Maya Angelou tours with the opera Porgy and Bess
Blevins Davis and Robert Breen produced a revival in 1952 which restored much of the music cut in the Crawford version, including many of the recitatives, and divided the opera into two acts, with the intermission occurring after Crown forces Bess to stay on Kittiwah Island. This version restored the work to a more operatic form, though not all of the recitatives were retained, and Porgy and Bess was warmly received through Europe. The London premiere took place on October 9, 1952 at the Stoll Theatre, where it remained until February 10, 1953.
Notable also was this production's original cast, with Leontyne Price as Bess, William Warfield as Porgy, and Cab Calloway as Sportin' Life, a role that was conceived with him in mind. The small role of Ruby was played by a young Maya Angelou. Price and Warfield met and wed while on the tour.
After a small tour of Europe financed by the United States Department of State, the production came to Broadway's Ziegfeld Theatre. It went on the road again in the fall of 1954 to Latin America, the Middle East and Europe, though Price and Warfield had since left the production.
In this tour Porgy and Bess premiered at La Scala in Milan, in February 1955. A historic yet tense premiere took place in Moscow in December 1955, the first time an American theater group had been to the Soviet capital since the Bolshevik Revolution. Author Truman Capote traveled with the cast and crew, and wrote an account included in his book The Muses Are Heard: An Account.
By the time she was in her early twenties, Angelou had worked at a variety of odd jobs, as a waitress, a cook, and a streetcar conductor, flirting briefly with prostitution and drug addiction. She then worked as a stage performer, establishing a reputation among the avant-garde of the early 1950s, and appearing in Porgy and Bess on a twenty-two-nation tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department in 1954–1955.
When she began her career as a nightclub singer, she took the professional name Maya Angelou, combining her childhood nickname with a form of her husband's name. Although the marriage did not last, her performing career flourished. She toured Europe with a production of the opera Porgy and Bess in 1954 and 1955.