Opera, Sex and Other Vital Matters

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University of Chicago Press, Jun 8, 2002 - Literary Collections - 332 pages
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Opera, Sex, and Other Vital Matters gathers both classic and never-before-published essays from one of the leading stylists in contemporary American letters, and one of our more revered public intellectuals, Paul Robinson. Diverse and elegant, the essays in this new collection showcase the sly wit and lightly worn erudition of their author. Each celebrates art and the flesh, directing us to the twin ecstasies of music and eros.

The essays on opera gathered here explore how masterpieces like Fidelio and The Magic Flute reflect the intellectual currents of their day. Be it the work of Verdi or Mozart, Wagner or Strauss, Robinson compels us to search for meaning not just in the lyrics of opera but also in the music. In melody, not libretto, we are more likely to discern key historical complexities and appreciate the way opera transcends language and time. The essays on sexuality, meanwhile, are ruminative, funny, and even moving. At one moment, Robinson measures whether homosexuality is the result of destiny or free choice. In another, he shares a touching exchange of letters with a gay student in the process of coming out. The final essays that encompass "other vital matters" find Robinson at his most incisive. Whether defending Freud as the most influential thinker of the twentieth century, attacking the dreaded use of semicolons, reflecting on his own mortality, or even meditating on the nature of cats, Sex, Opera, and Other Vital Matters is an eclectic work that will appeal to any reader interested in the continuing relevance of ideas to life.
 

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Contents

A Symposium on Opera and Ideas with Bernard Williams and Peter Kivy
3
Reading Libretti and Misreading Opera
30
The Musical Enlightenment Haydns Creation and Mozarts Magic Flute
52
Fidelio and the French Revolution
75
Verdis Fathers and Daughters
112
Is Aida an Orientalist Opera?
123
The Wagner Problem
134
Richard Strauss Ambivalent Modernist
148
For the Love of Big Brother The Sexual Politics of Nineteen EightyFour
206
Dear Paul An Exchange between Student and Teacher
219
OTHER VITAL MATTERS
239
Three Essays on Freud
241
H Stuart Hughes and Intellectual History
279
Three Essays on Writing
293
Cats
308
MY AFTERLIFE
313

The Opera Queen A Voice from the Closet
157
Homosexuality Choice or Destiny?
170
Sex Studies and Sex Books Four Reviews
185

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About the author (2002)

Paul Robinson is the Richard W. Lyman Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University. He is the author of a number of books, including Opera and Ideas: From Mozart to Strauss and Gay Lives: Homosexual Autobiography from John Addington Symonds to Paul Monette, the latter published by the University of Chicago Press.

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