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hungarian state opera tries to whitewash ‘porgy and bess’

April 9, 2019
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If you want to perform the original version of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, you bess (sorry) be prepared to feature an all-Black cast; as stipulated by the Gershwin estate. But, according to The Guardian, the Hungarian State Opera is paying that little licensing rule no mind. And instead of hiring Black Hungarian singers to perform the classic opera, the opera house is allegedly asking white performers to sign a paper saying that they identify as African-American. Not even Black, but African-American in order to perform the show, the first of which took place April 5. Going even further, Hungarian media is reporting the opera house may be using illicitly made copies of the show’s score, as they do not have permission to reproduce the play with a non-Black cast.

Index, a Hungarian media website, is reporting that before April 5, performers signed a paper that read: “I, the undersigned, hereby state that African-American origin and identity are an inseparable part of my identity. Because of this, I am especially glad to be able to perform in George Gershwin’s opera, Porgy and Bess.”

It went on to say that while some people in management saw this as a joke, performers signed the paper in fear of losing their roles.

Szilveszter Ókovács, the general director of the Hungarian State Opera decide to comment on the allegations and referred comments back to those given to Index. Comments that were actually a series of questions about Blackness in and of themselves like, “What colour is ‘black’ on the Pantone scale?” “One of Barack Obama’s grandparents was ‘white’, do you think it would be right if he performed in Porgy and Bess?”; and “Would you remain calm if you paid for a product displayed in the shop window, but the shop assistant informed you that you cannot buy it because you are not Black?”