"Porgy and Bess" stars on why the iconic opera still resonates today
Groundbreaking drama "Porgy and Bess" has been so popular at the New York Metropolitan Opera that its run has been extended into Black History Month — something one of its stars, Angel Blue, called "wonderful." CBS News' Jericka Duncan sat down with Blue and the show's other lead, Eric Owens, to hear how the award-winning stars feel about bringing it back to the Met after almost 30 years.
"I can't tell you what an honor it is to sing this role at this opera house," said Blue, who is starring as Bess.
The opera is a complicated love story about a poor disabled man and a drug addicted woman in the fictional neighborhood of Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina. It was written by George Gershwin in 1935.
"When George Gershwin and his brother Ira put it out into the world, they insisted that all the principle roles to be played by black people because they wanted, number one, that there would be a truthfulness about them. And number two, that in the 1930s, work would be given to black people in quote, 'serious art,' when it was not given in most places," said opera expert Fred Plotkin.
However, the show's significant place in history does not stop it from being relevant in today's world, according to Owens and Blue.
"Anybody from any background can see elements of themselves on that stage," said Owens, who plays Porgy. "I mean, this is cliché, but that we're more alike than we are different. We're all human at the end of the day."
Blue echoed that sentiment. "Everybody in this opera is looking for something, and it's something that I think really does apply to today's society, you know?"
Blue revealed that her favorite song in the show is called "Promised Land," which makes her think of her late father. "He's gone for now – that's how I feel about my dad. He's gone for now. But I'm going to see him again at the Promised Land. Every time that I get to sing that, I see my dad. It's a blessing."
Blue and Owens are hoping the next generation can also find something relatable to move them within the great American opera, so they choose to participate in master classes at New York City high schools.
"I think it's really important, and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to go out into schools and to talk to young people and to bring our art form to them in person," Owens said.
There's good news for fans outside of New York — "Porgy and Bess" will be playing in movie theaters in all 50 states and around the world when Saturday's live performance will be broadcast on over 2,000 screens.
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