Gay Composers

It seems to me that everything in an artist’s life informs his/her art in some way, not just sexuality, but class, race, privilege, education, and all the other usual suspects. But the influence is in varying degrees and according to the whim of the artist.

For instance (to take an example from the trivial art that I prefer), Arthur Sullivan was a notorious womaniser (even keeping a record of the number of sexual encounters in his diary); but I have seen it asserted recently that he was gay (there does not seem to be any real evidence for this). Question: does his music settle the point either way? Is it notably “straight” or particularly “gay”? I’m open to contradiction, but I personally would answer “No” to all the questions I’ve just posed myself.

I would even argue that most of Oscar Wilde’s writings are not specifically “gay”. For instance The Importance of Being Earnest (A Trivial Comedy for Serious People), if we set aside the occasional “underworld” joke negligible in the fabric of the whole, is a frivolous amusement 100% in line with the Victorian farcical tradition, in which romantic love is formalised just as it is in most Victorian drama.

But Wilde would not have written what he did if it were not for every element of his character that made him what he was. I state the bleeding obvious, for the sake of completeness.


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