Opera In The Flesh: Sexuality In Operatic Performance (Queer Critique)

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9780813329000: Opera In The Flesh: Sexuality In Operatic Performance (Queer Critique)

Verdi, Wagner, polymorphous perversion, Puccini, Brunnhilde, Pinkerton, and Parsifal all rub shoulders in this delightful, poetic, insightful, sexual book sprung by one man’s physical response to the power and exaggeration we call opera. Sam Abel applies a light touch as he considers the topic of opera and the eroticized body: Why do audiences respond to opera in a visceral way? How does opera, like no other art form, physically move watchers? How and why does opera arouse feelings akin to sexual desire? Abel seeks the answers to these questions by examining homoerotic desire, the phenomenon of the castrati, operatic cross-dressing, and opera as presented through the media.In this deeply personal book, Abel writes, “These pages map my current struggles to pin down my passion for opera, my intense admiration for its aesthetic forms and beauties, but much more my astonishment at how opera makes me lose myself, how it consumes me.” In so doing, Abel uncovers what until now, through dry musicology and gossipy history, had been left behind a wall of silence: the physical and erotic nature of opera. Although Abel can speak with certainty only about his own visceral response to opera, he provides readers with a language and a resonance with which to understand their own experiences. Ultimately, Opera in the Flesh celebrates the power of opera to move audiences as no other book has done. It is indeed a treasure of scholarship, passion, and poetry for everyone with even a passing interest in this fascinating art form.

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Review:

It is no secret that opera has long been a central part of gay male sensibility and culture, and Sam Abel's Opera in the Flesh is an intelligent, bracing analysis of why the very underpinnings of the art--sex--appeal to homosexuals. Able uses opera history, biography, and texts to illustrate his point that full engagement with this musical form is a sexual experience. This controversial thesis--one you would never hear on Opera Quiz, or read in Opera News is argued with verve, intelligence, and passion--the very qualities that make great opera singers. Opera in the Flesh is indispensable for all opera queens or anyone interested in gay culture.

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Abel, Sam
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