29¢ Porgy and Bess
Issue Date: July 14, 1993
City: New York, NY
Printed By: American Banknote Corporation
Printing Method: Photogravure
Perforations: 11 horizontally
When Porgy and Bess opened on Broadway in 1935, it was the realization of a longtime dream of George Gershwin’s. After reading Du Bose Heyward’s book “Porgy” in 1926, he had written Heyward hoping to use the book as the basis for an opera. Heyward was interested in the prospect, but both men had other commitments, forcing them to postpone the project. Finally in 1933, the two, along with Ira Gershwin and Dorothy Heyward, began work on what would become the most popular opera written by an American composer.
A black “folk opera”, Porgy and Bess is set in Catfish Row, a Negro tenement in Charleston, South Carolina. Forced into hiding after murdering a man, Crown flees, leaving behind his girlfriend Bess, who falls in love with the crippled Porgy. Crown later returns to take Bess away, but is killed by Porgy out of self-defense. When Porgy is taken to jail, Sportin’ Life, who is also in love with Bess, tempts her to run off with him. Believing she will never see Porgy again, she agrees. The play ends with Porgy, who, free from jail, leaves in search of Bess.
The 1935 run of 124 performances was modest by Broadway standards; for an opera, it was exceptional. Since then it has been performed throughout the world.