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Obit: Anne Wiggins Brown - 'Bess' (March 2009)

Q (Frank Staplin) 05 May 09 - 05:02 PM
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Subject: Obit: Anne Wiggins Brown - 'Bess'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 05 May 09 - 05:02 PM

The Washington Post, March 20, 2009.

"Anne Wiggins Brown, 96, the black, Baltimore-soprano who starred as the original Bess in George Gershwin's landmark folk opera, "Porgy and Bess" but saw her career limited by racial discrimination, died March 13 in Oslo. No cause of death was reported"
"Porgy and Bess," first performed in 1935, was based on DuBose Heyward's novel, "Porgy," about a crippled beggar in love with Bess and living in the fictional Catfish Row of Charleston, S. C. In its time, it was a rare look at the lives of some African Americans and is now a popular opera standard."
"Ms. Brown is acknowledged as the inspiration that caused Gershwin to add songs for her character in a process that turned "Porgy" into "Porgy and Bess."
Abbie Mitchell first sang "Summertime" in Act 1, but the song was moved to Act 3; Ms. Wiggins performed Bess more than 600 times."

NY Times, March 17, 2009
Her father, a surgeon, was the grandson of slaves. She trained at the Julliard School of Music.
"Even after winning the Margaret McGill prize as the best singer at Julliard, she had no hopes of reaching the top tiers of opera. Not till 1955 did the Met feature a black singer, Marian Anderson."

Ms. Brown moved to Oslo, where she taught singing and acting and went on to sing in European cities; she said "To put it bluntly, I was fed up with racial prejudice" (NY Times interview, 1998).

She married in Oslo; her daughter Paula Schjelderup announced her death.

I appologise if this notice has been posted before; I could not find her name in a 'Search.'

"Porgy & Bess," by George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward and Ira Gershwin: The complete, uncut opera has been recorded on DVD, with Willard White as Porgy, Cynthia Haymon as Bess, Damon Evans as Sportin' Life, and Gregg Baker as Crown, among other fine singers; London Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle, and the Glyndebourne Chorus. (EMI, 184 minutes).

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