In commemoration of George Gershwin's centennial, National Public Radio is planning two radio specials examining the composer's work and life. The first, an hour-long tribute to Porgy and Bess, will be broadcast July 4 (check local listings for times). The program will feature archival clips of Gershwin's lyricist brother Ira Gershwin, original "Porgy" Todd Duncan, as well as musical selections from various recordings of the landmark opera. Guests will include Anne Brown, the original "Bess" from the 1935 premiere, Gershwin biographer Ed Jablonski, director Trevor Nunn, and cabaret singer Michael Feinstein. Opera singer Denyce Graves will host.
Then, on Sept. 26, Gershwin's birthday, NPR will air a two-hour documentary on the man (again, check local listings). The show will feature more archival material of George and Ira discussing their work, as well as contemporary recordings of their music. Guests will include the Gershwins' sister Frances Gershwin Godowsky, Gershwin friends Kitty Carlisle Hart, English Strunsky and Rosamund Walling Tirana; as well as Jablonski, Feinstein and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas.
Jeffrey Lunden will produce both specials.
Gershwin was born in Brooklyn in 1898 and died in 1937 at the age of 38. His works for the theatre include the musicals Girl Crazy, Strike Up the Band, and Of Thee I Sing. Dozens of his songs have become standards, including "Someone to Watch Over Me," "I Got Rhythm," and "But Not for Me."
-- By Robert Simonson