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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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From Otello to Porgy

From Otello to Porgy

Blackness, Masculinity, and Morality in Opera

(p.11) 1 From Otello to Porgy
Blackness in Opera

Naomi André

University of Illinois Press

This chapter explores representations of blackness in opera in relation to masculinity and morality. More specifically, it considers the changing codes of masculinity in leading male roles and how they are calibrated differently for white European characters and nonwhite characters with non-European ancestry. It also looks at the ways in which masculinity and heroism are brought together differently for black and non-black characters. In order to elucidate these issues, the chapter analyzes Giuseppe Verdi's Otello (1887), focusing on its references to getting the “chocolate” ready and the way Verdi dramatizes Otello's vicious murder of Desdemona. Four other operas written in the first half of the twentieth century, two of which feature white European title characters and the other two feature African American protagonists, are examined: Alban Berg's Wozzeck (1925), Ernst Krenek's Jonny spielt auf (1927), George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (1935), and Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes (1945).

Keywords:   blackness, opera, masculinity, morality, chocolate, Giuseppe Verdi, Otello, African American protagonists, George Gershwin, Porgy and Bess

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