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April 14, 2017

UMS in the Classroom: George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess



Interested in using a UMS performance in your university classroom? For each performance on the season, we provide suggested curricular connections, links to contextual material online, citations for scholarly material, and prompts for classroom discussion. For additional resources and individualized curricular support, please contact Shannon Fitzsimons Moen, UMS Campus Engagement Specialist, at or (734) 764-3903.

UMS is also committed to making our performances an affordable part of the academic experience. Our Classroom Ticket Program provides $15 tickets to students and faculty for performances that are a course requirement. Please email to set up a group order.


This performance may connect meaningfully with courses in the following schools and disciplines:

  • Afroamerican and African Studies
  • American Culture
  • English Language and Literature
  • Comparative Literature
  • History
  • History of Art
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Composition
  • Jazz & Contemporary
  • Improvisation
  • Music Education
  • Musicology
  • Voice
  • Strings
  • Piano
  • Winds & Percussion
  • Musical Theatre
  • Art & Design


  • This new critical edition of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess is being brought to life by the Gershwin Initiative—a collaboration between the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, and the Gershwin family. Learn more about the Gershwin Initiative here.
  • Alex Ross explores Gershwin’s career and influences on Porgy and Bess in the chapter “Invisible Men” from his book The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century. (Picador, 2007).
  • While the 1935 premiere of Porgy and Bess was considered a commercial failure, a 1941 revival by Cheryl Crawford proved much more successful. Learn how Crawford’s revisions reshaped the public’s view of the work.
  • A 2011 Broadway revival, with a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, also sparked controversy. Read about the production in this New Yorker feature.


  • How does attending a concert version of an opera differ from either listening to a recording of the opera or attending a full production of the work? What interpretive tools are stressed or de-emphasized in each scenario?
  • Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, whether it intended to or not, is a work that has stirred controversy and debate over cultural, social, and racial issues for decades. In 2018, 83 years since the opera’s premiere, conversations surrounding race, cultural identity, and the representation of the black community in art continue to be as important as ever. In your opinion, how might an opera company today present a socially responsible and conscious production of this work? Does the artistic direction of this piece emphasize or diminish these themes?