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Opera in the Jazz AgeCultural Politics in 1920s Britain$
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Alexandra Wilson

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190912666

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190912666.001.0001

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Stars

Stars

Chapter:
(p.154) Chapter 6 Stars
Source:
Opera in the Jazz Age
Author(s):

Alexandra Wilson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190912666.003.0006

This chapter examines why the star singer was considered by highbrow critics to be so problematic. It examines the cult of personality within the 1920s context and the ways in which this was fuelled by modern advertising methods, and considers the relationship between opera stars and new types of stars from the worlds of film, sport, and variety. The chapter considers how singers promoted themselves through autobiography, press interviews, recordings, and merchandising deals, and how they negotiated the world of modern celebrity in ways that placed them in the middlebrow camp. It examines how singers were presented by the press as simultaneously familiar and exotic. Detailed attention is paid to the ‘celebrity concerts’ of the era, whose pick-and-mix programmes were considered so problematic by highbrow commentators, and to the perceived tension between artistic integrity and commerce. Highbrow attitudes towards the audiences who enjoyed listening to celebrity singers are also scrutinised.

Keywords:   opera, Britain, 1920s, highbrow, middlebrow, celebrity, stardom, singer, concert, commodification

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