Black OperaHistory, Power, Engagement

Black OperaHistory, Power, Engagement

Naomi André

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780252041921

Publisher: University of Illinois Press


This is a book about thinking, interpreting, and writing about music in performance that incorporates how race, gender, sexuality, and nation help shape the analysis of opera today. Case-study operas are chosen within the diaspora of the United States and South Africa. Both countries had segregation policies that kept black performers and musicians out of opera. During the civil rights movement and after apartheid, black performers in both countries not only excelled in opera, they also began writing their own stories into the genre. Featured operas in this study span the Atlantic and bring together works performed in the West (the United States and Europe) and South Africa. Focal works are: From the Diary of Sally Hemings (William Bolcom and Sandra Seaton), Porgy and Bess, and Winnie: The Opera (Bongani Ndodana-Breen). A chapter is devoted to the nineteenth-century Carmens (novella by Mérimée and opera by Bizet) and black settings in the United States (Carmen Jones, Carmen: A Hip Hopera) and South Africa (U-Carmen eKhayelitsha). Woven within the discussions of specific works are three rubrics for how the text and music create the drama: Who is in the story? Who speaks? and Who is in the audience doing the interpreting? These questions, combined with a historical context that includes how a work also resonates in the present day, form the basis for an engaged musicological practice.