American Indian opera

American Indian Opera

American Indian opera

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American Indian opera is a sub-genre of American music. It began with composer Gertrude Bonnin (1876-1938), also known as Zitkala-Sa ("Red Bird" in Lakota). Bonnin's own Yankton Sioux heritage informed both her libretto and music for her opera The Sun Dance, a grand opera composed with Mormon musician William F. Hanson.Hafen, P. Jane, edit (2001). Dreams and Thunder: Stories, Poems and The Sun Dance Opera. University of Lincoln Press, pg. xiii.


Unlike the "American Indianist" attempts at creating operas with American Indian themes (see selected list below) and written by non-Indians, Bonnin's opera, which premiered in 1913, was the work of an American Indian woman of musical advancement.Warburton, Thomas, edit (1999). The Sun Bride: A Pueblo Opera. A-R Editions, Inc. pg. xi After teaching music and studying violin at Boston's New England Conservatory of Music, Bonnin worked with Hanson to compose an American Indian opera.

She performed and transcribed "Sioux melodies" to which they would add harmonies and lyrics. Because American Indian melodies were an exclusively oral enterprise, the transition from Indian to western grand opera was, according to Warburton, "like forcing a proverbial square peg into a round hole." Yet, Bonnin and Hanson successfully managed the transition. She...
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