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date: 16 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers recent approaches to gender in opera studies, with a particular emphasis on the historical gendering of the operatic genre. It takes as a central case study Sir Thomas Beecham’s attempts to popularize and politicize opera in 1920s Britain by “masculinizing” the art form. The article analyzes and contextualizes the highly charged rhetoric used by Beecham’s Imperial League of Opera (ILO) and in its symbolically titled journal, MILO, which evoked Milo of Croton, the great athlete of the ancient world. The promotion of opera by the ILO was framed as a military campaign being waged on two fronts: against Britain’s foreign cultural rivals and against perceived British philistinism. The ILO’s appropriation of heroic classicism demonstrates how opera intersected in surprising ways with interwar debates about masculinity, imperialism, and national identity.

Keywords: opera, gender, Thomas Beecham, Imperial League of Opera, Milo, masculinity, imperialism, classicism

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