'To chant my last refrain:' a contextualization of H. Lawrence Freeman's biography and his operas 'The Martyr' and 'Voodoo'
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] The grand operas by Harlem Renaissance composer H. Lawrence Freeman (1869-1954)--large productions in the theater and broadcast on the radio--represent milestones in the advancement of African-American artistic expression in the United States during the early decades of the twentieth century. Like a number of his Black contemporaries, Freeman was dedicated to the advancement of his race through music yet his operas are notoriously missing from the annals of regularly performed works and from musicological scholarship. This study aims to highlight Freeman's biography, which is currently convoluted with misinformation in many contemporary writings, and to analyze two of Freeman's operas: The Martyr (1893), his second complete endeavor in the artform, and Voodoo (1924, revised 1927), which earned him considerable attention from the press at its premiere in 1928. This project also considers his reception throughout his lifetime from the perspective of the mainstream and African-American media as well as correspondence from the gatekeepers of contemporary opera: venue directors, publishers, audience members, and scholars. The majority of primary sources used to conduct this research were found in the H. Lawrence Freeman Papers in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University, the only archive known to house Freeman's works.
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