Hungarian State Opera House tickets 2 February 2025 - Porgy and Bess | GoComGo.com

Porgy and Bess

Hungarian State Opera House, Budapest, Hungary
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Important Info
Type: Opera
City: Budapest, Hungary
Starts at: 11:00
Acts: 3
Intervals: 2
Duration: 3h 55min
Sung in: English
Titles in: Hungarian,English

E-tickets: Print at home or at the box office of the event if so specified. You will find more information in your booking confirmation email.

You can only select the category, and not the exact seats.
If you order 2 or 3 tickets: your seats will be next to each other.
If you order 4 or more tickets: your seats will be next to each other, or, if this is not possible, we will provide a combination of groups of seats (at least in pairs, for example 2+2 or 2+3).

Cast
Performers
Baritone: Willard White (Porgy)
Soprano: Gabriella Létay Kiss (Bess)
Ballet company: Hungarian National Ballet
Choir: Hungarian State Opera Children`s Chorus
Choir: Hungarian State Opera Chorus
Orchestra: Hungarian State Opera Orchestra
Conductor: István Dénes
Creators
Composer: George Gershwin
Director: András Almási-Tóth
Librettist: DuBose Heyward
Overview

Dating from 1935, this work created by George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gershwin, originally presented the lives of the inhabitants of an African-American community in Charleston, South Carolina, in all of its splendor – its joyfulness and reverence, the hard work and, sometimes, its violence – through the love story of a crippled beggar and a drug-addicted woman.

Pretty much everybody has heard the classic hits I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’  and It Ain’t Necessarily So, and, perhaps most famous of all: Summertime. What most people don't realize, however, is that these great songs are not simply old jazz standards. They started life as the most popular parts of one of the most famous American operas: Porgy and Bess®.

The English surtitles use the text from the original work, which is written mostly in the Gullah dialect.

History
Premiere of this production: 30 September 1935, Colonial Theatre (Boston)

Porgy and Bess is an English-language opera by the American composer George Gershwin, with a libretto written by author DuBose Heyward and lyricist Ira Gershwin. It was adapted from Dorothy Heyward and DuBose Heyward's play Porgy, itself an adaptation of DuBose Heyward's 1925 novel of the same name.

Synopsis

Act 1

Scene One

Catfish Row, in Charleston, South Carolina, is home to a Black community. One night in the courtyard, Clara is singing a lullaby to her little baby. Her husband, Jake, and the drug dealer, Sporting Life, are playing craps with some other men. They are joined by Robbins, whose woman, Serena, is reluctant to let him play. Clara's little baby still hasn't fallen asleep. Jake takes hold of the little one – he'll show everyone how to put a child to sleep! To the great amusement of the others, however, the baby just cries after he finishes his song. Peter the honey-seller arrives home with the crippled beggar Porgy. The men sit him down close to them. Soon the drunk and big-mouthed Crown arrives. At his side is his woman, Bess, with whom Porgy is supposedly smitten. The women, Serena and Maria, look accusingly at Bess, who takes great swigs from the whiskey bottle. The men grow absorbed in their dice game. Crown, meanwhile, continues to drink and snort from Sporting Life's “happy dust” as he grows increasingly aggressive. The game ends with Robbins as the lucky winner, sending Crown into a blind rage. Too powerful to be restrained by the other men, Crown attacks the victorious Robbins, eventually stabbing him to death. The company immediately scatters, as Bess attempts to return the completely inebriated Crown to his senses so that he'll run away before the police arrive. There's no need to worry about her, though: Bess always finds somebody to take care of her... After Crown clears off, Sporting Life wastes no time making his move on the woman: he wants to entice her to go to New York with him. Bess asks him for happy dust and sends him away. She then tries to find somebody who will take her in. Eventually, she is admitted by Porgy.

Scene Two

The next day, the community is mourning beside the corpse, as Serena collects money for the funeral. Porgy and Bess enter. At first, Serena rejects Bess's donation, but the girl informs her that she no longer gets her money from Crown. Now it comes from Porgy. Serena then accepts it. The detective enters with the policeman, and presently their suspicion falls on Peter, who tells them that he saw Crown kill Robbins. They take Peter in as a “material witness”. After the police depart, the undertaker appears. Even though Serena hasn't managed to collect enough money, he eventually agrees to bury Robbins. The mourners sing a spiritual, with Bess in the lead.

Act 2

Scene One

Early one morning around a month later, Jake and his fellow fisherman are getting ready to sail out the next day. Clara fears for the boys out on the sea, but Jake works hard to provide their young son with the brightest possible future. Porgy just smiles: all he needs are to have God and his woman with him. Serena and Maria agree that Porgy has been utterly thriving ever since Bess has been living with him. Sporting Life is again prowling the area, trying to sell “happy dust”, but Maria chases him away.

The “attorney” Frazier finds Porgy and informs him that in order for Bess to live with Porgy legally, she has to first divorce Crown. Even though Bess and Crown were not even married, Porgy pays Frazier the dollar and a half for the divorce.

A white gentleman, Mr. Archdale, arrives and inquires about Porgy. The members of the community are reluctant to answer him until it turns out that he has brought good news: he knows Peter from long ago and has paid his bond.

Left alone again, Bess is once more approached by Sporting Life, who chatters to her about life in New York and offers her drugs. Bess rejects both, but Sporting Life won't give up, until Porgy eventually chases him off. Porgy and Bess profess their love for each other.

As they get ready for a picnic on Kittiwah Island, the others urge Bess to come with them. Bess doesn't want to leave Porgy by himself, but he convinces her to go ahead and have fun without him.

Scene Two

On Kittiwah Island, the party is underway: Sporting Life leads most of the company in unbridled fun. Serena scolds them, and then warns them that it's time to go: the boat is about to depart.

Bess is about to follow the others when somebody whistles from the bushes. It's Crown. Bess tries to avoid him, but it's no use. In the end, she is unable to resist him.

Scene Three

A week later, Jake and the other fishermen leave Catfish Row for the port. Peter arrives home, free on bail. 

In Porgy's room, Bess has been lying ill and delirious with fever ever since she returned home from the island. Serena says a prayer for Bess and promises Porgy that the sick woman will be back in good health by the afternoon. The singing of the strawberry woman and the crab man is heard.

Bess comes to. Porgy calmly tells her that he knows she was with Crown on the island, and it is up to her alone whether she wants to stay with him or go with Crown. She sincerely asks Porgy not to let Crown take her away. He promises to look out for her. Clara anxiously retruns from the shore: she's never seen the water looking so black. Maria attempts to calm her, but soon the hurricane bell is heard tolling.

Scene Four

The inhabitants of Catfish Row are praying to be spared from danger. Just as it occurs to Bess that Crown is certain not to survive such a huge gale on the island, there comes a knocking on the door. In comes Crown, there for Bess. She informs him that she is Porgy's woman now, but Crown just laughs. Then Clara screams by the window: Jake's ship has capsized. She hands her baby to Bess and rushes to the shore. Bess is worried that she went outside in the storm all alone, and asks one of the men to head after her. Only Crown ventures out into the raging gale. The others continue to pray.

Act 3

Scene One

The community mourns Clara, Jake and Crown, all lost in the gale. Bess sings a lullaby to Clara's little baby. The space empties out. Then Crown steals in through the gate and sneaks toward Porgy's door. Porgy, however, notices Crown in time and stabs him dead.

Scene Two

The next day, the detective visits Catfish Row again, this time with the coroner. They want to bring Porgy in to identify Crown's corpse. Porgy is terrified at the thought of having to see Crown's face again and tries to do everything to avoid the duty. Eventually, however, the policemen take him away.

Sporting Life alarms Bess by telling her that Porgy will spend his life behind bars. He again entices her with tales of New York life and happy dust. Bess resists him, but the dealer leaves a dose of the drug for her.

Scene Three

A week later, Porgy is allowed home and happily tells the inhabitants how he got rich playing craps in prison; he has even brought gifts. There's one person, however, whom he doesn't see. After everyone dodges his questions, Serena and Maria finally tell him the truth: Bess believed Sporting Life's story and went with him to New York. Full of resolve, Porgy gets underway to find his beloved.

Place: Catfish Row, a fictitious large black tenement based on Cabbage Row, on the waterfront of Charleston, South Carolina.
Time: The early 1920s.

Act 1
Scene 1: Catfish Row, a summer evening

The opera begins with a short introduction which segues into an evening in Catfish Row. Jasbo Brown entertains the community with his piano playing. Clara, a young mother, sings a lullaby to her baby ("Summertime") as the working men prepare for a game of craps ("Roll them Bones"). One of the players, Robbins, scorns his wife Serena's demands that he not play, retorting that on a Saturday night, a man has the right to play. Clara's husband, the fisherman Jake, tries his own lullaby ("A Woman is a Sometime Thing") with little effect. Little by little, other characters in the opera enter Catfish Row, among them Mingo, another fisherman, and Jim, a cotton-hauling stevedore who, tired of his job, decides to give it up and join Jake and the other fishermen. Porgy, a disabled beggar, enters on his goat cart to organize the game. Peter, an elderly "honey man" [honey vendor] returns, singing his vendor's call. Crown, a strong and brutal stevedore, storms in with his woman, Bess, and buys cheap whiskey and some "Happy Dust" off the local dope peddler, Sportin' Life. Bess is shunned by the women of the community, especially the pious Serena and the matriarchal cookshop owner Maria, but Porgy softly defends her. The game begins. One by one, the players get crapped out, leaving only Robbins and Crown, who has become extremely drunk. When Robbins wins, Crown attempts to prevent him from taking his winnings. A brawl ensues, which ends when Crown stabs Robbins with Jim's cotton hook, killing him. Crown runs, telling Bess to fend for herself but that he will be back for her when the heat dies down. Sportin' Life gives her a dose of happy dust and offers to take her with him when he goes to New York, but she rejects him. He flees, and Bess begins to pound on doors, but is rejected by all of the residents of Catfish Row, with the exception of Porgy, who lets her in.

Scene 2: Serena's Room, the following night

The mourners sing a spiritual to Robbins ("Gone, Gone, Gone"). To raise money for his burial, a saucer is placed on his chest for the mourners' donations ("Overflow"). Bess enters with Porgy and attempts to donate to the burial fund, but Serena rejects her money until Bess explains that she is now living with Porgy. A white detective enters and coldly tells Serena that she must bury her husband the next day, or his body will be given to medical students (for dissection). He suddenly accuses Peter of Robbins's murder. Peter denies his guilt and says Crown was the murderer. The Detective orders Peter to be arrested as a material witness, whom he will force to testify against Crown. Serena laments her loss in "My Man's Gone Now". The undertaker enters. The saucer holds only fifteen dollars of the needed twenty-five, but he agrees to bury Robbins as long as Serena promises to pay him back. Bess, who has been sitting in silence slightly apart from the rest of those gathered, suddenly begins to sing a gospel song and the chorus joyfully join in, welcoming her into the community. ("Oh, the Train is at de Station")

Act 2
Scene 1: Catfish Row, a month later, in the morning

Jake and the other fishermen prepare for work ("It take a long pull to get there"). Clara asks Jake not to go because it is time for the annual storms, but he tells her that they desperately need the money. This causes Porgy to sing from his window about his new, happy-go-lucky outlook on life. ("I got plenty o' nuttin"). Sportin' Life waltzes around selling "happy dust", but soon incurs the wrath of Maria, who threatens him. ("I hates yo' struttin' style"). A fraudulent lawyer, Frazier, arrives and farcically divorces Bess from Crown. When he discovers Bess and Crown were not married, he raises his price from a dollar to a dollar and a half. Archdale, a white lawyer, enters and informs Porgy that Peter will soon be released. The bad omen of a buzzard flies over Catfish Row and Porgy demands that it leave now that he finally has found happiness. ("Buzzard keep on flyin' over".)

As the rest of Catfish Row prepares for the church picnic on nearby Kittiwah Island, Sportin' Life again offers to take Bess to New York with him; she refuses. He attempts to give her some "happy dust" despite her claims that she's given up drugs, but Porgy grabs his arm and scares him off. Sportin' Life leaves, reminding Bess as he goes that her men friends come and go, but he will be there all along. Bess and Porgy are now left alone, and express their love for each other ("Bess, You Is My Woman Now"). The chorus re-enters in high spirits as they prepare to leave for the picnic ("Oh, I can't sit down"). Bess is invited to the picnic by Maria, but she demurs as Porgy cannot come (due to his disability, he cannot get on the boat), but Maria insists. Bess leaves Porgy behind as they go off to the picnic. Porgy watches the boat leave ("I got plenty o' nuttin" reprise).

Scene 2: Kittiwah Island, that evening

The chorus enjoys themselves at the picnic ("I ain't got no shame"). Sportin' Life presents the chorus his cynical views on the Bible ("It Ain't Necessarily So"), causing Serena to chastise them ("Shame on all you sinners!"). Everyone gets ready to leave. As Bess, who has lagged behind, tries to follow them, Crown emerges from the bushes. He reminds her that Porgy is "temporary" and laughs off her claims that she has been living decently now. Bess wants to leave Crown forever and attempts to make him forget about her ("Oh, what you want wid Bess?") but Crown refuses to give her up. He grabs her and will not let her go to the boat, which leaves without her, and then forcefully kisses her. He laughs at his conquest as her resistance begins to fail, and commands her to get into the woods, where his intentions are only too clear.

Scene 3: Catfish Row, a week later, just before dawn

A week later, Jake leaves to go fishing with his crew, one of whom observes that it looks as if a storm is coming in. Peter, still unsure of his crime, returns from prison. Meanwhile, Bess is lying in Porgy's room delirious with fever, which she has had ever since returning from Kittiwah Island. Serena prays to remove Bess's affliction ("Oh, Doctor Jesus"), and promises Porgy that Bess will be well by five o'clock. As the day passes, a strawberry woman, Peter (the Honey Man) and a crab man each pass by with their wares ("Vendors' Trio"). As the clock chimes five, Bess recovers from her fever. Porgy tells Bess that he knows she has been with Crown, and she admits that Crown has promised to return for her. Porgy tells her she is free to go if she wants to, and she tells him that although she wants to stay, she is afraid of Crown's hold on her. Porgy asks her what would happen if there was no Crown, and Bess tells Porgy she loves him and begs him to protect her. Porgy promises that she will never have to be afraid again ("I Loves You, Porgy").

Clara watches the water, fearful for Jake. Maria tries to allay her fears, but suddenly the hurricane bell begins to ring.

Scene 4: Serena's Room, dawn of the next day

The residents of Catfish Row are all gathered in Serena's room for shelter from the hurricane. They drown out the sound of the storm with prayers and hymns ("Oh, Doctor Jesus") while Sportin' Life mocks their assumption that the storm is a signal of Judgment Day. Clara desperately sings her lullaby ("Summertime" [reprise]). A knock is heard at the door, and the chorus believes it to be Death ("Oh there's somebody knocking at the door"). Crown enters dramatically, having swum from Kittiwah Island, seeking Bess. He shows no fear of God, claiming that after the long struggle from Kittiwah, God and he are friends. The chorus tries to drown out his blaspheming with more prayer, and he taunts them by singing a vulgar song. ("A red-headed woman"). Suddenly, Clara sees Jake's boat float past the window, upside-down, and she runs out to try to save him, handing her baby to Bess. Bess asks that one of the men go out with her, and Crown taunts Porgy, who cannot go. Crown goes himself, yelling out as he leaves "Alright, Big Friend! We're on for another Bout!" The chorus continue to pray as the storm rises.

Act 3
Scene 1: Catfish Row, the next night

A group of women mourn Clara, Jake, and all of those who have been killed in the storm ("Clara, Clara, don't you be downhearted"). When they begin to mourn for Crown as well, Sportin' Life laughs at them and is told off by Maria. He insinuates that Crown may not be dead, and observes that when a woman has a man, maybe she's got him for keeps, but if she has two men, then it's highly likely she'll end up with none. Bess is heard singing Clara's lullaby to her baby, whom she is now taking care of. ("Summertime" [reprise]). Once Catfish Row is dark, Crown stealthily enters to claim Bess, but is confronted by Porgy. A fight ensues that ends when Porgy kills Crown. Porgy exclaims to Bess, "You've got a man now. You've got Porgy!"

Scene 2: Catfish Row, the next afternoon

The detective enters and talks with Serena and her friends about the murders of Crown and Robbins. They deny knowledge of Crown's murder, frustrating the detective. Needing a witness for the coroner's inquest, he next questions an apprehensive Porgy. Once Porgy admits to knowing Crown, he is ordered to come and identify Crown's body. Sportin' Life tells Porgy that corpses bleed in the presence of their murderers, and the detective will use this to hang Porgy. Porgy refuses to identify the body, but is dragged off anyway. Bess is distraught, and Sportin' Life puts his plan into action. He tells her that Porgy will be locked up for a long time, and points out that he is the only one still here. He offers her happy dust, and though she refuses, he forces it on her. After she takes a whiff, he paints a seductive picture of her life with him in New York ("There's a boat dat's leavin' soon for New York"). She regains her strength and rushes inside, slamming the door on his face, but he leaves a packet of happy dust on her doorstep, and settles down to wait.

Scene 3: Catfish Row, a week later

On a beautiful morning, Porgy is released from jail, where he has been arrested for contempt of court after refusing to look at Crown's body. He returns to Catfish Row much richer after playing craps with his cellmates. He gives gifts to the residents, and pulls out a beautiful red dress for Bess. He does not understand why everyone seems so uneasy at his return. He sees Clara's baby is now with Serena and realizes something is wrong. He asks where Bess is. Maria and Serena tell him that Bess has run off with Sportin' Life to New York ("Oh Bess, Oh Where's my Bess?"). Porgy calls for his goat cart, and resolves to leave Catfish Row to find her. He prays for strength, and begins his journey. ("Oh, Lawd, I'm on my way")

Venue Info

Hungarian State Opera House - Budapest
Location   Andrássy út 22

The Hungarian State Opera House (Hungarian: Magyar Állami Operaház) is a neo-Renaissance opera house located in central Budapest, on Andrássy út. The Hungarian State Opera House is the main opera house of the country and the second largest opera house in Budapest and in Hungary. Today, the opera house is home to the Budapest Opera Ball, a society event dating back to 1886. The Theatre was designed by Miklós Ybl, a major figure of 19th-century Hungarian architecture.

Construction began in 1875, funded by the city of Budapest and by Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary, and the new house opened to the public on the 27 September 1884. Before the closure of the "Népszínház" in Budapest, it was the third largest opera building in the city; today it is the second largest opera house in Budapest and in Hungary.

Touring groups had performed operas in the city from the early 19th century, but as Legány notes, "a new epoch began after 1835 when part of the Kasa National Opera and Theatrical Troupe arrived in Buda". They took over the Castle Theatre and, in 1835, were joined by another part of the troupe, after which performances of operas were given under conductor Ferenc Erkel. By 1837 they had established themselves at the Magyar Színház (Hungarian Theatre) and by 1840, it had become the "Nemzeti Színház" (National Theatre). Upon its completion, the opera section moved into the Hungarian Royal Opera House, with performances quickly gaining a reputation for excellence in a repertory of about 45 to 50 operas and about 130 annual performances. 

Many important artists were guests here including the composer Gustav Mahler, who was director in Budapest from 1888 to 1891 and Otto Klemperer, who was music director for three years from 1947 to 1950.

It is a richly decorated building and is considered one of the architect's masterpieces. It was built in neo-Renaissance style, with elements of Baroque. Ornamentation includes paintings and sculptures by leading figures of Hungarian art including Bertalan Székely, Mór Than, and Károly Lotz. Although in size and capacity it is not among the greatest, in beauty and the quality of acoustics the Budapest Opera House is considered to be amongst the finest opera houses in the world.

The auditorium holds 1,261 people. It is horseshoe-shaped and – according to measurements done in the 1970s by a group of international engineers – has the third best acoustics in Europe after La Scala in Milan and the Palais Garnier in Paris. Although many opera houses have been built since the Budapest Opera House is still among the best in terms of acoustics.

In front of the building are statues of Ferenc Erkel and Franz Liszt. Liszt is the best-known Hungarian composer. Erkel composed the Hungarian national anthem, and was the first music director of the Opera House; he was also the founder of the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra.

Each year the season lasts from September to the end of June and, in addition to opera performances, the House is home to the Hungarian National Ballet.

There are guided tours of the building in six languages (English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, and Hungarian) almost every day.

Important Info
Type: Opera
City: Budapest, Hungary
Starts at: 11:00
Acts: 3
Intervals: 2
Duration: 3h 55min
Sung in: English
Titles in: Hungarian,English
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