By Naomi Andre, Karen M. Bryan, Eric Saylor, Guthrie Ramsey
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28 However, Daniello forfeits his connection to a vital modern musical expression when he loses his violin. While Jonny can only attempt to seduce Anita, he does steal Daniello’s violin and plays a significant role in the imbroglio that leads to Daniello’s undoing. Jonny, in the marked body of a black foreigner, represents the energy of the “new and modern” performer: he travels to Paris and the Alps, he plays the saxophone and the Amati violin, and the jazz music he plays is loved across the world.
The white characters possess not only the moral superiority but also the hegemonic power in the opera—they are the ones who make and enforce the laws of the land. When there is a murder in Catfish Row, the white police and detective are called in to investigate, and the white coroner makes sure that the fees are paid for a legal burial. But though the members of Catfish Row repeatedly call the white characters “Boss” when they respond to interrogation, they also resist the laws of white society.
21 Jonny spielt auf makes broad statements about the future of German music and the role of nationalism in music through the juxtaposition of the two main characters, Jonny and Max. Max, the serious art music composer, represents the German Romantic tradition trying to adapt to the twentieth century; Jonny, by contrast, embodies the energy of modern music (specifically jazz). Max spends his time in the mountains monumentalizing the glaciers as he contemplates composing and musing on the direction his life should take.
Blackness in Opera by Naomi Andre, Karen M. Bryan, Eric Saylor, Guthrie Ramsey