cover image On My Way: The Untold Story of Rouben Mamoulian, Gershwin, and Porgy and Bess

On My Way: The Untold Story of Rouben Mamoulian, Gershwin, and Porgy and Bess

Joseph Horowitz. Norton, $26.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-24013-9

Porgy and Bess remains one of the most beloved pieces of American musical theater, and it secured George Gershwin’s artistic reputation when it appeared on Broadway shortly before his death at the early age of 38. Drawing on newly available material from the Mamoulian Archives at the Library of Congress, acclaimed music critic and historian Horowitz (Classical Music in America) shows that Gershwin did not write many of the most familiar scenes of the opera; they were instead written by Armenian emigrant Rouben Mamoulian, who in 1927 directed Porgy as his first Theatre Guild production. Horowitz points out that Mamoulian’s “fixation on sound and rhythm guided his aesthetic... he insisted that art be constructive, uplifting.” Mamoulian alters the picnic and hurricane scenes in the play, and he adds the famous ending—the “bring my goat” scene—in which Porgy leaves to go after Bess. In masterful, well-paced storytelling, Horowitz narrates Mamoulian’s transformation of Gershwin’s musical and DuBose Heyward’s novel, Mamoulian’s rise to fame and success from his early days, Mamoulian’s collaboration with Gershwin, and the unfulfilled promise of both Gershwin (because of his early death) and Mamoulian—whose attempts to make film versions of Porgy and Bess and Carmen eventually failed. Three appendices provide, among other materials, a synopsis of Porgy and Bess and four versions of the story’s end: from Heyward’s novel, from the published script of Porgy, from Mamoulian’s amendments to the script, and from the opera. Horowitz’s elegant sketch offers an illuminating glimpse into a corner of American music history. Elizabeth Kaplan, the Elizabeth Kaplan Agency. (July)