Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire

Overview

Until now, silence has surrounded the long-observed affinity of gay men for opera. The Queen's Throat violates the taboo, opens the closet, and shows how various and complex are the threads linking opera and homosexuality. A dazzling, innovative work that will fascinate readers of all sexual persuasions, it is a scrapbook of bright-voiced cadenzas, embroidered with candid confession, freewheeling speculation, and keen wit. In this passionate love letter to opera, Koestenbaum brilliantly illuminates mysteries of ...
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Overview

Until now, silence has surrounded the long-observed affinity of gay men for opera. The Queen's Throat violates the taboo, opens the closet, and shows how various and complex are the threads linking opera and homosexuality. A dazzling, innovative work that will fascinate readers of all sexual persuasions, it is a scrapbook of bright-voiced cadenzas, embroidered with candid confession, freewheeling speculation, and keen wit. In this passionate love letter to opera, Koestenbaum brilliantly illuminates mysteries of sexuality, fandom, and obsession. Using opera as the lens to bring our yearnings and exultations into startling focus, he treats the opera queen as a trickster-oracle of whom we may ask: Why is opera the preeminent art form of the borderline, of transgression? Why have gay men sought to define themselves by mimicking divas? Why has Maria Callas attracted so much gay adulation? Why do the vocal cords seem a hiding place for sexual secrets? Is the marriage of words and music, in opera, a "queer" marriage? Is the word "queer," coming into controversial currency again, an apt description of opera's nature? And in a breathtaking finale, Koestenbaum sings back to us - in lyrical prose - a series of famous opera highlights. Here, in his "pocket guide to queer moments in opera," he provides a whirlwind demonstration of why opera matters so intensely to its devotees. Surprisingly relevant to issues beyond the borders of opera and homosexuality, these provocative reflections also encompass manners, camp, spectacle, glamour, gossip, privacy, coming out, and a wide spectrum of sexual pleasures. The Queen's Throat is also an elegy: writing nearly a quarter century after Stonewall, Koestenbaum communicates a haunted awareness of his separation from the earlier era of the opera queen, and his position within a far different time and generation, in a fin de siecle marked by AIDS and by changing sexual definitions and possibilities. Exuberant and melancholy, revealing an

This innovative, profound, and wildly playful book reveals the ways in which opera has served as a source of gay identity and gay personal style. The result is a learned, moving, and often very funny work of critical insight, subversion, and homage.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Koestenbaum, who is gay and teaches English at Yale, calls himself an ``opera queen'' because he is addicted to opera, fetishizes records, tries to befriend divas and keeps lists of his opera ``highs.'' A literate amalgam of speculation, gossip, reminiscences and historical lore, his confessions are one fan's passionate love letter to the opera, illustrated with photographs and memorabilia. But Koestenbaum ( Ode to Anna Moffo and Other Poems ) strains to find reasons for the reputed affinity of gay men for opera. He views singing as analogous to gays' coming out of the closet and relates the diva's body movements, vocal attack and public persona to ``a style that gay people, particularly queens, have found essential . . . a camp style of resistance and protection.'' He presents 12 psychosocial explanations for the ``gay cult'' of Maria Callas. One chapter, ``A Pocket Guide to Queer Moments in Opera,'' analyzes 28 opera highlights from a gay perspective. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Initially, The Queen's Throat reminded this reviewer of the author's earlier work, Ode to Anna Moffo and Other Poems ( LJ 9/15/90), which also had an operatic theme. Here, everything from opera trivia to serious analysis is blended in the context of the author's personal experience, with results that are at times humorous. Koestenbaum's innovative ideas reflect a gay point of view that will be startlingly different and refreshing for some readers. As an example, the author reads the autobiographies of long-gone divas looking for the words queer or gay and then interprets each diva's words from his personal perspective. An appropriate book for the 1990s. Recommended for collections in opera or gay studies.-- James E. Ross, Seattle P.L.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780790948218
  • Publisher: Daedalus
  • Publication date: 1/5/1993

Meet the Author

Wayne Koestenbaum is professor of english at CUNY's Graduate School and is the author of several books of criticism, essays, and poetry. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

1 Opera Queens 9
2 The Shut-in Fan: Opera at Home 46
3 The Codes of Diva Conduct 84
4 The Callas Cult 134
5 The Queen's Throat: Or, How to Sing 154
6 The Unspeakable Marriage of Words and Music 176
7 A Pocket Guide to Queer Moments in Opera 198
Notes 243
List of Illustrations 257
Index 259
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