President's Fine Arts Series: Sun Dance Opera Recital
- Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 7:30pm
- Howard Hall - view map
The Sun Dance Opera was written by Yankton Dakota activist Gertrude Simmons Bonnin or Zitkala-Sa. Zitkala-Sa wrote The Sun Dance Opera while living on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation in Northeastern Utah. It was received with much acclaim by Utah audiences but then fell into obscurity. Meg Singer (Diné) will present her research on the significance of Zitkala-Sa, American Indian performance in the 20th Century, and the musical and political influence of The Sun Dance Opera. A performance of selected songs will feature Sarah Singer (Diné) of Weber State University and James Singer (Diné) of Utah State University.
The Sun Dance Opera is a 1913 opera written by Yankton Dakota author, Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin), and William F. Hanson. The Sun Dance Opera music derived from the Yankton Dakota melodies that Zitkala-Sa heard while living on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Operas and musicals based on Indians was a common genre of entertainment at the turn of the 20th Century, when American Indians were very rarely consulted or involved.
The plot of The Sun Dance Opera is a common one--a love story that must endure trial and adversity before its ending. In the 1913 production, non-Native classically trained singers filled the lead roles as local Native actors made up the choir and minor roles. At various and crucial times the opera would stop, and the Ute cast members would perform songs and dances from the Ute Sun Dance ceremony--rituals that were banned at the time. However, by performing the banned rituals within The Sun Dance Opera, Zitkala-Sa created a space to circumvent the harsh federal regulations and allowed herself and the Ute people the freedom to assert the value of their own beliefs without consequence.
The Sun Dance Opera was performed in several Utah locations under the direction of Zitkala-Sa. After her death in 1938, Hanson took the opera for its New York City debut. The Sun Dance Opera garnered harsh reviews. Furthermore, William F. Hanson went on to claim The Sun Dance Opera as his own, omitting Zitkala-Sa's contribution, then willed The Sun Dance Opera score to Brigham Young University upon his death.
Very little attention was paid to The Sun Dance Opera and it fell into obscurity until Navajo siblings James and Sarah Singer of Salt Lake City, Utah performed musical selections from The Sun Dance Opera for the Native American Research Symposium at Westminster College in 2013 and the Native American Literary Symposium in Minneapolis, MN.
The President's Fine Art Series is brought to you by the Montana State University Office of the President and the College of Arts & Architecture.
Free and open to the public. No tickets needed.
- College of Arts and Architecture