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 they express 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, has been left behind a wall of silence: the physical and erotic nature of opera. Although Abel can speak with certainty only about his own 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.
Table of Contents
Preface -- Opera and the Body -- Embodying Opera -- The Paradox of the Fat Lady -- Opera and Desire -- Opera, Seduction, and Desire -- Desire and the Singer–s Body -- Opera and Homoerotic Desire -- Opera and Sex -- Operatic Orgasms -- Opera, Sex, and Power -- Sexual Transgression in Opera -- Means and Ends -- The Castrati and the Erotics of Vocal Excess -- Women-as-Men in Opera -- Opera Through the Media -- The End of Opera
Sam Abel is assistant professor of drama at Dartmouth College.