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Manlier than Mozart: The Anti-Wagnerian Stance of “A Wicked Voice”

  • Author(s): Milsom, Alexandra
  • et al.
Abstract

On September 16, 1886, eleven months prior to the initial French publication of “Voix maudite,” Vernon Lee heard her friend Mary Wakefield sing in the Palazzo Barbaro on the Rio dell’Orso in Venice. , Lee later dedicated “A Wicked Voice” to “M.W.” and in the dedication states that the story is written “in remembrance of the last song at Palazzo Barbaro…” At the conclusion of the story itself, the narrator attempts to prevent the “wicked voice” of Zaffirino from concluding its own “last song” because extended exposure to it threatens the narrator’s aesthetic sensibilities as well as his stalwart heterosexuality. The narrator’s abortive attempts to emulate the heterosexual heroics of Wagnerian operatic epics stand in stark contrast with his uncontrollable appetite for the ghost of an eighteenth century castrato. Given the biographical information recently compiled in Catherine Maxwell’s article about Lee’s friendship with Wakefield, and given the connection of the operatic voice with homoerotic attraction in this story, there remains little doubt that “A Wicked Voice” promotes an affinity between naturally-arising aesthetic sensibilities and homoerotic desire.

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