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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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Hearing the Other in The Masque of Blackness

Hearing the Other in The Masque of Blackness

(p.32) 2 Hearing the Other in The Masque of Blackness
Blackness in Opera

Sarah Schmalenberger

University of Illinois Press

This chapter explores the role that the music for The Masque of Blackness, a court entertainment commissioned by Queen Anne and written by Ben Jonson, may have played in constructing a “black Other.” In particular, it questions existing interpretations about the meaning of “black Other” and frames historical perspectives of musical affect with regard to Otherness. Jonson printed a quarto containing The Masque of Blackness and its sequel, Masque of Beauty, ostensibly to preserve the spirit of an entertainment intended for a single performance. Both masques are filled with musical indications, from descriptions of sounds and dance types to song lyrics composed by Jonson himself. The chapter first considers the relationship between dance and music in The Masque of Blackness before discussing its cultural meaning, along with the issue of racial difference and Queen Anne's apparent dalliance with blackface in the masque. Finally, it describes the signification of blackness in The Masque of Blackness.

Keywords:   music, The Masque of Blackness, Queen Anne, Ben Jonson, black Other, masques, dance, racial difference, blackface, blackness

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