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Tin Pan OperaOperatic Novelty Songs in the Ragtime Era$
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Larry Hamberlin

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195338928

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195338928.001.0001

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National Identity in “That Opera Rag”

National Identity in “That Opera Rag”

(p.187) Chapter 6 National Identity in “That Opera Rag”
Tin Pan Opera

Larry Hamberlin

Oxford University Press

This chapter and the next examine novelty songs that use both opera and ragtime to express tensions between highbrow and lowbrow culture, racializing them as tensions between white and black America. Chapter 6 is an in-depth treatment of a single song, Ted Snyder and Irving Berlin's “That Opera Rag” (1910). Through a close reading of the music and lyrics, an examination of the song's use in a stage comedy, Getting a Polish, and a consideration of the stage persona of May Irwin, the actress who interpolated the song in that comedy, the chapter demonstrates how contemporary audiences could perceive multiple levels of meaning that interact in a complex piece of social and musical commentary.

Keywords:   opera, ragtime, novelty songs, African Americans, Ted Snyder, Irving Berlin, That Opera Rag, May Irwin, Getting a Polish

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