O Doctor Jesus -- The prayer scene from Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin

This is the poignant prayer scene from Porgy and Bess, by George Gershwin, filmed at the Met.

The scene is set in Catfish Row, a poor African-American community in South Carolina. Bess (Angel Blue) is unconscious, psychologically traumatized by an encounter with her abusive former boyfriend. She’s also addicted to drugs. She is being tenderly looked after by Porgy (Eric Owens), a disabled man who loves her.

Don’t think the words you hear are “bad English.” It’s sung in Gullah, an African-American dialect. The Gershwins extensively studied the Gullah people and their culture. This piece was inspired by an actual prayer meeting the composer heard during his research.

Listen here: O Doctor Jesus

(btw, after the prayer, Bess recovers!)

George and Ira Gershwin were white, but every character (except for two white men) is an African-American. And licensing for Porgy and Bess requires that parts for Blacks must be performed by Blacks.

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