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The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (April 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306810085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306810084
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #979,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Why do so many gay men love opera? What makes an "opera queen"? What is the connection between gay sexuality and the full-throated longing that emerges from the diva's mouth? In The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire, self-proclaimed opera queen Wayne Koestenbaum investigates the hidden--and unexpected--mysteries that opera and sexuality produce. At once a personal meditation and an iconoclastic, highly entertaining survey of divas, The Queen's Throat is ultimately a profoundly moving, and at times curiously disturbing, investigation of the intricate interplay between art and sexuality, between beauty and eroticism. Koestenbaum is not afraid to challenge, and he more or less grabs readers by the hand to drag them, with nonstop exuberance, through the ornate, highly stylized world of diva worship. Traipsing through descriptions of classic performances, musical autobiographies, personal recollections, historical notations, and the music itself, Koestenbaum creates for us the daring, frenzied, disordered, highly sexual--and ultimately ecstatic--world of the opera queen. --Michael Bronski --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Witty reminiscences, personal confessions and cultural analyses of the reputed affinity of gay men for opera. Author tour.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By George Goldberg on December 25, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is well-written, which is why I give it 3 stars; but much of it is well-written nonsense, which is why I give it only 3 stars.

First, it is mis-titled. It is not about opera so much as about opera singers, in particular female opera singers who allegedly appeal especially to gay men, such as Maria Callas (there is a whole section (pp. 134-53) on "the gay cult of Callas") - what must my wife think when I play her records?

Second, where it leaves off the gays-as-super-aesthetes stuff, and attempts to discuss testable hypotheses, it often gets the facts backwards. For example: "Records helped kill opera by limiting the repertoire to a handful of repeated and repeatable chestnuts." (p. 47) The truth is of course the exact opposite. Before records, a handful of operas were performed in a season and every season would include at least a Bohème, a Butterfly, and/or a Carmen - one would be lucky to hear a couple of hundred operas in an entire lifetime even if one lived in one of the few world cities with an opera company. Today I can, as I do, live in the desert and choose from thousands of recorded operas whenever I feel like it, an unprecedented cornucopia of operatic riches. Similarly, Koestenbaum states that "opera virtually died with Puccini" (p. 74). That is true only if you don't count Richard Strauss's Arabella (1933) and Capriccio (1942), Alban Berg's Wozzeck (1925) and Lulu (1937), or all or most of the operas of Hindemith, Weill, Krenek, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Gershwin, Poulenc, Menotti, Barber and Benjamin Britten. Puccini may represent the end, even the Indian summer, of romantic Italian opera, but scarcely of opera.
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36 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Jay Dickson VINE VOICE on April 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
There's no denying that Wayne Koestenbaum is a very smart man, but that still doesn't make THE QUEEN'S THROAT very worthwhile. The narratorial persona he adopts (which he's stuck to ever since the book was published ten years ago) is of a slight hysterical, over-the-top aesthete who takes to impossibly grandiose and silly declamations (such as when he pretends to dream he is Thaïs: "Wayne, Thaïs must have pearls!"). The book really belongs to that peculiar moment in academia when writers could claim whatever trivial thing they did in daily life was politically important, with regard to identity politics, simply because they claimed it to be "subversive"; if you give even two seconds worth of thought to the strictures and actual repressive measures gay men and women must face on a daily basis all over the world, you'll see how trivial Koestenbaum's claims that his trivialities are politically important really are.
There is some fun to be had in the reading of this work, but the narrator's giddy narcissism does get very wearisome after a while. This new edition comes with a new and especially pompous preface from Tony Kushner.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Allen Smalling TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
Koestenbaum has crafted an insightful if sometimes academic work in "The Queen's Throat." He charts the peculiar affinity between gay men and the opera, a relationship he believes begins with an "outsider" sensibility that the sexuality and the musical genre share, and along with that a love of artifice.
So far so good, but the book hits rough going about two thirds of the way through when Koestenbaum enters that stream of thought loosely housed under the heading of "deconstruction." Central to the decon. canon is the impossiblity of separating art and politics, and opera as well as gayness are for the author "subversive." I read a lot of gender studies/ feminist thought and even so, I found his line of reasoning rough going. "The Queen's Throat" is worthwhile, but a carefree night at the opera, it ain't.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Paul Crabtree on October 10, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Written as a series of numbered soul-scouring diary entries, this weightless volume links metropolitan gay American life in the 1970s and 80s with American grand opera's obsession with class, and as such belongs in the cultural anthropology section of anyone's library. But having expressed the link, it bathes in it and rolls around in it, and expects the reader to sympathize, without substantiation. It is its own indictment.
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12 of 21 people found the following review helpful By J. Anderson on September 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is daring, high-wire exploratory literature of the most beguiling kind. Much more than a reach into the mystery-laden world of one aspect of gay culture, though it is that as well, this is a book about desire, about the fantastical meanings within music, about enslavement and redemption. I read the book in one sitting. It's a devastating piece of prose writing, it gleams and pulls you awake with pins! It is a riveting exposition of the extravagance of sexuality, of sexual desire as metaphor for psychological neglect, an enticing and bewitching brew of fantasy and sorrow. Koestenbaum is in sublime command of his thought, the language is both startling and voluptuous, operatic, really. In Chapter 4, entitled "The Callas Cult", he begins one paragraph "Worshipping Callas, am I behaving like a vulture?" After thoroughly examining the widespread, unreasoned obsession with Maria Callas, he concludes "But it's impossible to circumscribe love. As a commentator, one can only operate like a skylight at a premiere, advertising a location." The mastery of prose throughout is never anything short of brilliant, and is often ecstatic, so that the book's 'colors' dip inevitably toward the mystical, the ineffable. I think it is a complete triumph, a masterfully accomplished piece of unforgettable literature. Highest recommendation.
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