Margaret Garner: The Premiere Performances of Toni Morrison's Libretto

Margaret Garner: The Premiere Performances of Toni Morrison's Libretto

by La Vinia Delois Jennings (Editor)


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In January 1856, Margaret Garner—an enslaved woman on a Kentucky plantation—ran with members of her family to the free state of Ohio. As slave catchers attempted to capture the fugitives in Cincinnati, Garner cut the throat of her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to prevent her return to slavery. Toni Morrison first imaginatively treated Margaret Garner’s infanticide in her Pulitzer Prize–winning novel Beloved (1987). In 2004, it became the subject of her libretto Margaret Garner: Opera in Two Acts, a lyrical text designed to be paired with music and sung operatically. Grammy Award–winning composer Richard Danielpour had tapped Morrison to write the libretto for his opera Margaret Garner: A New American Opera, which world premiered in Detroit in 2005.

La Vinia Delois Jennings’s edited volume records key events, debates, and critical assessments of Morrison's success with Garner’s story as a libretto. It also includes essays by individuals who played central roles in bringing the opera to the stage and recovering Garner's story. The collection opens with a foreword by mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, for whom Danielpour composed the title role. The other contributors range from literary and opera scholars to specialists in American slavery studies and scholars of Toni Morrison's oeuvre. Their essays position her libretto within the African American operatic and libretto tradition, a tradition not fully known to performance scholars and heretofore unexamined.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813938677
Publisher: University of Virginia Press
Publication date: 09/02/2016
Pages: 248
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

La Vinia Delois Jennings, Distinguished Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Twentieth-Century American Literature and Culture at the University of Tennessee, is author of Toni Morrison and the Idea of Africa.

Table of Contents

Foreword: Performing Margaret Garner Denyce Graves ix

Acknowledgments xxiii

Cast of Characters xxv

Synopsis Mary Lou Humphrey xxvii

Introduction: Writing Margaret Garner La Vinia Delois Jennings 1

Turning Words into Music: Toni Morrison's Libretto Margaret Garner and Its Musical Realization Michael Halliwell 9

"Dangerous Territory": The Margaret Garner Opera and the Margaret Garner Case Steven Weisenburger 39

Rendering Margaret Garner Accessible: The Preproduction Outreach Campaign Delores M. Walters 61

Who Speaks for Robert Garner? The Historical and Libretto Representations Carl B. Westmoreland 77

Confronting Margaret Garner in Cincinnati: The Opera, the Toni Morrison Society Conference, and the Public Debate Kristine Yohe 93

Haiti, the African-American Libretto Tradition, and Margaret Garner La Vinia Delois Jennings 116

Imagining Margaret Garner: Classical and Contemporary Texts and Intertexts Aimable Twagilimana 145

Margaret Garner and Appomattox: Performing Slavery/Rewriting Opera Helena Woodard 169

Notes on Contributors 189

Index 193

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