This chapter introduces two case studies of “Black Otellos” and situates the author’s voice in this project. This chapter outlines the historical background of race in the United States and South Africa around opera. The constructions of “downstaging black voices” and a “black shadow culture” in opera are introduced. Blackface, colorblind, and true-to-color casting decisions in opera are examined. The critical roles of Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price in shaping a black presence in opera are discussed. Three rubrics for listening and analyzing opera across the chapters are presented: Who is in the story? Who speaks? and Who is in the audience doing the interpreting?
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