"Porgy and Bess" is an opera, first performed in 1935, with music by George Gershwin, libretto by DuBose Heyward, and lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward. It was based on DuBose Heyward's novel Porgy and the play of the same name which he co-wrote with his wife Dorothy Heyward. All three works deal with African American life in the fictitious Catfish Row (based on the real-life Cabbage Row) in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 1920s.
Originally conceived by George Gershwin as an "American folk opera," "Porgy and Bess" premiered in New York in the fall of 1935 and featured an entire cast of classically trained African-American singers, a daring and visionary artistic choice at the time. Gershwin chose African American Eva Jessye as the choral director for the opera. Incorporating a wealth of blues and jazz idioms into the classical art form of opera, Gershwin considered it his finest work.
The work was not widely accepted in the United States as a legitimate opera until 1976, when the Houston Grand Opera production of Gershwin's complete score established it as an artistic triumph. Nine years later the Metropolitan Opera gave their first performance of the work. The work is now considered part of the standard operatic repertoire and is regularly performed internationally. Despite this success, the opera has been controversial; some critics from the outset have considered it a racist portrayal of African Americans.
This original sheet music dates from 1935, when the opera was first produced. The song, in this case, is "It Ain't Necessarily So." The cover graphics show typical design of that era.