On September 2, 1935, George Gershwin signed his name to the completed orchestral score of the opera, Porgy and Bess. The composer called the 700-page score his masterpiece and never ceased to marvel that he had created it. Many critics consider Porgy and Bess to be the first and finest American opera.
In February 1934, George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose and Dorothy Heyward began their collaboration on a libretto, songs, and music for DuBose Heyward's novel, Porgy, about the African-American Gullah culture of South Carolina. During the summer of 1934, George Gershwin spent several weeks on Folly Island off the coast of Charleston, where the Heywards owned a beach cottage. There, they observed customs of the local people and listened to their music. Gershwin joined in their "shouting" which involved rhythms created by hands and feet as accompaniment to the spirituals.