Cher Public

Why we fight

Daniels Walters weddingLongtime Friend of the Box David Daniels writes on Facebook: “Over the years, I have often been asked why I feel my sexuality is anyone’s business and why I am so open about it in print.

“In Moscow today, I did an interview for the Bolshoi. The young woman interviewing me asked me the usual questions… Händel, countertenors,updated productions, conductors, recitals vs. opera etc… Then ‘off the record’ asked about my sexuality, even though she would lose her job if anything was printed. At the end of our interview, she informed me, she had a wedding picture of Scott, me and Justice Ginsberg on her desk and was asked to remove it. This, obviously, completely caught me off guard. As I left the interview room she teared up and hugged me and thanked me. To say I was humbled would be an enormous understatement. This is a day I will not forget anytime soon.”

photo via Twitter

  • It seems like nothing today, here in the West, but it was something the day David Daniels came out in The New Yorker. A delicious shiver throughout the community of his admirers (of whom I was already passionately one). And it didn’t make the least bit of difference to how ardently he made love to many ladies on stage (they sure didn’t seem to mind). And suddenly everyone in Celebrity-land seemed to say, “What’s the big deal?” And suddenly everyone else could come out who wanted to, or refer to it casually. Singers, actors, film stars, conductors, regie directors … Yip Harburg would have rhymed this list but I’m in a rush. And suddenly all those centuries of the closet were over. Obviously there had been a big push for it and the ground was prepared. But someone had to be brave enough to be the first. And The David was the one.

    And now millennials may shrug, “So what?” Honey, back in the day even Freddie Mercury, whom you so idolize, was firmly in the Closet. And Bessie Smith. And, well, everyone. (Except John Gielgud, and he’d been arrested.) Everyone knew about Rock Hudson except none of the straight people seemed to know. It could be very rough if people knew. No hires of matinee idols who were that way. Well, they needed David, and out he came, and they still needed him. But he didn’t know, he couldn’t be sure, they would. So: It was brave.

    And we wanted it to mean nothing someday. But someday was so long in coming and then it came so fast! Amazing really.

    • DeepSouthSenior

      I have my own little David Daniels-related anecdote.

      Several years ago -- I think it was before Hurricane Katrina in 2005 -- I attended a concert with David Daniels and the Louisiana Philharmonic at the Mahalia Jackson Theater in New Orleans. This building is not friendly to non-miked vocal performance, and I vaguely remember wondering why the concert was not at the acoustically superb Orpheum Theater. (My mind may be playing tricks on me. It could have been post-Katrina. After leading a vagabond existence for ten years, the LPO returned to the gloriously-restored Orpheum for the 2015-16 season.)

      Two things brought me to this concert: The music of Handel, and the artistry of David Daniels. I was seated in one of the boxes with four chairs in orchestra center. (That’s not as weird as it may sound, given the layout of the hall.) As is my habit, I struck up a conversation with the other occupants of our little box, two guys named Ron and Don. I enjoy meeting people, and have always been able to talk to anyone at any time about anything. You New Yorkers will be pleased that this works in your town, too! People are generally friendly everywhere if you show an interest in them.

      I quickly realized two things about Ron and Don: They knew next to nothing about classical music, let alone Handel and the Baroque, and they were a couple. They were clearly not regular concertgoers. When I asked what brought them to this particular show, they answered rather indirectly that they had heard great things about David Daniels. After a few moments I finally “got it” and didn’t pursue the matter further. Perhaps today they might be more open in their support for Daniels. At any rate, they had a great time at the concert, and I was able to point them to various recordings and tell them how important Daniels was to the then recent Handel revival.

      It will come as no suprise to anyone at Parterre that I know next to nothing about the world of Ron and Don, their daily lives, their social network, and so forth. But I did learn a valuable lesson that night about David Daniels’ importance far beyond music. From time to time I wonder how Ron and Don are doing now, and if they are into the music we all love so much.

    • Camille

      Hey you know, you’re right about Rock —

      as Monsieur C’s nonna maintained to the end that the National Enquirer made it ALL UP.
      And don’t get la vecchia started on Liberace!! Oy oy oy!!!

      I honestly did not know it was DD that got the ball rolling, so yeah, it DID take balls and someone had to do it but until that someone comes along—--well—--

    • doktorlehar

      Hans Lick, you’re describing something here I’ve run into time and again with my younger gay friends. A lot millennial LGBTs don’t realize how closeted one had to be in this country in order to have a major career, and not just in the opera world. A few exceptions aside, of course, but generally speaking, you could not be out in most high-profile professions in the United States of America before the 2000s. It was a big deal for Daniels to come out when he did, just like it was for Ellen DeGeneres to come out publicly on her show and in the media in the late 90s. Being gay may have been OK (although certainly not to everyone), but you weren’t supposed to be open about out. DeGeneres lost three years of work after she came out! And my understanding (correct me if I’m wrong) is that Daniels’s career didn’t always thrive in the early 2000s either, despite his importance for the Handel revival.

      Some of my younger friends can’t grasp what the world was like for LGBT people in the past. It’s not that people didn’t want to come out and be honest about who they are. It’s that the price for doing so was often dangerously high. That’s my recollection, at least.

  • phoenix

    It seems now it is even worse than it was when I was last there in the 1980’s. Yes, it was don’t ask don’t tell, but people always socialized & had fun without any persecution or threats that I knew of (at least when I was around). I don’t see how anyone could be offended by that pleasant picture, except maybe because Justice Ginsberg, being a powerful political figure (in Russia there was always all kinds of ridiculous political intrigue bantered about, like 1930’s dime crime novels).

  • quibbleglib

    Wow. Did anyone else just hear Calleja call Furlanetto “one of the *only* people in the operatic world who I look up to and trust completely…”?

    • Camille

      No I didnt but I heard him say it went pretty great and the reviews were all pretty good. ?

      • Camille

        Oh yes now he did. He called him a “Ferrari” among other compliments and that he was a great man.

  • quibbleglib

    Wonderful compliment for Furlanetto, but I think it speaks greater volumes about the rest of the industry unfortunately…

    • Camille

      Right.

      Somewhere or another I have heard other such high praise for Furlanetto--that he is a pretty square shooter and upright human being. Hard to do in that field, hard to do. Takes guts.

      Why in the world will Calleja be singing Rigoletto Duca again next season????