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Singing Freedom on the Operatic Stage: Women, Gender, and Resistance in Recent American Opera

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Abstract:

This paper examines twenty-first-century American operatic representations of enslaved women as a form of cultural memory. It explores the musical means through which these operas bring to the forefront enslaved women’s plight, the family bonds they strove—often in vain—to maintain, and the diverse forms of resistance they enacted. The paper focuses on three works: Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: How I Crossed That Line to Freedom (2011), Richard Danielpour’s Margaret Garner (2005) and Henry Mollicone’s Gabriel’s Daughter: The Story of a Freed Slave (2003). Okoye traces Tubman’s transformation from a slave girl named Araminta into the legendary Harriet Tubman, the “Moses of Freedom.” Through lively characterizations and a focus on Tubman’s bond with her sister, the piece communicates the enduring themes of African American family life, courage, and sacrifice that fueled Tubman’s resistance. Margaret Garner, the subject of Danielpour’s opera, escaped from Kentucky to Cincinnati in 1856. She, her husband, and her children were hunted by slave-catchers and when they approached her home, Garner killed her daughter rather than see her captured back into slavery. Mollicone’s subject is Clara Brown, who spent her first sixty years in bondage in Kentucky and then journeyed west in 1857 in search of her family. In Central City, Colorado, she established a lucrative laundry and purchased numerous properties and gold mining claims. Despite her business savvy, Brown died in poverty, having spent her fortune helping ex-slaves begin new lives in Colorado. But in her old age, she was finally reunited with her daughter. The paper examines the combining of African American and European musical aesthetics, as well as the politics of representing African American life through a traditionally European musical form. It also explores these operas in connection to enslaved women’s use of music in their daily resistance against the brutalities and indignities of slavery.
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Association:
Name: 96th Annual Convention
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http://www.asalh.org


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p522258_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Stinson, Jennifer. "Singing Freedom on the Operatic Stage: Women, Gender, and Resistance in Recent American Opera" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 96th Annual Convention, TBA, Richmond, VA, <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p522258_index.html>

APA Citation:

Stinson, J. "Singing Freedom on the Operatic Stage: Women, Gender, and Resistance in Recent American Opera" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 96th Annual Convention, TBA, Richmond, VA <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p522258_index.html

Publication Type: Invited Paper
Abstract: This paper examines twenty-first-century American operatic representations of enslaved women as a form of cultural memory. It explores the musical means through which these operas bring to the forefront enslaved women’s plight, the family bonds they strove—often in vain—to maintain, and the diverse forms of resistance they enacted. The paper focuses on three works: Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: How I Crossed That Line to Freedom (2011), Richard Danielpour’s Margaret Garner (2005) and Henry Mollicone’s Gabriel’s Daughter: The Story of a Freed Slave (2003). Okoye traces Tubman’s transformation from a slave girl named Araminta into the legendary Harriet Tubman, the “Moses of Freedom.” Through lively characterizations and a focus on Tubman’s bond with her sister, the piece communicates the enduring themes of African American family life, courage, and sacrifice that fueled Tubman’s resistance. Margaret Garner, the subject of Danielpour’s opera, escaped from Kentucky to Cincinnati in 1856. She, her husband, and her children were hunted by slave-catchers and when they approached her home, Garner killed her daughter rather than see her captured back into slavery. Mollicone’s subject is Clara Brown, who spent her first sixty years in bondage in Kentucky and then journeyed west in 1857 in search of her family. In Central City, Colorado, she established a lucrative laundry and purchased numerous properties and gold mining claims. Despite her business savvy, Brown died in poverty, having spent her fortune helping ex-slaves begin new lives in Colorado. But in her old age, she was finally reunited with her daughter. The paper examines the combining of African American and European musical aesthetics, as well as the politics of representing African American life through a traditionally European musical form. It also explores these operas in connection to enslaved women’s use of music in their daily resistance against the brutalities and indignities of slavery.


Similar Titles:
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