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Hollyn White

The Inclusion of Belt in Vocal Pedagogy



The Black Crook (1866) is widely considered the first Broadway musical. The
play was written by Charles M. Barras. The music does not necessarily have one
specific composer. Thomas Baker, Giuseepe Operti, and George Bickwell all
composed at least one piece of music for the production and Theodore Kennick
wrote lyrics. The music itself, however, was not subject to just the songs written by
the mentioned composers. Singers would often insert material of their own
selection into the production.
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The style of singing used in this show would be
equivalent to bel canto style due to the fact that the show was based off of opera
buffa. Little of the music composed for the production has survived. Despite the
absence of written music, the production set the bar for Broadway musicals that
would follow.
In the years to follow The Black Crook, the variety show became a popular
form of entertainment. It began as minstrel shows and then slowly developed into
variety shows and eventually vaudeville shows. Edward Harrigan and Tony Hart,
Joseph Weber and Lew Fields, and Bert A. Williams and George W. Walker were the
most prominent vaudeville composers because the productions they were involved
in helped shape the Broadway musical with the idea of embodying the different


1
Larry Stempel, Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater. page
45 New York. W. W. Norton & Company, 2010 V
sensibilities of ethnic subcultures: Irish American, Jewish American, and African
American.
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The next development on the road to Broadway was the operetta. While
operetta had things in common with both variety-based shows and operas, the
operetta is a genre on its own. The major roles in operettas generally called for
singers with operatic training . In this respect the operetta shared this in common
with opera. At the same time, operettas required singers to act and scale down the
grandness of the opera vocal projection.
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Operetta was most popular between 1860
to 1930. It should be noted that this overlaps the time period of The Black Crook as
well as the variety-based shows. This being the case the operetta was able to change
and develop during its popular years to what is now considered a true operetta. The
most popular operettas are those written by William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.
The development of musical theatre had a big development with the creation
and popularity of musical comedies and their tunes. The term jazz was first used
in 1916 to describe a rough strain of African-American music. It soon became
synonymous with any syncopated mass-marketed popular music. Unlike operettas
that focused on operatic trained singers, musical comedies created a new genre
called jazz, despite the fact that it is not what we call jazz today. Operetta songs
typically went in for sustained melodies over a wide vocal range that assumed a
singers mastery of classical techniques of voice production, breathing, and vibrato.
Musical comedy, on the other hand, tended to have shorter phrases that worked in a


2
Stempel, page 67

3
Stempel, page 99
more narrow vocal range, and required far less breath support from singers. George
Gershwin spoke of the difference: We are living in the age of staccato, not legato.
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4
Stempel, page 229