Opera is a music drama in which all dialogue is sung. Gershwin used the operatic convention of recitative within his Porgy and Bess in order to forward the plot of the opera. Bess’ brief aria “What you want wid Bess?” is preceded by sung dialogue with her old boyfriend, the drug addict and murderer, Crown.
This is one of the most expressive parts of the opera and certainly one of my favorite parts of Porgy and Bess. Bess’ music is so sensuous and completely contradicts her text. In this moment Bess is trying to convince Crown to leave her alone, but in the process Bess ultimately seduces him.
I heard the baritone in this clip – Gregg Baker – years ago, singing Mozart’s Don Giovanni in Tulsa.