Review: A Nut at the Opera

Artist(s): Maurice Vellekoop.

Maurice Vellekoop’s new book in years is very different from Vellevision or The ABC Book. The former was a collection of short stories, some with a strong gay content, and the latter was a gay primer with erotic illustrations (more about both on my other site). A Nut at the Opera is also a collection of illustrations, but its gay aspect is more subtle. Vellekoop has long stated his love of opera, and apparently, he’s very knowledgeable about it. The book consists of double pages, with a text presenting a fictional famous opera singer (or sometimes a real opera fictional production) facing a full-page illustration.
I don’t know what a reader who’s completely uninterested in opera will make of that book. Of course, the art is wonderful, with strong, warm colors and very detailed faces and body language. The texts are very funny, blending real-life references to well-known singers like Joan Sutherland and Leontine Pryce with other-the-top anecdotes about the singers’ larger-than-life excesses (apparently, some of those anecdotes are true, I don’t dare to ask which ones). Apart from the ages-old love of gay men for opera, this book has another interest for gay readers: its very camp humor, and the numerous gay innuendos–as in the portrait of countertenor Philip Diller (obviously a joke on historical countertenor Alfred Deller), who’s said to have been sued for palimony by his “long-time chauffeur”.
By the way, I’m not showing inside art because you can see ten pages from the book on the site, with comments by the artist.
I do like the fact that one press quote at the back of the book is unashamedly gay, and more precisely, the one from XTRA, which also has a very good article about the book on its website. I must say that, as usual, publisher Drawn & Quarterly has done a great job, and the production values are very high (96 pages, hardcover, with a dust jacket and illustrations even on the inside covers). I’m so happy to see a new book by Vellekoop, and I hope that someday, someone will publish a collection of his commercial and personal illustrations.

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