By White, Dave
The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
When soprano opera star Patricia Racette and her partner of eight years, mezzo-soprano Beth Clayton, take Lincoln Center's Rose Hall stage on June 23 to perform a duet for the Charles Busch-hosted gay pride event True Colors, they'll be singing the most lesbian-identified piece of opera ever: the "Flower Duet" from Delibes's Lakme. The piece, written for two female voices, most famously underscored the seduction scene between Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon in The Hunger. It also popped up in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and the lesbian-themed I've Heard the Mermaids Singing. "We were going to sing [Mame's] 'Bosom Buddies' instead, but then we thought it might be too trashy," jokes Racette.
But how does one convince two opera divas from the same household to perform together in the first place? "It wasn't a hard decision," says Clayton. "This year happens to be a very personal time for us because we're having a commitment ceremony on June 18, so when this came up it was serendipitous. Some jobs had shied and the time became free, so it was an easy yes. It also happens to be Pat's 40th birthday, which is fabulous. So we had all these great reasons to celebrate and to make a statement. And we love Charles Busch."
The opera world has always welcomed lesbians and gay men (although it hasn't always made it easy for stars to be publicly out). Racette and Clayton have never been personally or professionally closeted and still enjoy flourishing careers. Clayton recently appeared in the Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of William Bolcom's A Wedding, directed by Robert Altman. As for Racette, she just wrapped up a starring role in the Houston Grand Opera's production of Falstaff, "where about 50% of the cast [was] gay. That was unusual, but fun," and is currently booked for the next few years. The pair's official coming-out in print, though, happened when Racette was profiled in a cover story of a 2002 issue of Opera News, a story written by Busch's partner, Eric Myers, and in which Clayton participated as well. …