In 1954–5, Porgy and Bess appeared for the first time in Italy in an all-Black production formally endorsed by the US State Department. Italian theatre administrators saw this production as an opportunity to sever any ideological connection with Fascism after decades of institutional support. At the same time, while Italian audiences and critics were often aware of the essentializing practices at the origins of Porgy and Bess, they relied on the stereotypical image of African American culture presented by the show to project their own experiences and political aspirations onto the opera’s subject and music. Drawing on primary sources, interviews, and the analysis of the earlier European reception of Porgy and Bess, this article argues that the success of the opera in Italy, rather than being determined by US diplomatic efforts, was a result of Italians’ need to redefine a sense of collective identity in a time of political transition.


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pp. 101-138
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