Queen's Throat Opera, Homosexuality And The Mystery Of Desire by Wayne Koestenbaum- 1993 - 272 Pages
"This passionate love letter to opera, lavishly praised and nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award when it was first published, is now firmly established as a cult classic. In a learned, moving, and sparklingly witty melange of criticism, subversion, and homage, Wayne Koestenbaum illuminates mysteries of fandom and obsession, and has created an exuberant work of personal meditation and cultural history." From The Publisher
Wayne Koestenbaum's book is beyond amazing. It is now a classic, about opera, the meaning of camp, growing up Gay in America.
Susan Sontag (-read her notes on camp) saw Opera as high camp striving to be high art. koestenbaum's reflections on the nature of camp are very illuminating.
"Susan Sontag defined "camp" as the anarchic jolt we experience in the face of artistic artifacts that try to be serious and fail. But it is not the object's or the artist's failure that makes the artifact campy: the camp sensation is produced by our own joy in having discovered the object, in having been chosen, solicited, by it...I'm grateful, however, for the world's silence, for the privacy in which I study the image of Nellie Melba telegraphing "Either Alda or myself ' to the conductor Cleofonte Cam-panini. It's more sublime and more camp to keep quiet about joy and then rescue the story later, once everyone else has abandoned it. The pleasure I take in diva lore ("This moment, this aside, this tableau is useless and therefore I claim it as mine!")" From the Book
(I would personally expand the notions of Camp to include Arnold Zifiel and the Adamms Family)
"A love for opera, particularly on record, is a nostalgic emotion, and gay people are imagined to be a uniquely and tragically nostalgic population-regressive, committed to dust and souvenirs. A record, a memento, a trace of an absence, suits the quintessentially gay soul, whose tastes are retro and whose sexuality demands a ceaseless work of recollection: because queers do not usually have queer parents, queers must invent precedent and origin for their taste, and they are encouraged, aged, by psychoanalytic models, to imagine homosexuality as a matter of trauma and adaptation." From the Book
"opera seemed campy and therefore available to gay audiences only when it had become an outdated art form, sung in foreign languages, with confused, implausible plots. Opera's apparent distance from contemporary life made it a refuge for gays, who were creations of modern sexual systems, and yet whom society could not acknowledge or accommodate. Opera is not very real. But gayness has never been admitted..into the precincts of reality. And so gays may seek out art that does not respect the genuine.into the precincts of reality. And so gays may seek out art that does not respect the genuine."
About the author
Wayne Koestenbaum is the author of six collections of poetry including Model Homes, published by BOA in 2004. Koestenbaum writes frequently for periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, and the London Review of Books. He is also an art critic, participating in panels at the Whitney Museum of American Art, contributing regularly to Artforum. He is a tenured professor of English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York
If you are interested in Opera, LGBTQ life in America before anyone used this expression I highly endorse Queen's Throat Opera, Homosexuality And The Mystery Of Desire by Wayne Koestenbaum-