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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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Clarence Cameron White’s Ouanga! in the World of the Harlem Renaissance

Clarence Cameron White’s Ouanga! in the World of the Harlem Renaissance

(p.116) 6 Clarence Cameron White’s Ouanga! in the World of the Harlem Renaissance
Blackness in Opera

Karen M. Bryan

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines Clarence Cameron White's Ouanga! in the context of the Harlem Renaissance. Produced by White in collaboration with John Frederick Matheus, Ouanga! is an important example of African American opera in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It draws upon Haiti's role as the first independent black-ruled state in the Western Hemisphere, as well as the prominence of its African heritage and the voudon religion. This chapter first provides a brief synopsis of the impact and legacy of the Haitian revolution on American society in the 1920s before discussing the genesis of Ouanga!, along with its use of physical representation and description to heighten the contrast between the concepts of old and new. It also considers social and religious structures represented in Ouanga! as well as its musical representation of Haitian culture. It argues that Ouanga! illuminates the history, heritage, and complexity of Haitian culture by combining two conceptions of Haiti: a highly romanticized view of Haiti's revolutionary history with an African American response to twentieth-century society and culture.

Keywords:   voudon, Clarence Cameron White, Ouanga!, Harlem Renaissance, John Frederick Matheus, Haiti, Haitian revolution, social structures, religious structures, Haitian culture

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