Cher Public

Hall of shame

“What I find bizarre is the insistence that no one—not the school, not Opera North, not the local education authority—is being homophobic. Instead, we have the strange position that, because the children are of primary-school age, these lines are too difficult and confusing for them.”

The lines in question are “Of course I’m queer/That’s why I left here/So if you infer/That I prefer/A lad to a lass/ And I’m working class/ I’d have to concur.” [The Guardian]

  • OpinionatedNeophyte

    *sigh* The thing that really drives me crazy about the hysterical factions who want to “protect” children from these sorts of things is that, I’m convinced, they don’t spend much time talking to children nor do they remember being children. I’m no child psychologist, but in my limited experience talking with young kids they are the least likely to be screwed up by exposure to alternative lifestyles because all they are trying to do is learn as much as possible about the world. They also live in a world where the line between reality and imagination is blurry, if we can accept the existence of a man who flies around the world in a sleigh delivering presents its not *that* big a leap for them to accept that some boys love other boys.

    And do these parents believe that if the children are “protected” from that one line that they’ll stop playing doctor and rolling around naked with each other as nearly every small child does at one point or another. Childhood pre-sexual play is our society’s worst kept secret. Everyone did it, kids still do it and somewhere are probably doing it right now. Lots of times these pairings are bisexual, homo and heterosexual. But no, its two lines in a huge opera that are going to “confuse” the children. Gross out.

    • Alto

      “if [they] can accept the existence of a man who flies around the world in a sleigh delivering presents its not *that* big a leap for them to accept that some boys love other boys.”

      I don’t know when I’ve seen a better argument for honesty with kids about sexual orientation.

  • Henry Holland

    I knew I liked other guys when I was 6, back in the dark ages of 1966 when homosexuality simply didn’t exist outside of a few movies and the occasional sneering magazine article. I realized “Oh, I’m never going to be attracted to girls” when I was 9.

    I doubt I was unique in terms of the age I realized those things. How about the school administrators being enlightened enough to realize “Hmmm…out of the hundreds of kids involved, some will be dealing with gay and/or lesbian feelings, this will be good for them, they won’t feel so isolated”.

    I’d like to hear how those lyrics sound with music, they don’t scan quite right to me.

    From the article: Even the most cursory look at Britten’s Peter Grimes, Death in Venice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream show us that gay characters are no stranger to British opera

    And Albert Herring and The Turn of the Screw, though obviously Quint’s pedophilia doesn’t equal homosexuality. Mel and Dove in Tippett’s The Knot Garden. Who else?

    • Baritenor

      Rodrigo in Don Carlo…because C’MON. Seriously.

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        There is something about the baritone sidekick isn’t there. I always wondered about Kurwenal- ever so bitchy to Isolde in Act I, ever so faithful and true in Act III.

        • ianw2

          In Curran’s brilliant Santa Fe Albert Herring last year there was a slightly odd undercurrent of homoeroticism between Sid and Albert.

          And I’m surprised we got this far without revisiting this gem:

      • MontyNostry

        Is that because he discusses French fashions with Eboli?

      • I thought the Hytner and Keenlyside did a nice job of it in the Met’s Don Carlo. The subtle hints (very discernable on TV but perhaps not as much in the theatre) were all in keeping with the libretto, so the whole thing felt natural.

        • SF Guy

          I found it even more pronounced in the Chatelet version (poor Rodrigue, Carlos can’t see the obvious):

          • yappy

            It can of course also be the other way round.

            Carlo -- *cuddle cuddle*
            Rodrigo -- shush, what are you doing there, you’re obstructing my Arm Gestures.

    • quoth the maven

      Don’t forget King Roger!

      • papopera

        Narraboth and the Page ( Salomé )

    • papopera

      Captain Vere and Billy Budd.

      Nadir and Zurga (Pêcheurs de Perles)

      • papopera

        Lulu and Geschwitz

        • No Expert

          Damon in Acis and Galatea.

  • Will

    Achilles and Patroclus in King Priam have a very intimate scene in the second of the three acts which, if I remember correctly, is accompanied principally if not exclusively by a guitar.

    • Regina delle fate

      Nerone and Lucano in L’incoronazione di Poppea -- all those lingering Boccas! Cavalli’s operas are full of cross-dressing, homosexual longing and hinted-at lesbianism. If you think La Calisto is a bit explicit, try Eliogabolo Imperator.

      • Will

        Yes, Regina, Venice must have been a delightful place in those days!

        This story strains credibility — I mean this is ENGLAND, for heaven’s sake. Homosexuality is enshrined throughout the country’s arts and literature, politicians and honored now in its military. Incomprehensible.

        • Regina delle fate

          Indeed -- but a nasty new right-wing spirit is abroad thanks to the a Conservative-led government that no-one wanted…..The so-called Liberals are impotent. Hopefully, they won’t last too long, but our Labour Party is not much better.

          • Alto

            “a Conservative-led government that no-one wanted”

            Did you mean to say that? I thought Britain still had free elections, whatever difficulties they may share with much of the rest of the world?

          • ianw2

            I appreciate the argument you’re trying to make, but the Conservatives didn’t win a majority, hence the somewhat surprising coalition with the Liberal Dems.

            So although I do agree with the general thrust of your statement, Regina also is correct in that the UK ended up with a government where nobody was happy.

            So, basically, fuckin’ Brits.

        • Regina delle fate

          I’m about to get my teeth into Cavalli’s Artemisia on disc :)

          • La marquise de Merteuil

            Regina don’t forget to add two teaspoons of a dead lover’s ashes into your glass of wine instead of the usual one to enjoy this opera!

    • Krunoslav

      And Gluck’s Orest and Pylades, no matter what anyone claims…

      • Indeed!


    • Byrnham Woode

      Yes, that fascinating scene in KING PRIAM is accompanied by guitar solo. There is the presumption that Patroclus is playing.

      A little known opera that should be better known.

  • manou
  • MontyNostry

    But surely the real issue is that no-one in Britain these days would admit to being working class. That really WOULD be shaming.

    “So if you infer/That I prefer/A lad to a lass/ And I’m working class/ I’d have to concur.”

    And ‘concur’ is a bit of a difficult word for schoolchildren these days. And ‘queer’ is hardly current parlance except among an insider minority. Is the work in question a period piece?

  • tannengrin

    Better keep those kids away from anything Shakespeare then, too.

  • brooklynpunk

    … it IS a rather awkwardly constructed verse,,,nu?

    • manou

      Maybe we should have a competition for setting it to music?

      • MontyNostry

        It can be ‘minimalist’, simply intoned on a monotone against repeated chords. As Rufus and Nico could tell you, it’s really easy to write an opera.

        • We can’t wait to hear yours.

          • ianw2

            YOU’RE ALIVE.

            Update your damn blog. I’ve been checking in several times a week to no avail. I care not that you have to ‘have a life’ or ‘lost all fingers in wheat thresher cosplay gone horribly wrong’ or whatever excuse you have.

          • CruzSF

            He’s not only alive, but looking very well, was utterly charming, and indulged me in talking about the Ring. He also persuaded me to see some positive aspects of the Lepage Ring (thus far). Not an easy task.

        • Alto

          I strongly doubt that Nico would tell you any such thing, nor should he.

  • ardath_bey

    to me the hottest gay characters in opera are Gennaro and Orsini in Lucrezia Borgia, I dream of the day Orsini’s sung by a countertenor and they make out during their “friendship” duet, which is gorgeous by the way.

    As for these conservative swines in England and elsewhere, don’t worry, they’re on their way out. And they know it too, hence the desperation. Gay marriage’s all over Europe and spreading in the US. Even Brazil, the largest Catholic nation in the world now has gay civil unions. Human history is a route from conservative to liberal, always has been and always will be, so these Nazis are on a historical collision course. I grew up in a homophobic environment thinking that homosexuality was a perversion and still turned out gay. Of course, “turned out” is wrong, I was born gay.

    Same applies to straight kids, showing them that gays exist and have the same rights won’t “turn” them gay.

    This Lee Hall controversy isn’t about protecting kids, it’s about humiliating and punishing gay kids for being gay. Sick.

  • manou

    My bête noire CommandOpera has a predictably different slant on this topic.

    • semira mide

      His discourse was so convoluted ( as usual) that I’m not sure WHAT his slant is.

    • OpinionatedNeophyte

      He ruins everything.

    • Henry Holland

      I love CO’s banner: Chivalrous. Respected. Erudite. Wise.

      Chivalry is dead, gassed and slaughtered at the Battle of the Somme and at Passchendaele.

      Respected? An object of mockery and scorn is more like it.

      Erudite: The meme “All your bases are belong to us” is more erudite.

      Wise: Jesus wept.

      • m. croche

        I suggested a few months back that MANTLE might be rendered as “Manic Author Seeks Tough-Love Editor”.

        • m. croche

          er, “Manic Author Needs Tough-Love Editor”

          Way to step on your own punch-line, Croche.

  • manou

    Google Translate does not offer Commando (in fact, his blog is probably written in another language and translated into English by Google).

    But this line is (nearly) comprehensible :

    COMMANDOpera believes the veil of sweet innocence lasts far to short a period in ones life, that for what years children may live in such a state, the obtrusive and harsh nature of adult human realities should be kept at bay.

    • Batty Masetto

      But what about all them fairies at the bottom of the garden???

      • Bluessweet

        The only thing at the bottom of the garden is the place where I buried me bleadin’ ‘eart!

        • Batty Masetto

          Ah, another one of those liberals-turned-neocon, eh Bluessweet?

          • Bluessweet

            Not that bleadin’ ‘eart, I’m talking about the one about which Gracie Fields sang.

            Don’t make a big Aspidistra of yourself…by thinking that I would EVER become a neocon. That a cult too far…I do belong to a Voodoo Cult, though, (the one that coached Bush 41 on Voodoo economics…if only they would have listened to him back then.)

          • Batty Masetto

            I often find myself resembling an aspidistra, though unfortunately not the biggest in the world.

          • Bluessweet

            A green potted plant…Oh my….little shop of Horrors and all.

          • Bluessweet

            Or at least the one by the whatnot in the ‘all.

          • Batty Masetto

            I think it’s Lee Hall’s whatnot that these jerks are actually afraid of.

          • Bluessweet

            All of these allusions come from a record album of Gracies’ that I had back in the ’40’s. I can remember “Walter, Walter, lead me to the alter…”, “Bigest Aspidestra” and “Bleeding Heart…” but there must have been others.

          • Bluessweet

            While one does not wish to be categorized as a Pedophile or Child Porn aficionado, it seems to me that some children are more sexually aware than some adults. It amuses me that at two, a child can still be at his mother’s breast but at four would be ruined if he saw one bared. Oh well….

          • Bluessweet

          • Batty Masetto

            I saw -- well, it must have been herself, even though it was on American TV -- sing “The Biggest Aspidistra in the World” when I was a little kid and loved it so much that it’s stuck with me ever since -- displacing any serious intellectual capacity that might have developed over the intervening years.

    • OpinionatedNeophyte

      Is there anything worse than a bad idea expressed incoherently?

  • ianw2

    Nico Muhly has written a very thoughtful post on this kerfuffle, which is well worth a look.

    He also raises the very valid point that what is going on behind the scenes that was bad enough that Hall went out and wrote a piece for the Guardian? Judging by Opera North’s rather terse response, they weren’t thrilled by it. And the equally valid point that why is this issue with the libretto only coming up now.

    • Henry Holland

      why is this issue with the libretto only coming up now

      The only defensible answer is that the lyrics in question were written very recently.

  • Amnerees

    RE: gay characters in opera

    I think serious consideration should be paid to W.H. Auden’s contention that Tristan and Isolde are really big lesbians. Do straight couples ever carry on so about their “relationships”? Isolde (the butch one?) just goes on and on about Tristan’s insensitivity and lack of emotion, while Tristan (the lipstick one or is it the reverse?)swoons and apologizes and longs for death. Everyone seems a bit off-kilter (not to mention implausible) in this opera. Both Kurvenal and Marke seem to be in love with Tristan. (Maybe he/she is putting out for them.) Brangaene seems bent on destroying both lovers. I mean, what’s going on here? Thank goodness the music is extraordinary.

  • manou

    I see that some of you have been writing to CommandOpera :

    “Nevertheless, an endless stream of crude emails continually arrive (the most dedicated based in New York City) from the affronted who presume to feel they are equal”, and furthermore, “…with number of explicit profanities being sewn together illogically within the space of a single sentence.

    Maybe his blog could offer fluency, eloquence and syntax lessons to all those miscreants who do not equal his unparalleled CommandOlanguage.