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Blackness in Opera$
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Naomi Andre, Karen M. Bryan, and Eric Saylor

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780252036781

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252036781.001.0001

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Representing Blackness on the Operatic Stage

Representing Blackness on the Operatic Stage

(p.1) Introduction Representing Blackness on the Operatic Stage
Blackness in Opera
Naomi André, Karen M. Bryan, Eric Saylor
University of Illinois Press

This book examines the ways in which the idea of blackness has worked as a complex of representational strategies in the genre of opera. Offering new readings of both canonical and lesser-known operas by black and nonblack composers alike, it explores what representations of blackness in opera had in their original contexts, and what kind of performative and cultural significance they have retained. It shows that getting a black opera singer onstage involves successfully negotiating many professional and cultural barriers, but achieving that aim can lead to new and equally limiting obstacles. This is evident in the case of minstrelsy, which entail greater challenges for black performers compared to their white counterparts. Through an analysis of the “representation of blackness in opera,” the book brings to the fore questions about race and identity that are intertwined with questions of musical presentation. Most of the essays it contains are grounded in the phenomenon of black Other—the treatment of darker-skinned people as exotic or Other.

Keywords:   blackness, opera, composers, race, identity, musical presentation, black Other, minstrelsy, black performers

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