Poll: What's the Greatest Gay Collaboration in Classical Music?

Email a Friend

After our recent article looking at new claims that Stravinsky went through an "ambisexual phase" between 1910 and 1913—the time when he was working with gay ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev on The Rite of Spring—several readers had this reaction: What does a composer's sexuality have to do with their work? Does sexual orientation matter any more today than a composer's interest in politics or sports?

Some would say it matters a lot. Scholars working in the field of gender studies, including the University of Michigan's Nadine Hubbs, have sought to identify a gay sensibility among American composers of the mid-20th century (tonalists like Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber). Some critics angrily responded that gay composers' embrace of tonality has little to do with the fact that they were gay.

Historians have also raised questions about the potential homosexuality of Schubert, Handel and Tchaikovsky, and whether that could be considered through a creative lens.

But there is also the matter of collaborations. Benjamin Britten wrote many of his songs for his partner, tenor Peter Pears. Partners Samuel Barber and Gian Carlo Menotti collaborated on the operas Vanessa and Hand of Bridge. John Corigliano and Mark Adamo, who married in 2008, have never formally collaborated, but have led master classes together. In another vein, Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein collaborated on Four Saints in Three Acts, the unusual modernist opera from 1927.

As pride weekend kicks off in New York, take our poll and tell us what you think: What have been the most productive gay collaborations in classical music?


Composers — both gay and straight — have directly addressed gay themes in their music, from Corigliano's "AIDS Symphony" to operas based on Harvey Milk and Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Tell us your favorite: