Since the recent release of Wayne Koestenbaum's pathbreaking book, "The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire", gender studies has begun to take an active interest in music. Opera, long viewed as strictly an establishment tradition, has in particular been given a second look by gender theorists. Can opera, an antiquated, Eurocentric bastion of 'high' culture-in fact be subverting patriarchal authority in some fundamental way? The first collection to take a primarily lesbian point of view on the subject, EN TRAVESTI addresses the ways in which opera empowers women by challenging conventional gender hierarchies. In this highly original new book, leading critics explore the rich tradition of cross-dressing in opera, and show that there's much more to opera than meets the eye. The travesti, or "trouser' role is shown to be only one of a wide field of representations of operatic women characters who fall outside of the stereotype of the tragic heroine. Women characters in opera have often broken free of traditional roles, performing heroic deeds such as freeing cities from invaders or romancing the soprano heroine.
Indeed, the fascinating essays included in EN TRAVESTI suggest that opera may actually be the site of the most extensive representation of female homoerotic modes to be found in any pre-twentieth century art form. Contributors to this collection cover a broad spectrum of topics on women in opera: some focus on roles that have captured the attention of women listeners -Purcell's Dido, Gluck's Orpheus, Rossini's Tancredi-while others explore the impact of noted performers, such as Brigitte Fassbaender and Jenny Lind. Including essays by critics including Terry Castle, Helene Cixous, Lowell Gallagher, and Elizabeth Wood, EN TRAVESTI will be widely appreciated by opera lovers, lesbian and gay critics and readers, and 'new' musicologists.