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Opera Correspondence: Translating English Semantics into Musical Syntax

Inspired by our From the Archives series, this post will focus on the correspondence, music, and libretto of Act I scene i of Porgy and Bess to see how George interpreted, or translated, DuBose’s natural language (i.e. native, naturally occurring speech) requests in his letter. By Frances Sobolak When George Gershwin was inspired to transform DuBose Heyward’s novel Porgy into an opera, DuBose, who had already adapted Porgy into a stage play with his wife Dorothy, agreed to write the libretto.  The two men initiated a relationship that so many opera composers and librettists before had entered—a long-distance, collaborative partnership. […]

Fascinating Woman: George Gershwin’s Friend, Lady Mountbatten

George Gershwin rubbed elbows with some interesting personalities throughout his rise to stardom. Few, however, were quite as compelling as the London socialite and heiress, Lady Edwina Mountbatten. By Sarah Sisk It was 1925, and a particular Gershwin tune was looking to be in pretty sad shape. “The Man I Love,” a George-and-Ira collaboration, began life as a misfit a few years prior. It eventually found a home in their 1924 musical Lady Be Good!, only to be promptly dropped due to lack of audience response. But “The Man I Love” was soon gifted a second chance when a friend […]

An Introduction to An American in Paris

An American in Paris: The George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition from U-M Music, Theatre & Dance on Vimeo. Love An American in Paris? Check out this new video from the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance and the Gershwin Initiative about our new critical edition!

Behind the Critical Edition: What Does The Gershwin Initiative Do?

You’ve seen us hard at work on Instagram and Facebook, and may have even heard a recent test performance or a premiere of one of our critical editions. But what exactly does the Gershwin Initiative do? Today, we talk about the behind-the-scenes work of creating a critical edition that’s both scholarly and playable. By Allison Chu     The Gershwin Initiative is an ongoing scholarly effort charged with creating the first critical editions of George and Ira Gershwin’s works. Typical editions of a musical work may have changes that are rarely explained or made explicit, and may be made without consideration […]

An American and Hairless

In 1937, George Gershwin bought himself a Crosley XᐧERᐧVAC, the latest mechanized innovation in hair-growth technology. Indeed, he had always been interested in trying out “new principles.” This appetite for the cutting-edge may have gotten him a name as a modern and uniquely American composer, but it had little effect on his receding hair line. By Ellen Sauer On April 20th, 1937, George Gershwin mentioned a strange device in a letter to his dear friend Mabel Schirmer: “I am lying comfortable on a chaise lounge with a new gadget, which I have just bought, on my head. You would probably […]

Second-Rate Rhapsody

Unrefined brilliance may be a thousand times more striking than uninspired finesse, but such realities are not always obvious to the artist at work. How did George Gershwin’s opinions of his Second Rhapsody measure up to those of the public? Read on to find out! By Cassidy Goldblatt “Second-rate: adj., of mediocre or inferior quality.” Applied to George Gershwin’s Second Rhapsody (1931), it’s only a halfway accurate description, applicable more to public sentiment than to the work’s compositional coherence. George described the piece as, “in many respects, such as orchestration and form, . . . the best thing I’ve written,” […]

“But Not For Me” On The Silver Screen

Did you know that “But Not for Me” has been used in many popular films? This song was originally written by George and Ira Gershwin for the 1930 musical Girl Crazy and sung by Ginger Rogers. Judy Garland later sang “But Not for Me” in the 1943 film adaptation of Girl Crazy. Ella Fitzgerald also recorded a cover of this song for her album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Songbook. Her rendition took home the 1960 Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal Performance. “But Not for Me” has also been featured in many popular movies, including Manhattan (1979), […]

“Raggedy Ann: the Star of ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’”

“Someone to Watch Over Me” is one of George and Ira’s most beloved pieces. Many artists perform it as a love song—but few people know that when it was first performed, it was sung to a Raggedy Ann Doll. By Rachel Fernandes “Someone to Watch Over Me” is one of the Gershwins’ most iconic songs, written by Ira for his wife Leonore in commemoration of their marriage on September 14, 1926. The song made its Broadway debut in the smash hit musical Oh, Kay! (1926). Oh, Kay! is a love story about lady’s man Jimmy Winters who is engaged to […]

Goodbye Blue Laws, Hello “Rhapsody in Blue”

In 1933, a 139-year-old Pennsylvania “Blue Law” that had prohibited the performance of major musical concerts on the Sabbath was repealed. George Gershwin and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra were the first concert after this repeal. The day before George noted, “I dare say that if beer were banished from Austria, 100,000 musicians would be out of work” (St. Petersburg Times, Nov 20th, 1933). On Sunday, Nov 20 1933, they performed Concerto in F, An American in Paris, and, fittingly, Rhapsody in Blue. To top it all off, Gershwin sold the first ticket to the landmark performance date himself, at 2pm […]

The Follies of Show Business

The celebrated Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. put on countless Broadway shows during his career, one of which included a score and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. Yet in spite of the fact that all three collaborators had admirable reputations, this particular working relationship was a rather unstable one. By Cassidy Goldblatt Those familiar with Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.’s 1929 musical comedy Show Girl know that George Gershwin’s score included his newly completed An American in Paris, arranged to open the second act. What many may not be aware of, however, is the fact that An American in Paris was a last-minute […]

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