Even as Broadway, was inventing “the American musical” during the 1920s as a form distinct from its European roots, there was always the ambition among some–Kern, Hammerstein and Gershwin come immediately to mind–to take the genre beyond its popular comic style into the world of serious art music. Indeed, the history of that transformation–from Kern’s Princess Theatre shows with Wodehouse and Bolton in the late 1910s, to Kern & Hammerstein’s Show Boat in 1927, to the triumph of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! in 1943–unfortunately tends to obscure the American musical comedy as a serious and valuable art form in its own right. Gershwin’s own contribution came late in his tragically short life. In October 1935 he, Ira, and DuBose Heyward created what Gershwin considered his masterpiece: the “American folk opera” Porgy and Bess. Daringly cast completely with classically-trained African Americans, the show was not a financial success, and it sparked broad artistic and social controversy that continues even today. Yet there was and is no denying the work’s genius and lasting impact on American popular music. We present 10 of the opera’s brilliant songs, along with a selection gems from the Gershwins’ musical comedy catalog.