Audra McDonald: My goal in taking the role wasn’t “I’m going to do something completely different than what everyone else has done.” That wasn’t it. For me it was, “I know this piece. I love this piece. I’ve seen it and I’ve memorized it.  I want to understand Bess. I want to understand why she makes the choices she makes. What is her history that has led her to these choices?” You don’t just all of a sudden appear somewhere. You’ve got to have history that takes you there. What has happened in her life that has led her to this point?  And even with every time I’ve seen the production, I think, “Oh, gosh. Why does she… …he’s so wonderful.”  And I think the whole audience thinks that.  It’s part of the tragedy of it. Why does she go away at the end? Look at what a great guy Porgy is. Why does she leave that?  Why does she succumb?  So I really, really wanted to understand.  I wanted to get as deep inside her head as I possibly could. So I went back to the original book — because that’s the wellspring, that’s where these characters were first born — to DuBose Heyward. I wanted to see. Because obviously you can’t put everything that’s in the book in an opera.