All posts tagged with ‘White Shirts’ can be found here.
(if you’re looking for lady singers in trouser roles making you lightheaded, that’s pretty much where you should be headed)


…but what’s it with all the use of the term “White Shirt”? What does it actually mean?

“White Shirt” is a term originally coined between the now-offline “Se vuoi pace” and “Eye Bags”, and if you want to pin it on a person, it was probably Purity McCall, the hostess of “Se vuoi pace”, who came up with it, and who also designed the White Shirt graphic above, and the handy little sticker below that some of our crowd display on their sites:


Back in 2008/2009, among the online opera queers who populated this corner of the blogosphere, we talked a lot about Vesselina Kasarova in trouser roles, and especially as Sesto in the 2003 Salzburg “Clemenza di Tito” (next to the Vitellia of Dorothea Röschmann), which is how the above screenshot ended up as the White Shirt Logo.

(We since have ended up with a tour bus, thanks to dehggial, for the White Shirt winter travel to opera productions of queer lady (or not lady) interests. Currently in the works: a White Shirt logo balloon for the summer travel.)


Did you ever notice how often singers in trouser roles are mezzo sopranos? And how they get to wear white shirts a lot? And did you ever notice how good a look that tends to be on them? (you did notice? Yes? Welcome home.)

So… a “White Shirt” is a an opera fan who gets swoony at the sight and sound of (female) singers in trouser roles?


But that’s not all there is to that.

On this blog, I use “White Shirt” as follows:

1) (noun) as a self-descriptor for mostly queer folks (and while the majority may be good ol’ opera dykes, some of us are transmasc folks, and there’s the occasional gent, or folks who are really not into gender at all – this is an inclusive space, and and inclusive descriptor), who enjoy gender cross-cast opera, and, most of all, female singers who get to do gender-transgressive role portrayals. Much of which means wearing a white shirt and singing of romance and heartbreak to and about other female singers.
If that’s something you identify with: Welcome, you’re a White Shirt.
“Hey, I’m in Paris to catch some Baroque opera this weekend. Do you know if there are any others White Shirts in attendance to chat at intermission?”
“What are you doing Saturday night?” – “I’m meeting up with the White Shirts for a Kasarova Liveblog.”]

2) (adj/adv) as a descriptor for that hard-to-capture gender-trangressing energy that makes you sit up straighter or sink back into your opera seat with a sigh. It is often on display when it comes to singers in trouser roles, but it is not limited to that.
“I saw this Juditha Triumphans, and there was nothing white-shirt about it! I couldn’t believe it!”
“Oh, did you just see how Eboli glanced at Elisabetta in a very white-shirt manner?!”
Traviata is kind of low in white shirt energy… unless you’ve got Annina on your side.”]

3) (noun) as a descriptor for trouser roles, or queer-charged opera roles, or singers in such roles (though never to be confounded with the private lives of singers).
“Oh look, time for Cherubino to enter the stage – there he is! White Shirt in the house!”
Eliogabalo? Are there any White Shirts in that?”
“She may not be a mezzo, but she sure makes a great White Shirt in that role.”
“Oh, that soprano, not my cup of tea. She always looks as if she would rather run when faced with a White Shirt onstage.”]

Of course, that’s just my take on it. The details vary, but if it involves (mostly female) singers in trousers (and sometimes also in skirts), defying gender conventions and giving queer opera fans a space to identify and feel at home, and if you get lightheaded at such performances, then it’s pretty much White Shirt territory.

Back in the day, Purity outlined “White Shirt” like this (the definition is up over at “Swimming on Stormy Weather”, along with a link list of White Shirt blogs, and the occasional White Shirt entry):

I could offer you a complex and closely argued philosophical treatise on this question, dear reader. I would like to, but I can’t. To be perfectly frank I am too busy looking for photographs of my favourite singers wearing white shirts. Yes, sadly, it’s true. White shirts love beautiful music. We love women. We love women singing beautiful music (especially when said women are pretending to be men). And most of all – we love women singing beautiful music whilst pretending to be men wearing white shirts.

Why “White Shirt Archives”?

The blogosphere is a quickly moving scene (and most of the young ones are on tumblr or Twitter these days, anyway). Service and platforms change, lives changes and some blogs disappear.  I already mentioned “Se vuoi pace”, a White Shirt hub that is now extinct. There was also “The Eyes Have It”, the blog of Eyes, which hosted a lot of White Shirt content.

At times, we talk about old posts and screencaps, and after thadieu suggested we collect some of the older material otherwise lost, I offered a space to host some of the older gems so that they remain available to the White Shirt community, both old and new.

There are quite a few of us, but it took as a while to find each other (and we’re always happy to have new folks join our leagues), and the “White Shirts” handle and the logo are a way to remain aware of each other, recognize each other and strike up a conversation – be it online or at an opera or concert venue.

Some officially White-Shirt Friendly places (work-in-progress. Just alert me to changes, and drop me a note if I forgot your place (sorry!) or if you run a white-shirt-ish presence and would like to be included. At a future point, I’ll probably try and list some of the places over on tumblr, too, that post related content):

thadieu’s opera rambling outlet
Opera, innit? (dehggial’s place)
SmorgZone (President of the Kasarovian republic)
Swimming in Stormy Weather
Towanda’s Window

White Shirt Archives: The Classics

A Day In The Life of a White Shirt, based on Vesselina Kasarova’s short in the 2003 Salzburg “Clemenza di Tito”, as written by Eyesometric (Eyes).