Growing up as a preppy punk > indie > new order > trip hop kid, forgive me, I had a great distain for opera and classical music! Through my love of cinema, my heart missed-a-beat to my introduction of opera arias via:
Diva, directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix which featured Wilhelmenia Fernandez performing "La Wally" composed by Alfredo Catalani, to a libretto by Luigi Illica.
Classical Music via
The Hunger, directed by Tony Scott which featured Léo Delibes' Lakmé: The Flower Duet and, Franz Schubert's Piano Trio No. 2 in E-flat major.
Wow - a lovely flash back now, to cruising down Princess Street, Edinburgh, with my so missed Mummy and my gorgeous two dackles in the back, listening to my mixtapes of classical music / opera ...
Though I researched hard, this section of lesbian opera singers & lesbian classical musicians, proved surpringsly hard to find lesbians to girly salute to. Even my best cake boy friend, Baroque Boy (a professional baroque flautist), found it hard to suggest some stellar lesbian opera singers and classical musicians.
I can only assume that there is not enough documentation on the internet of lesbian opera singers and classical musicians and, like many work sectors there is still sadly a taboo about being out. To the lesbian (ladies) of opera and classical music, which I have documented on this page, I thank you for having the courage to be out and, be an inspiration to aspiring opera singers, classical musicians.
During my research on lesbian opera singers I came across two terms, that surprised me:
Travesti (meaning "disguised" in French) which I had not come across before though I could suss the meaning. Travesti was a theatrical term referring to the portrayal of a character in a ballet, opera or play, by a performer of the opposite sex. Because the presence of actual women on stage was considered immoral (seriously?), until the late 17th century (covering Shakespearian plays) in England and the late 18th century in the Papal States, women were portrayed by male actors in drag.
On the English stage, with the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, women started performing, both in the female roles and, in male roles. Of the 375 plays produced in London, between 1660 and 1700, it has been estimated that nearly a quarter contained one or more roles performed by actresses dressed as men.
Opera Singer Felicita Vestvali was bizarrely described as being "Uranian" by Rosa von Braunschweig, a longtime friend who wrote in the Yearbook of Intermediate Sexual Types (1903). I had never come across the term "Uranian".
The term "Uranian" was first published by Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825 – 95) in a series of five booklets (1864–65) collected under the title "Forschungen über das Räthsel der mannmännlichen Liebe" (Research into the Riddle of Man–Male Love). Ulrichs derived the term "Uranian" (Urning in German) from the Greek goddess Aphrodite Urania, who was created out of the god Uranus'... testicles. "Uranian" represented the homosexual gender.
The term "Dionian" (Dioning) represented the heterosexual gender and was derived from Aphrodite Dionea. Apparently, Ulrichs developed his terminology before the first public use of the term homosexual, which appeared in 1869 in a pamphlet published anonymously by Karl-Maria Kertbeny.
At first I thought how could Rosa von Braunschweig label her friend, popular Opera Singer Felicita Vestvali, so disturbingly as "Uranian"? On further investigation I discovered, that I think she was defending homosexuality. To be honest, I am worried to qoute it here as it is published as a "Google book" and I dont want Google to de-index this page. I am already dicing with de-indexation fire due to possible copyright infringement of images. Search for Rosa von Braunschweig on "Women as Hamlet: Performance and Interpretation in Theatre, Film and Fiction" by Tony Howard
Check out more delightful Lesbian terms through history.
P.S. Translation of Lakme:
"Sous le dôme épais, Où le blanc jasmin, À la rose s’assemble, Sur la rive en fleurs, Riant au matin, Viens, descendons ensemble".
"Under the thick dome where the white jasmine, with the roses entwined together. On the river bank covered with flowers laughing in the morning, let us descend together!"
La Maupin was a cross-dressing bi opera singer and skilled swords-woman who killed at least three men in duels. Touché! Swashbuckling Julie d'Aubigny, aka La Maupin, was a... more
French Opera Singer: 1670/1673 - 1707
Sophie Arnould was the prima donna of the Paris Opéra of her day. She obtained considerable success in operas by Christoph Wilibald Gluck, François Francoeur, Jean-Philippe Rameau,and Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny.
French Opera Singer: 1740 - 1802
Felicita Vestvali's specialised in singing contralto "trouser roles" across Europe and America. Her contralto voice was praised by Abraham Lincoln and Napoleon III who was so... more
Polish Opera Singer: 1831 - 1880
Concordia "Cora" Antarova was a Russian contralto who for more than twenty years, starred in the Bolshoi Theatre. In 1933, Cora Antarova was recognised as an Honoured Artist of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.
Russian Contralto: 1886 - 1959
Georgette Leblanc was a operatic soprano (well known for the title role in Bizet's Carmen), actress, author, and the sister of novelist Maurice Leblanc. Georgette Leblanc is buried in the Notre Dame des Anges Cemetery beside Margaret Anderson.
French Opera Singer: 1869 - 1941
Emmy Krüger was an operatic soprano who occasionally sang mezzo-soprano. She performed the title role in the world première of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Violanta... more
German Opera Singer: 1886 – 1976
Lulu is an opera composed by Alban Berg (Austrian) which tells the story of a mysterious young woman, Lulu, who follows a downward spiral from a well-kept mistress in... more
Opera Première (incomplete): 1937
Lián Xiāng Bàn (The Fragrant Companion) is a Chinese play by Li Yu (Chinese playwright, novelist and publisher), written in 1651. Cui Jianyun (a newly married wife of the renowned scholar Fan Jiefu) and Cao Yuhua (the daughter of Lord Cao), fall for each other after they meet when Cui goes to a temple to burn joss to the gods after her honeymoon. The opera was first performed in Peking in 1954.
Chinese Lesbian Opera: 1954
In 1988, Patricia Racette made her professional opera debut in Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly with the San Francisco Western Opera Theater. She has performed in... more
American Opera Singer: 1965
Beth Clayton is mezzo-soprano opera singer. In 2003, she sang the role of Rosalind in the first performances in 30 years, of Sir Richard Rodney Bennett's opera The Mines of Sulphur... more
American Opera Singer:
Paula M. Kimper composed the first American lesbian opera Patience and Sarah based on the novel of the same name by Isabel Miller... more
American Lesbian Opera: 1998
St. Hildegard was a German Benedictine abbess (a female superior of a community of nuns) who founded the monasteries of Rupertsberg in 1150 and Eibingen in 1165. She is... more
German Composer: 1098 - 1176 C.E.
Dame Ethel Mary Smyth is one of the most accomplished female composers. Her opera The Wreckers is considered by some critics to be the "most important English opera... more
English Composer: 1858 - 1944
Amy Woodforde-Finden is best known for writing the music to Kashmiri Song (a.k.a Pale Hands I Loved) based on a poem by Laurence Hope. The Edwardian song was popular... more
American Composer: 1860 – 1919
Nadia Boulanger composed several choral, chamber and orchestral works, and her cantata La Sirène won second place in the 1908 Prix de Rome. She was the first woman to... more
French Composer & Conductor: 1887 - 1979
As well as being a talented flautist, Ruth Anderson, was a composer of orchestral and groundbreaking electronic music. She is best known for having founded, in 1968... more
American Composer & Flautist: 1928 – 2019
Pauline Oliveros was an avant-garde composer and key figure in the development of post-war experimental and electronic music. She formulated new music theories:... more
American Composer & Accordionist: 1932 – 2016
Many of Jennifer Higdon's pieces are considered neoromantic - revived / new nineteenth-century Romanticism. Her first opera was based on Charles Frazier's 1997 novel... more
American Composer: 1962
Sebrina Maria Alfonso is one of the few women conductors in the US and the first Cuban American conductor to conduct Cuba's National Orchestra of Cuba. Her composition... more
Cuban American Conductor & Composer: 1959
"Woodhouse circus" ringmistress Violet Gordon-Woodhouse was influential in bringing the harpsichord and clavichord back into fashion. It is claimed she was the first person to... more
English Classical Harpsichordist: 1872 – 1948
Child prodigy Wanda Landowska studied in Berlin and Paris. She decided to devote her career to the harpsichord rather than the piano and... more
Polish Jewish Classical Harpsichordist: 1879 - 1959
Renata Borgatti trained as a ballerina, but abandoned dance (due to her inability to wear tight shoes?) to become a concert pianist. Across Europe and America, she became a... more
Italian Classical Pianist: 1894 – 1964
Marcelle de Manziarly was born in Kharkiv and studied piano in Paris under Nadia Boulanger. She later taught and performed in France and America... more
French Classical Pianist & Composer: 1899 – 1989
Frieda Belinfante was born in Amsterdam whose father was Jewish (a prominent pianist and teacher) and her mother was not, Jewish. Trained as a musician, Frieda was one of the first female conductors. During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Frieda joined a Dutch resistance group.
Dutch Cellist: 1904 - 1995
Wendy Carlos is best known for her electronic music and film scores including A Clockwork Orange, The Shining and Tron. At the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center she... more
American Electronic Musician: 1939
Over five decades violinist, composer and singer Catherine Lara has released 26 studio albums, contributed music to television and film productions, and helped... more
French Violinist: 1945
Sonia Wieder-Atherton has played as a soloist for numerous international Orchestras including the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and performed at major international festivals. She is also... more
Franco-American Classical Cellist: 1961
Sharon Isbin is classical guitarist with a catalogue of over 30 recordings ranging from Baroque, Spanish/Latin to jazz fusion and crossover. She has commissioned more... more
American Classical Guitarist: 1970