DIVIDED. We have NAZIS in the White House. We have a POTUS who uses terms like ‘shithole or house” to describe African and Island Nations! Who regularly calls People of Color derogatory names! Who robs from the poor to give to the rich?


Who lies – not just about policy and what he said or did not say – but he lies about EVERYTHING! He says that he is 239lbs and passed a mental health test – the only way he passed a mental health evaluation is if the paper it was written on fell on the floor and he stepped over it! His whole team will look the American public in the face and tell them nothing resembling the truth and you think this is a good time to say that there are no Black People in PORGY AND BESS?


Two Jewish Men who made their living writing songs in Tin Pan Alley and ascended to the highest heights this country has to offer would NOT be pleased about this.

You need to rethink this.

And Hungary? Gurl – you are out of line, maybe you don’t know any better over there – maybe you are the kind of country that would add mustard to mac and cheese, but this is not right.


Not right.

TFP fines both The Gershwin Estate and Hungary – an actual country, but it has white people so our POTUS is fine with it – two hundred whacks of the wand.

WTF is going ON Folks?

Artists are supposed to do BETTER!

And ESTATES who represent the Artists who DID DO BETTER should not just go for the money – they should rep for the values that the Gershwins stood for! Or what are they? Just a clearing house for show tunes?


Totally disgusted. TFP out.