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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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Performing Race in Ernst Krenek’s Jonny spielt auf

Performing Race in Ernst Krenek’s Jonny spielt auf

Chapter:
(p.236) 11 Performing Race in Ernst Krenek’s Jonny spielt auf
Source:
Blackness in Opera
Author(s):

Jonathan O. Wipplinger

Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5406/illinois/9780252036781.003.0012

This chapter examines the role of race and racial representation in Ernst Krenek's 1927 opera Jonny spielt auf (“Jonny Strikes Up”) in order to determine whether it can be considered a work that is deeply concerned with jazz, African Americans, and their image within European culture. Jonny spielt auf is a combination of European modernism, American popular music, and what Krenek took to be jazz. However, Krenek resisted the notion that his was a “jazz opera,” a term often applied to the opera during the Weimar Republic. This chapter explores how Jonny's musical, cultural, and racial identities are constructed in the opera by focusing on race and racial stereotypes embedded within the score and libretto. It shows how contradictory and competing ideas about African Americans and their music converge in Jonny spielt auf. It also highlights multiple strands of Jonny's identity, between blackface and blackness, that it argues are never entirely reconciled in the opera.

Keywords:   race, racial representation, Ernst Krenek, jazz, African Americans, European culture, Jonny spielt auf, stereotypes, blackface, blackness

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