Washington National Opera

The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess

Opera House

Gershwin’s quintessential American masterpiece melds jazz, folk, and gospel styles. Bess finds herself torn between steadfast love and the dark demons that tug her elsewhere.

May 9 - 23, 2020

  • Genre


  • Price Range

    $45.00 – $299.00

A scene from the WNO production of Porgy and Bess
Photo by Karin Cooper


Love shines a light into the blues.

By George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward and Ira Gershwin

In English with Projected English Titles
Original WNO Production with Sets from The Glimmerglass Festival

It’s “summertime, and the livin’ is easy in Catfish Row, a working-class fishing town in South Carolina. When a murder shakes the community and tempts the strongheaded Bess to return to her drug-filled past, Porgy, a crippled beggar, becomes her unlikely refuge. As a hurricane descends and Bess’s brutish old flame returns, she’ll find herself torn between Porgy’s steadfast love and the dark demons that tug her elsewhere.

Francesca Zambello’s adaptation of Gershwin’s beloved “folk opera” returns after playing to critical acclaim across renowned opera stages. Often considered the first great American opera, Porgy and Bess soars with original music melding jazz, gospel, and folk styles, from the gentle duet “Bess, You Is My Woman Now” to the instantly recognizable “Summertime” lullaby. Themes of community resilience, acceptance, and redemption weave through this poignant story, ultimately asking if even the most unwavering of loves can conquer the force of personal addiction.


Musa Ngqungwana (5/9, 11, 17m, 20, 23)
Alfred Walker* (5/10m, 13, 15, 18, 22)
Kristin Lewis* (5/9, 11, 15, 17m, 20, 23)
Alyson Cambridge (5/10m, 13, 18, 22)
Kenneth Kellogg†
Sportin’ Life:
Frederick Ballentine†
Janai Brugger (5/9, 11, 15, 17m, 20, 23)
Jacqueline Echols† (5/10m, 13, 18, 22)
Norman Garrett†
Latonia Moore (5/9, 11, 15, 17m, 20, 23)
Simone Paulwell* (5/10m, 13, 18, 22)
Denyce Graves

† Alumnus of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program
* WNO Debut

Creative Team

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

PORGY AND BESS® is presented by arrangement with Tams-Witmark LLC
229 W. 28th Street, 11th Fl. New York, NY 10001

GERSHWIN is a registered trademark and service mark of Gershwin Enterprises.

PORGY AND BESS is a registered trademark and service mark of Porgy and Bess Enterprises.

Pre- and Post-Show Events

Come early for a Pre-Performance Talk

Delve deeper as you take a peek inside the composer’s mind, behind the scenes of planning a production, and into the history and social context of each opera. These lectures are free, but patrons must present a ticket from any performance of the production that is being discussed in the lecture.

Most Pre-Performance Talks begin 1 hour before the performance and last 25–30 minutes. 

Musicologist Saul Lilienstein’s talk is scheduled for Wed., May 20, beginning 1 hour and 15 minutes before the performance and lasting 35–40 minutes.

Post-Performance Artist Q&A

Don't miss your opportunity to engage directly with our artists and share your thoughts on the experience you just had! Here's your chance to ask questions and get the inside scoop on the production from members of the cast and creative team. All discussions begin immediately after the performance and are free with your ticket.

Porgy and Bess Artist Q&A Dates:
Sun., May 10
Mon., May 11
Sun., May 17
Mon., May 18

Support the Arts in America

The Kennedy Center is a non-profit institution, and your tax-deductible gift helps expand our arts and education offerings throughout the country.

Donate Today

Major support for WNO is provided by Jacqueline Badger Mars.

David M. Rubenstein is the Presenting Underwriter of WNO.

WNO acknowledges the longstanding generosity of Life Chairman Mrs. Eugene B. Casey.

WNO's Presenting Sponsor


Terms and Conditions

All events and artists subject to change without prior notice.

All ticket prices are subject to change based on demand. Purchase early to lock in prices and the best seats!

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The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess

May 9 - 23, 2020

Gershwin’s quintessential American masterpiece melds jazz, folk, and gospel styles. Bess finds herself torn between steadfast love and the dark demons that tug her elsewhere.