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Timely Tribute: The Rise and Fall of Opera’s Voices (Pelican Bomb)

Thoughts on what an opera singer must give up in order to achieve divadom.

An anecdote from Wayne Koestenbaum at soprano Anna Moffo’s wake: “I signed the ‘Relatives and Friends’ book, but didn’t write down my address. I feared that her stepchild or cousin would send me a chiding letter: ‘You had no business attending Anna Moffo’s wake. Wakes are for intimates.’” The husky-voiced Moffo, subject of poetic odes and namesake of the great term “Moffo Throat,” was surely not the first nor last singer to inspire feelings of intimacy in strange queers. Nor am I the first queer to point out such a phenomenon. Koestenbaum’s classic The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire theorizes opera as a paradigm of homosexuality whose “hypnotic hold” is rooted in the gendered “interlocking of words and music.” Key, too, is the eroticization of vocal production: so much uncloseted emotion produced from such fellatic throatiness.

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