September Song

Anne Sofie von Otter with Fabian Fredriksson, presenting “Min Musik”, Ytterjärna 2020. – Clip with thanks to Järna Festival Academy.

And it is September.

I didn‘t even get to post the von Otter “Haugtussa” this year, so instead, here is Anne Sofie von Otter at Kulturhuset Ytterjärna’s “Järna Summer Festival” in 2020, talking about her career and favorite musics, and singing songs from “Country Road” to “Come Again”.

It is an hour of understated ease and poise that leaves one in a state of (tentatively hopeful) serenity, and with the uniquely von Otteresque conviction that there is a North, and things still align themselves to it.

– It has been quiet on here, both for a lack of energy on my part and a lack of things to write about. I have not seen a live performance in over a year and season announcements were overwhelming more than anything else.

A week ago, my blog subscription alerted me to its upcoming renewal. I pondered for a minute whether to pay for another year or just let it be. The motivation of creating queer female visibility, in opera and beyond, has mellowed with the lack of necessity: there is a lot more visibility than back in 2008 (openly queer Jamie Barton gets to sing Carmen next to the José of Stephanie Blythe this autumn – there really is no need for a renegade space any longer) and there is a new generation, on new platforms, who do this kind of work with far more energy than I have at this point. The community once so active here has moved to offline friendships or on to other platforms. Such is life, and it continues.

September means Strauss’ Four Last Songs and feeling the passage of time, more intensely now (is this the pandemic? Is this simply growing older? Is it both?). How many years do I have left until this will irrevocably be Shady Belcanto Pines? A dozen, perhaps? A half dozen? What will this winter bring?

The past year and a half will have challenged all of us, in different ways. I admit that I am tired and worn thin by worry. There is not much I feel I would have to offer to any reader at the moment, but here are the current prospects:

In blogging:
I will be back for the 2021 edition of the Twelve White Shirts of Christmas, and perhaps for the occasional White Shirt Monday or piece of news. Eventually, I hope to see live shows again, and tweet and write about them. To what extent, we will see.

In fiction:
There are no new stories forthcoming at the moment, though I am editing old ones. I *am* in the process of splitting the “Stages” storyboard into two parts, to wrap up the first (hanging in limbo for the past 5 years) in one final installment, to keep an option of writing out the second part separately, once time and energy make a reappearance.

Editing “Campus” has changed. My goal had been to edit it in a way that it would fit my writing standards, today but it cannot be about that. “Campus” has its own standards. Over the summer, several exes and friends wrote to me, mentioning that they were rereading “Campus” (“you know, like every summer,” my favorite ex said). And I do not want to interfere with those reading experiences, and or that image. I am now trying for a minimally invasive approach – changing merely typos and awkward wordings (not even all of those), and a few phrases or hyperbole here and there. It is what it is. Subtly preserving old substance of monument value, as architectural guides would have it (even though one wonders what posseded the designer to add those atrocious window ornaments, but there they are).

“Into the Jungle” is more complicated, for unintentional colonial baggage (starting with its original title, “Jungle Fever” – I had no idea about its baggage then, I came up with it on my own). While I don‘t plan to change the plot, I need to do an informed sensitivity reading there before I am comfortable with putting it back online. That project is on the back burner.

„Small Steps“, as the youngest novel (it has only been about 12 years), is the easiest and I have been working on it again over the summer. I am about halfway through and, depending on how difficult this winter will be, I am thinking about small daily chapter posts: for some positive energy, for myself as well as for people who might read or reread it.

While I have for years worked towards a print publication of my novel-length projects, I have now abandoned that idea for good. I am at a point where I lack the time for such an endeavor and where I am frankly not willing to compromise my idea of a piece to a market logic. If I want sprawling subplots and excrutiatingly slow-burn pace, I will do it someplace where I can do just that, on my own terms. So everything will go back online, bit by bit, likely also over at AO3 for archiving purposes.

That way my stories, in the end, will be a gift to a community that has given me much in return, especially in the years of coming out. And I like the idea that it will be a gift that eschews a market grasp, just like our particular subgenre has always eschewed mainstream logics and logistics.

I know I said I would take that step once I had, at last, a job that did not come with a fixed-term conctract, but that day will likely never come. And this is not a time to invest in waiting for the improbable. None of us knows how we might get through the upcoming season.

And a legacy of a good few stories that might make another few people happy? That is a very good legacy (nothwithstanding the fact that I hope to add it to for another few decades, but: we do not know).

7 thoughts on “September Song”

  1. If you ever decide to stop posting (and I hope you don’t), perhaps turn this legendary blog of yours into an online archive/museum of a decade+ worth of women interacting with opera. There’d be so much: audience reception, fan cultures, art criticism, changing what John Berger called the ‘ways of seeing’ and listening… And then travel coordination, RL friendships, and on and on. And for a lot of us lez and bi women and lez-friendly straighties AL/QL was an introductory portal into a world of wonders we knew only a little about. Come to think of it–maybe there’s a book here for you to write, if sociology, history of technology and history of art and reception are your shtick. Ideally for general public.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the sentiment! It’s been a rich dozen years so far.

      And ah, a book project… but wouldn’t that be too niche? (I am better at writing for queer ladies (and the occasional gent) than at writing for the general public, even if it is about subset affect cultures in the 2010s blogosphere). But even if there is material, at the moment I am, sadly, lacking the time (as always) and the energy (this is new, I am skirting the burnout edge). I hope to still be the occasional voice, until I can recharge propery. And I am happy that there are so many other voices now, and that opera is much more diverse and open than when I started out.


  2. I found your blog only this past year or so (you know, during plague times), and have been reading through all the entries. I want to thank you and your entire commentariat for proving that my sometime fantasy of an international lesbian opera-going intelligentsia is real. Best wishes for the future, whatever it looks like. Many thanks.


    1. — ALL THE ENTRIES? I don’t think anyone has ever even tried that before, myself included. Belated apologies for any cobwebs and things written too late at night with too little editing. Also, usually I am quicker with replying (but, as you said, plague times).
      (but the international lesbian opera crowd is definitely real. Put on a white shirt, join the fun!)


      1. Well, I have fast-scrolled through many of the liveblogs, unless I had some familiarity with the opera. Even so, I have found a world of connection points in the posts and comments… so many singers and productions to look for, so many topics to ponder, the repeated feeling of “ah, it is not just me”. What an education! Thank you all. Getting my white shirt out of mothballs now.


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