Penn Music Colloquium: Nancy Yunhwa Rao

February 5, 2019 - 5:15pm
Nancy Yunhwa Rao, Rutgers University
Lerner Center, 201 South 34th Street, Room 102


The Department of Music is pleased to present


Nancy Yunhwa Rao, Professor of Music, Rutgers University

Sonic and Visual Emblem: Chinatown Theater and Identity of Chinese American Women

In 1924 when Anna May Wong became a fashion icon in Hollywood, San Francisco’s Chinatown was mesmerized by idols of a different kind: Cantonese opera actresses. The community marveled at star actresses arriving to perform at the newly opened Mandarin Theater, the beginning of a golden era.

These actresses embodied voice, style and fashion of legendary heroines such as Mulan. They represented inner constructions of extraordinary bodies that manifested aesthetically in performance, and shaped Chinese American women’s affiliation to their cultural identity in significant ways. Though legally transient in US, their transpacific success, mobility and popularity made their Chinese identity poignant. This paper explores female identity intimately bound up with Chinatown Theaters.


About Nancy Yunhwa Rao

Nancy Yunhwa Rao is professor of music theory, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University. A specialist in American music, her work is multifaceted, bridging musicology, music theory and scholarship on Chinese opera with gender and ethnic studies.  Her work highlights the much-neglected musical history of Chinese in the United States, Canada, and Cuba.  Her research has led to writings on transnational issues in the production and opera performance in these Chinatown theaters.  She has mined immigration files for this research. Publications in this area can be found in Cambridge Opera Journal, Journal of the Society for American Music, Journal of 19th Century Music Review, as well as in several collections of essays.  


This event is free and open to the public.