Lot 300

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George Gershwin Signed Contract for 1st Production of Porgy and Bess, Also Signed by Dubose Heyward and Ira Gershwin, Historic!

An historic typed document signed, the original agreement in which George Gershwin (1898-1937), Ira Gershwin (1896-1983), Dubose Heyward (1885-1940) and Dorothy Heyward (1890-1961) grant the Theatre Guild of New York the rights to produce their opera, Porgy and Bess, for the very first stage performance. The contract runs 7pp on onionskin measuring 8.5" x 11", executed in New York on June 28, 1935. Boldly signed on the last page by the composer, lyricist, authors, and by The Theatre Guild, Inc. representative Warren P. Munsell. Additionally, all parties have initialed the contract in two other places, and Munsell in a few other places as well. At the time, the work was titled Porgy, and it remains so in this contract. Expected light wear, staple holes at upper left, small loss to the top margin of the last page, minor toning, else in near fine condition.

Three months after the signing of this contract, the play, now Porgy and Bess, opened at the Colonial Theater in Boston, and ten days later, came to the Alvin Theater on Broadway. It featured a cast of classically trained African-American singers; a daring artistic choice at the time, and is now one of the best-known and most frequently performed operas. The libretto of Porgy and Bess tells the story of Porgy, a disabled black street beggar living in the slums of Charleston. It deals with his attempts to rescue Bess from the clutches of Crown, her violent and possessive lover, and Sportin' Life, her drug dealer. It has brought some of the best-known songs of all time to the world's ears, including "Summertime", "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin", "It Ain't Necessarily So", and "A Woman is a Sometime Thing".

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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February 1, 2023 11:00 AM EST
Wilton, CT, US

University Archives

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Bid Increments
From: To: Increments:
$0 $99 $10
$100 $299 $20
$300 $499 $25
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $1,999 $100
$2,000 $2,999 $200
$3,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $19,999 $1,000
$20,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 + $5,000