Faculty Publications

The Politics of Color in Oscar Hammerstein’s Carmen Jones

Document Type

Book Chapter

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Blackness in Opera

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This chapter explores the politics of color in Oscar Hammerstein's Carmen Jones by focusing on the various layers of representation in its stage and film versions. Carmen Jones uses lyrics that adopt common clichés of Negro speech and equates Georges Bizet's sexually liberated gypsy in Carmen with a lower-class African American woman. After providing a background on the circumstances, precedents, and models that inspired Hammerstein's conception of Carmen Jones, the chapter considers Hammerstein's transformation of the plot and his text-translation practice, along with the opera's exoticism, stereotypes, and problematic representations of blackness and black Other. It then discusses the critical reception of Carmen Jones in light of the socioeconomic status and race of its 1943 audience. It also analyzes Otto Preminger's 1954 film version of Carmen Jones and how he was able to capture the spectacle of its Technicolor bodies on the big screen with the aid of CinemaScope.


School of Music

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DOI of published version