The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess

Past Production


Morris Robinson
Porgy (Mar 7, 8, & 10)

Musa Ngqungwana
Porgy (Mar 13 & 15)

Talise Trevigne (Casting update as of 3/4/20)

Donovan Singletary

Jermaine Smith
Sportin’ Life

Reginald Smith Jr.

Jacqueline Echols

Indra Thomas

La’Shelle Allen


David Charles Abell

Francesca Zambello
Original Production Director

Garnett Bruce
Stage Director

Peter Davison
Scenic Designer

Paul Tazewell
Costume Designer

Mark McCullough
Lighting Designer

Eric Sean Fogel
Original Choreographer

Eboni Adams
Associate Choreographer

Michelle Ladd Williams
Fight Director

Music: George Gershwin
Libretto: DuBose and Dorothy Heyward and Ira Gershwin
Premiere Date: Sept 30, 1935, Colonial Theatre, Boston

From the extraordinary writing duo of George and Ira Gershwin comes a Depression-era masterpiece rich in timeless tunes, including “Summertime,” “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and “Bess, You Is My Woman Now.” Considered the great American opera, Porgy and Bess was inspired by Charleston’s Cabbage Row, a 1920s community bound by faith, tears, music, and laughter. In a tender love story, Porgy and Bess seek harmony in the face of addiction and social injustice.

Scenery produced by The Glimmerglass Festival; Costumes by The Glimmerglass Festival and Washington National Opera

Performed in English with English supertitles

Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre


We’re in this together.

Posted April 15, 2020


Posted April 3, 2020

The spring productions of Madama Butterfly and Glory Denied, originally scheduled for May 2020, are postponed to later dates due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Madama Butterfly will be rescheduled and presented as part of a festival of two works by Giacomo Puccini in November alongside the 2020-21 season-opening production, La bohème (November 7-15). Madama Butterfly will take place November 12, 14, and 17 in a slightly reduced staging, in order to accommodate the production concurrently with La bohème. Both productions will be held at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

Glory Denied, by Tom Cipullo, based on the book by Tom Philpott, is postponed to a date yet to be determined. As part of The Atlanta Opera’s commitment to American operas and particularly those addressing veterans issues, Glory Denied was originally scheduled in late May at the Hertz Stage at The Woodruff Arts Center.

Ticketholders for both productions will be contacted individually.


Posted March 26, 2020

Information surrounding COVID-19 is changing daily.  Please stay informed by going to the web site for the Centers for Disease Control at  If you feel ill or have other questions regarding COVID-19, contact your health provider or one of the established Atlanta area health care facilities.

We care deeply about our community and have your health and safety as our highest priority.  We hope that everyone is staying healthy and safe.  We look forward to bringing the power of music and drama back to your life.


Posted March 19, 2020

The following message was sent to patrons who attended the Tuesday, March 10th performance of Porgy and Bess:

It has come to our attention through reports in the media, that a patron who also attended the performance on Tuesday, March 10 has tested positive for COVID-19. Though this patient stated she was without symptoms at the time she attended, the diagnosis was verified six days later. 

We have worked with Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre to contact local public health officials and the US Centers for Disease Control regarding the incident. They are aware of the case and because the patron was not symptomatic during her time in the theatre, Cobb & Douglas Public Health Department would like us to relay that, based on current information, they do not believe there is any risk of transmission from this patron.  

Why are we contacting you? We feel it is important to be transparent about known public health information that may help you in your healthcare decision-making at this time. Our patrons are at the center of what we do. Should you have questions, we advise contacting local health authorities for instruction.

COVID-19 UPDATE: Porgy and Bess

Posted March 16, 2020

The Atlanta Opera is devoted to the health and safety of our audience, artists, staff and collaborators.

We have been monitoring the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic, relying on information from local authorities as well as our partners and colleagues. Last week, we made the difficult decision to cancel the remaining performances of Porgy and Bess on Friday, March 13 and Sunday, March 15.

If you were a ticket holder to the performances of Porgy and Bess, please know that the full value of your tickets for these performances has been credited to your account. You may call us at any time in the coming weeks to indicate your preference for one of the following three options.

  1. Donate your tickets and receive a tax deduction for the total ticket value. Ticket donations can be made by e-mailing us at or calling 404-881-8885.
  1. Exchange your tickets for a gift certificate, which can be used at any time through the next season.
  1. Receive a refund for the value of the tickets.

We hope you will consider donating the value of your tickets to The Atlanta Opera. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on charitable donations to fund our mission and support our artists. We are committed to paying our artists for the hard work they have done in preparing for Porgy and Bess. You can help us.

Thank you for supporting The Atlanta Opera.


All Performances: Pre-show fine dining
$53 for Sat, Tues, Fri dinner
$43 for Sun brunch

Final Dress Rehearsal

Thursday, March 5: Teachers with students may attend the final dress rehearsal for FREE
Available soon

Opera’s Night Out

Friday, March 13: Young professionals enjoy a pre-show cocktail hour + ticket to the show
Get Tickets >


All Performances: Save up to 25%
For groups of 10 or more

Student Rush Tickets

All Performances: Students with ID may purchase discount tickets two hours in advance at the Cobb Energy Centre
$25 – 35 per seat

Porgy and Bess Community Events

FREE Porgy and Bess: A Black Perspective

Sunday, February 23, 2020 | 3:00 p.m.
Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History

The Atlanta Opera and The Baton Foundation present an afternoon of music, discussion, and reflection on The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.

Dr. Naomi André, professor and author of Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement, will join Morris Robinson (PORGY) and Indra Thomas (SERENA) from The Atlanta Opera production of Porgy and Bess as they share their perspectives on the celebrated opera. Dr. André states, “Porgy and Bess is a double-edged sword for many people. It has heartfelt melodies and terrible stereotypes that reference minstrel images, it shows an inner depth to its main characters and dooms them to terrible outcomes.” Using Andre’s quote as a starting point, the panelists will discuss topics central to why Porgy and Bess has been problematic since it first opened in 1935–including race, cultural representation, and the marginalization of Black communities. In addition, the panel will give their thoughts about the role of Porgy and Bess today, and how it might assist the opera community in its efforts to make the artform more inclusive.

A Cappella Books will have copies of Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement available for purchase. After the discussion, Dr. André will sign copies in the lobby.

FREE and open to the public. Please note: seating is first-come, first-served. We recommend arriving early. Tickets are not required for this event.


Special Pre-Opera Talk with Dr. Uzee Brown, Jr., D.M.A

One hour before all performances of Porgy and Bess, March 7-15
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre 

Join The Atlanta Opera and Dr. Uzee Brown, Chair for the Division of Creative and Performing Arts and Professor of Voice at Morehouse College, for a short, informative pre-opera talk about the history and social context of the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. Offered one hour before curtain.

Read bio

Saturday, March 7th ONLY: Special Guest Dr. Bernice A. King, youngest daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King and CEO of The King Center and will join Dr. Uzee Brown during the pre-show talk to speak about the legacy of her mother and the importance of music to the Freedom Movement.

Open to Porgy and Bess ticketholders. General admission.


Get the Feeling

Photos by Karli Cadel/Glimmerglass Festival

Listen to Porgy and Bess

Read the program


Approximate runtime: 3 hours including 1 intermission


Act 1

Scene 1: Catfish Row, a summer evening

An evening in Catfish Row, an African-American tenement on Charleston’s waterfront, in the 1930s. Jasbo Brown entertains the community with his piano playing (“Jasbo Brown Blues”). Clara, a young mother, sings a lullaby to her baby (“Summertime”) as the workingmen prepare for a game of craps. Among the players are Sportin’ Life, Jake, Mingo, Jim, and Robbins, who enters the game despite the protestations of his wife, Serena (“Roll Them Bones”). Jake breaks away briefly, takes the baby from his wife Clara, and sings his own lullaby, “A Woman Is a Sometime Thing.” Porgy, a disabled beggar, enters on his goat cart to organize the game. As the game begins in earnest, Crown, a strong and brutal stevedore, storms in with his woman, Bess. He buys cheap whiskey and some of Sportin’ Life’s “happy dust.” Drunk and agitated, Crown gets into an argument with Robbins; a brawl ensues, and Crown kills Robbins with a cotton hook.

Crown runs, telling Bess to fend for herself until he returns after the heat has died down. Sportin’ Life gives her a dose of happy dust and invites her to join him in New York, but she refuses, and he takes off. Fearing the police, the residents of Catfish Row quickly retreat to their homes. Bess, left alone, frantically knocks on doors, seeking shelter. Finally, Porgy opens his door to her, and Bess tentatively enters. Meanwhile, in the courtyard, Serena collapses over the body of her husband.

Characters & Cast

(Mar 7, 8, & 10)

A crippled beggar who falls in love with Bess

Morris Robinson

Hailed for his “firm, opulent tone,” (The Classical Review) Morris Robinson is considered one the most interesting and sought after basses performing today. He was last seen at The Atlanta Opera in Rigoletto (2015).

More >

(Mar 13 & 15)

A crippled beggar who falls in love with Bess

Musa Ngqungwana

South African bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana has been praised by the New York Times for his “rich, glowing voice and elegant legato.”

More >


Crown’s girl

Talise Trevigne

American soprano Talise Trevigne makes her Atlanta Opera debut as Bess. She recently sang the role with Morris Robinson at Cincinnati Opera.

More >

*Casting update as of 3/4/20


A tough dock hand

Donovan Singletary

Bass Baritone Donovan Singletary has been praised by Opera News for his “bright baritone.”  Mr. Singletary returns to the Metropolitan Opera in the 2019-2020 season in the role of Jake in the production of Porgy and Bess. He will also perform the role Colline in Fort Worth Opera’s La bohème.


Sportin’ Life

A dope peddler

Jermaine Smith

Jermaine’s portrayal of Sportin’ Life has graced Paris’s Opera-Comique, the Theatre de Caen, the Granada Festival, the Opera de Luxembourg, and the Santa Fe Symphony.


A fisherman

Reginald Smith Jr.

Baritone Reginald Smith, Jr. has been lauded as a “passionate performer” (New York Times). He is a native of Atlanta, and is a Grand Finals winner of the 2015 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.



Jake’s wife

Jacquelyn Echols

Lyric soprano Jacqueline Echols has been praised for her “dynamic range and vocal acrobatics” (Classical Voice) in theaters across the United States.



Robbins’ wife

Indra Thomas

Considered one of the foremost Aida’s in the world today, Indra Thomas has performed at many of the world class opera houses and venues, such as the Metropolitan Opera and the Vienna State Opera.



Keeper of the cook-shop

La’Shelle Allen

La’Shelle Allen, contralto, is a native of Baltimore, Maryland where she began her journey in music at the Baltimore School for the Arts. After graduation, she relocated to New York City to pursue her studies and was hired as mezzo soloist for the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble.

Newbie Guide

The Opera Experience

Operas on our mainstage are grand theatrical experiences. You can always expect the unexpected, and for our productions to be presented at the highest quality.


Many operas are in a foreign language. Supertitles are similar to subtitles in a film, except they are projected above the stage. These translations will help you follow what’s happening on stage.

What to Wear

There is no dress code at The Opera and you will see everything from jeans to evening gowns and formal suits. Most people use it as a chance to enjoy dressing up in their own style.

Arriving in Good Time

If you are late, you will be escorted to the nearest late seating area. At intermission ushers will show you to your seat. Plan ahead to arrive with extra time.

Directions & Parking at Cobb Energy Center

Enhance Your Visit

Pre-Performance Talk

Learn about the history of the opera, the composer, and more from artists and opera aficionados. One hour prior to curtain. Free with your ticket!

Learn More

Familiarizing Yourself with the Story

Because of the foreign languages, classical music, and often complex plots, you will very likely enjoy the performance better if you spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the story and characters in advance. Some people even like to listen to the music in advance and others prefer to let it wash over them during the show and perhaps look it up afterwards.

Visit our Study Guides Library

How is an Opera Staged?


Actors first audition for roles up to a year in advance, or for more experienced artists, directors also invite them to play a role.


Most of the rehearsals are held in our rehearsal hall, and not the actual theatre. The conductor begins orchestra rehearsals about a week and half before opening night. They have four rehearsals with the conductor, and then the singers are added into the mix.

Sets & Costumes

The Atlanta Opera Costume Shop alters the costumes to fit our singers. Sometimes they do have to make costumes if there aren’t enough, or if there is nothing that fits, etc. Once the sets are in place, the cast begins rehearsing at the theatre. The Opera production staff works with staff at the theatre to get all of the lighting and technical aspects of the production together.

Sitzprobe & Dress Rehearsal

The orchestra comes together with the singers in a special rehearsal called sitzprobe. There are no costumes during the sitzprobe, this is mainly to hear the voices with the orchestra. There is a piano dress rehearsal, when the singers rehearse in full costume for the first time so they can get used to wearing them. Finally, all of the pieces are put together for two full dress rehearsals leading up to opening night.



Philip Bullock



Tiffany Uzoije


Ernest Jackson


Demetrius Sampson

Strawberry Woman

Jouelle Roberson*


Kimberly Milton


Mark Kincaid


Michael Patten

*member of The Atlanta Opera Studio


George Gershwin (1898-1937)

George Gershwin, born in Brooklyn, New York on September 26, 1898, was the second son of Russian immigrants. As a boy, George was anything but studious, and it came as a wonderful surprise to his family that he had secretly been learning to play the piano. In 1914, Gershwin left high school to work as a Tin Pan Alley song plugger and within three years, “When You Want ‘Em, You Can’t Get ‘Em; When You Have ‘Em, You Don’t Want ‘Em,” was published. Though this initial effort created little interest, “Swanee” (lyrics by Irving Caesar) — turned into a smash hit by Al Jolson in 1919 — brought Gershwin his first real fame.

In 1924, when George teamed up with his older brother Ira, “the Gershwins” became the dominant Broadway songwriters, creating infectious rhythm numbers and poignant ballads, fashioning the words to fit the melodies with a “glove-like” fidelity. This extraordinary combination created a succession of musical comedies, including Lady, Be Good! (1924), Oh, Kay! (1926), Funny Face (1927), Strike Up the Band (1927 and 1930), Girl Crazy (1930), and Of Thee I Sing (1931), the first musical comedy to win a Pulitzer Prize. Over the years, Gershwin songs have also been used in numerous films, including Shall We Dance (1937), A Damsel in Distress (1937), and An American in Paris (1951). Later years produced the award-winning “new” stage musicals My One and Only (1983) and Crazy For You (1992), which ran for four years on Broadway.



David Charles Abell

Born in North Carolina, David studied with Leonard Bernstein and Nadia Boulanger, gaining degrees from Yale University and the Juilliard School. Intensive study of viola, piano and composition gave way to a concentration on conducting from the age of fourteen.

David’s recent projects have included West Side Story at Glimmerglass, Rigoletto and Carmen for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Porgy and Bess and Die Fledermaus at Cincinatti Opera, Eugene Onegin at the Hawaii Opera Theatre and Barrie Kosky’s production of Die Zauberflöte at Opera Philadelphia, as well as Kevin Puts’ acclaimed Silent Night in Kansas City, Cincinatti and Michigan.  In the UK, David also recently conducted his own new critical edition of Kiss Me, Kate for Opera North (for whom he has also conducted Rossini’s La gazza ladra); in 2015, he made his debut with English National Opera for its production of Sweeney Todd (starring Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson), returning in 2017 for an equally-acclaimed Carousel.

 An established name in France, David has appeared regularly at the Théâtre du Châtelet, conducting French premieres of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods, Porter’s Kiss Me Kate (also in Luxembourg and for Glimmerglass) and Bernstein’s On The Town; he has also conducted Follies at Opéra de Toulon, as well as recent concerts with the Orchestre National de Lyon, the Orchestre National d’Île de France the Orchestre Pasdeloup and the Orchestre de Cannes.


Production Director

Francesca Zambello

An internationally recognized director of opera and theater, Francesca Zambello’s American debut took place at the Houston Grand Opera with a production of Fidelio in 1984. She debuted in Europe at Teatro la Fenice in Venice with Beatrice di Tenda in 1987 and has since staged new productions at major theaters and opera houses in Europe and the USA. Collaborating with outstanding artists and designers and promoting emerging talent, she takes a special interest in new music theater works, innovative productions, and in producing theater and opera for wider audiences.

Ms. Zambello has been the General Director of The Glimmerglass Festival since 2010, and the Artistic Director of The Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center since 2012. She also served as the Artistic Advisor to the San Francisco Opera from 2005-2011, and as the Artistic Director of the Skylight Theater from 1987-1992. In her current roles at the Kennedy Center and the Glimmerglass Festival she is responsible for producing 12 productions annually. She has begun major commissioning programs for new works in both companies that have resulted in productions of many large and small-scaled new works. During her tenure both companies have increased their national and international profiles.