Voices from the 21st Century: Muscle Stud



You don’t often find poetry which combines homoerotic imagery with music criticism. Yet that’s exactly what writer Lee Chapman did in the Fall of 2010 after he went to a performance of Agostino Steffani‘s opera Niobe, Queen of Thebes, at the Royal Opera House (ROH) in London.

It was, by many accounts, a memorable production and a critical success, the first guest opera in the ROH’s history—conducted by Thomas Hengelbrock, who championed Niobe‘s modern premiere in 2008 at the Schwetzingen Festival in Germany (on both occasions with the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble).

Chapman’s poem, “Muscle Stud,” inserts a succinct review in the middle of a locker room scene.

To Muscles

To the hot young muscle stud in the up-
stairs locker room who choreographs his
shower and change so that the region of
his body below his waist and above

his thighs will be visible to no one
at any time (at whom I merely glanced,
while discussing Steffani’s Niobe,
Regina di Tebe [and its amazing

special effects: fire, magic black cloud,
balloons, and its spectacular German
Baroque orchestra, at London’s Royal
Opera House, Covent Garden, with its

stratospheric corporate ticket prices,
and where a Bloomington friend was seated
just five rows ahead of us] with an old,
fat, naked guy): Nyah! Nyah! I’m a chest man!

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(A scene from the 2008 Schwetzingen Festival production of Niobe; photo: Monika Rittershaus)

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