In Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement, Naomi André draws on the experiences of performers and audiences to explore this music's resonance with today's listeners. Interacting with creators and performers, as well as with the works themselves, André reveals how black opera unearths suppressed truths. These truths provoke complex, if uncomfortable, reconsideration of racial, gender, sexual, and other oppressive ideologies. Opera, in turn, operates as a cultural and political force that employs an immense, transformative power to represent or even liberate.

Naomi discussed her experience as a scholar writing this book with Lara Pellegrinelli on the National Sawdust Log: "As I was writing the book I was trying to open up how race affects my personal reactions as a black opera scholar and lover of opera. I call this an “engaged musicology,” where the person writing about the work matters. For example, Leontyne Price singing Aida means something to me that goes beyond the exquisite glory of her voice. I see her as a woman who was born during the Jim Crow south. She’s from Laurel, Mississippi. When she sings “O patria mia” – “Oh my country, how much you have cost me” – these words are truth. We cannot not see her race. The drama on the stage and an offstage reality crash together." 

For the full interview with Naomi, see the National Sawdust Log article here.

You can purchase this book from University of Illinois Press at this link

In Dance Me a Song: Astaire, Balanchine, Kelly, and the American Film Musical, Beth Genné traces Astaire's, Balanchine's, and Kelly's collaborations with composers and film-makers, crossing stylistic and class boundaries to develop a truly modern dance style and genres for the film musical. She contextualizes their work within the history of dance, music, and film and its roots in the diverse dance and music cultures of jazz age America's nation of immigrants. She demonstrates how concepts and visual-musical devices derived from dance-making would give entire films, both musical and non-musical, the rhythmic flow and feeling of dance. 

"What this book does is vitally important work in illuminating that uniquely American genre, the movie musical. It shows that the outlaw style of dance at the heart of it was created by freeform borrowings from both so-called highbrow end of the art and so-called lowbrow. In fact, Genné brings together not only styles but artists who don't usually meet in the same book -- like Balanchine and Astaire. With lucid and exuberant prose, she throws new light not only on the great dance-makers like Balanchine, Astaire, Kelly, but on their usually unsung but vital collaborators -- composers, arrangers, assistants, cameramen and a host of others who brought live dance to the big screen." -- Elizabeth Kendall, author of Balanchine and the Lost Muse: Revolution and the Making of a Choreographer

You can purchase the book from Oxford University Press at this link


The Authors' Biographies

Naomi André is Associate Professor in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, Women’s Studies, and the Associate Director for Faculty at the Residential College at the University of Michigan. She received her B.A. from Barnard College and M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. Her research focuses on opera and issues surrounding gender, voice, and race. Her publications are on topics including Italian opera, Schoenberg, women composers, and teaching opera in prisons. Her earlier books, Voicing Gender: Castrati, Travesti, and the Second Woman in Early Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera (2006) and Blackness in Opera (2012, co-edited collection) focus on opera from the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries and explore constructions of gender, race and identity. In addition to serving on the Executive Committee for the Criminal Justice Program at the American Friends Service Committee (Ann Arbor, MI), she brings her expertise on race, politics, and opera to the public through numerous appearances on public panels and symposia, and in the popular press.

Beth Genné is Professor of Dance History and Art History in the Dance Department and the Arts and Ideas concentration of the Residential College. She has written numerous book chapters on British ballet and dance in film (including Gene Kelly and Vincente Minnelli) and articles in such journals as Dance Research, Dance Chronicle, and Art Journal. She has contributed criticism and feature articles to The Dancing Times of London. She was Director of research for Balanchine's musical films for the Popular Balanchine Project of the George Balanchine Foundation. Her first book, The Making of a Choreographer, was on the early training and choreographic development of Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet.