Grand Opera as racial uplift: the National Negro Opera Company 1941-1962 Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Wells, Christopher
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Music
  • For twenty years, the National Negro Opera Company and its founder/director Mary Cardwell Dawson staged large-scale opera productions featuring African American performers. The company performed works by Verdi, Gounod, and African American composers R. Nathaniel Dett and Clarence Cameron White before sold-out crowds in venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera House. Though they sought to match the splendor and spectacle of the Metropolitan Opera Company, they never enjoyed the government and aristocratic patronage normally required to stage grand opera. Based on original archival research at the Library of Congress, this thesis documents the company's history, focusing on the interaction between its artistic mission and strategies for raising funds. The thesis also draws parallels between the company's work and the economic life of black churches, the emergence of a black middle class, and the philosophies of racial uplift articulated by W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington.
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  • In Copyright
  • Katz, Mark
  • Open access

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