Author Topic: Queer opera.  (Read 231 times)

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Offline dissily Mordentroge

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Queer opera.
« on: November 30, 2019, 09:36:46 PM »
No, I don’t take queer as an insulting term given I’m very queer and proud of it.
Now that we have that out of the way I want to start a conversation about gender, sex rolls a sexual orientation in opera both from a plot perspective and from what we know ( or more importantly don’t know) of the orientation of composers themselves. I imagine discussion about composers who weren’t/ aren’t known for their operas might sneak in as well.
One of my first childhood exposures to live Opera was Strauss’ ‘ Der Rosenkavalier’ . Totally confused me as to who was really male or really female and what the hell it had to do with the plot. I often wonder why this role reversal was so popular in opera long after the tradition of keeping women off the stage was common.
There are too many other questions to list here so I’ll just trigger the discussion with a reference :-
https://www.wqxr.org/story/144777-sexual-orientation-relevant-opera/
« Last Edit: December 01, 2019, 12:56:43 PM by dissily Mordentroge »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Queer opera.
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2019, 12:10:41 AM »
Re roll reversal, you may want to explore the non-Homeric myth of Achilles' childhood, which was a major opera plot in the 18th and 19th century. Was Achilles gay? I think so.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achilles_on_Skyros
« Last Edit: December 01, 2019, 12:31:12 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline dissily Mordentroge

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Re: Queer opera.
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2019, 12:35:10 AM »
Re roll reversal, you may want to explore the non-Homeric myth of Achilles' childhood, which was a major opera plot in the 18th and 19th century. Was Achilles gay? I think so.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achilles_on_Skyros
We need to be careful interpreting Greek society of the time where male/male love was often regarded as a stage most men could go through without being categorised as what we call ‘gay’ today. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_in_the_militaries_of_ancient_Greece
Roll reversal however is another thing. The trap we can fall into is the presumption earlier societies thought about sexuality in any way like we do.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_in_the_militaries_of_ancient_Greece
Then we have the peculiar history of male only chiors within the Christian church and the theology of original sin but let’s not go there for now.

« Last Edit: December 01, 2019, 12:43:55 AM by dissily Mordentroge »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Queer opera.
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2019, 12:43:37 AM »
When I was a student I went to a some classes by Ken Dover, I'm sure his work on Greek Homosexuality is outdated now.

If you read French, there's a tremendous book on Achilles, including his homosexuality, his relationship with Patroclus, called Tombeau d'Achille by Vincent Delecroix.
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Queer opera.
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2019, 12:49:23 AM »
Yes, the paiderastia was a very specific cultural thing, quite different from most modern concepts of homosexuality. (Even in modern terms it seems more like a special type of bisexuality.) And while Achilles and Patroclus were shown as lovers in  classic depictions, this would probably be retconning because I don't think paiderastia was common  in Homeric times (not to speak of the Myceans 400 years earlier at the time of whatever historical events were later thought of as Trojan war).

And the Skyros episode shows a firm belief in "natural gender" and nature in favor of nurture (in common with most of human culture and history before modernity.)

But I wanted to point out that a few weeks ago a sumptuous "gay guide to the opera" was published in Germany.

https://www.amazon.de/Casta-Diva-Opernf%C3%BChrer-Rainer-Falk/dp/3896562800
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Offline dissily Mordentroge

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Re: Queer opera.
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2019, 12:50:27 AM »
When I was a student I went to a some classes by Ken Dover, I'm sure his work on Greek Homosexuality is outdated now.

If you read French, there's a tremendous book on Achilles, including his homosexuality, his relationship with Patroclus, called Tombeau d'Achille by Vincent Delecroix.
Thanks for the reference. My French isn’t good enough to do it justice and I’m having a real struggle trying to locate an English translation.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Queer opera.
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2019, 12:53:25 AM »
Margeritte Yourcennar, by the way, wrote a very good little novella on Achilles at Skyros, it's in her early collection of prose poems called Feux. Yourcennar was a lesbian, and her books include one of the great representations of the love of a man for another man I've ever read, in Memoirs of Hadrian. She was very reticent about her own love life, even in the quasi autobiagraphical novel Quoi? L'Éternité

But this is not opera. Someone will be along soon to talk about Lulu and Billy Budd and that gay-ish Tipett opera, I can't remember if it was The Knott Garden or Midsummer Marriage.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2019, 12:59:39 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline dissily Mordentroge

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Re: Queer opera.
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2019, 12:56:48 AM »

But I wanted to point out that a few weeks ago a sumptuous "gay guide to the opera" was published in Germany.

https://www.amazon.de/Casta-Diva-Opernf%C3%BChrer-Rainer-Falk/dp/3896562800
Not sure it’s the same Casta Diva but a German friend recently described that as ‘A gay guide to opera’ focusing on Maria Callas. I wouldn’t be surprised given a number of (excuse me being blunt) opera queens I’ve known were utterly obsessed with old custard mouth - er - sorry, Ms Callas.

Just stumbled across this. Odly it may make sense on stage. http://www.dongiovannitheopera.com/Project.html
« Last Edit: December 01, 2019, 01:02:04 AM by dissily Mordentroge »
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Queer opera.
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2019, 02:38:28 AM »
Not sure it’s the same Casta Diva but a German friend recently described that as ‘A gay guide to opera’ focusing on Maria Callas. I wouldn’t be surprised given a number of (excuse me being blunt) opera queens I’ve known were utterly obsessed with old custard mouth - er - sorry, Ms Callas.



Well there are just as many opera queens, maybe more, who are as obsessed with old no words Joan Sutherland, but unfortunately some of these books that focus on the glamorous Callas persona and her rather tempestuous personal life do her a disservice, as, regardless of what you think of her voice, she was one of the greatest musicians of the last century, admired by a great many famous conductors and instrumentalists, among them Karajan, Giulini, Bernstein, Erich Kleiber, Serafin, De Sabata, Gui, Victoria Mullova and Claudio Arrau, who would make his students listen to records of Callas singing Bellini to help them in their understanding of how to play Chopin.

As Victor De Sabata once said to Walter Legge,

Quote
If the public could understand, as we do, how deeply and utterly musical Callas is, they would be stunned.

Maybe I'm one of those rare opera queens who has always rated musicianship and intelligence above voice, and actually, up until at least the mid 1950s, Callas's voice was an exceptionally limpid and responsive instrument, which enabled her to render the score with an accuracy most singers could only dream of, and I'm not just talking about the notes, but the expression marks the composer put into those notes.

Inicidentally I've never quite understood the criticisms of "custard mouth" and the like, as I loved the sound of her voice from when I first started listening to opera in my teens. Age and maturity has only deepened my admiration and wonder.

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Jo498

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Re: Queer opera.
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2019, 02:44:41 AM »
I don't know more about that opera guide than what was in German language media, but it is certainly not mainly about Callas. It seems in many respects an almost standard opera guide book, except that both the selection of pieces as well as the interpretation/commentary was informed by a gay stance.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Queer opera.
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2019, 09:13:02 AM »
One interesting gender bending opera, I just remembered, is Britten’s Curlew River.

I’ve never seen Tiresius’s Tits, the Poulenc opera, but there’s scope for a queer statement there I guess.

Oh, and I’m sure there’s a gender bending production on video of Weill’s  Seven Deadly Sins. I’m sure I once met the bloke who sang the main role.

Got it - Kent Nagano conducting, a Peter Sellars production in Lyon, it was Peter Rose that I met at a lunch party somewhere.

Peter Sellars must by good for some queer opera productions.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2019, 09:25:49 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline dissily Mordentroge

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Re: Queer opera.
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2019, 01:03:14 PM »
Inicidentally I've never quite understood the criticisms of "custard mouth" and the like, as I loved the sound of her voice from when I first started listening to opera in my teens. Age and maturity has only deepened my admiration and wonder.
I fully understand Callas’ musical and dramatic skill and can hear it. The problem is with me. I have an aversion to that particular ‘custard mouth’ sound. As a young thing I was besotted with a soprano in our church chior but when the contralto next to her sang over her with just that odd tone Callas had I wanted to strangle her.
I’ve tried over and over to repress this admitedly illogical aversion but just can’t as I know I’m missing out on something important. Like my aversion to the colour yellow, I have no control over it.
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Offline KevinP

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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Queer opera.
« Reply #15 on: December 02, 2019, 08:10:49 AM »
« Last Edit: December 02, 2019, 08:44:47 AM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Queer opera.
« Reply #16 on: December 02, 2019, 08:12:03 AM »
I definitely think Britten’s Death in Venice qualifies here. This happens to be one of my favorite works from this composer despite it’s dark subject matter, which I usually ignore, as it’s the music itself that allures me. Some of Britten’s most inspired writing, IMHO.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy