Barber at the Met
Samuel Barber's life shows how the categories of gay, American, and composer intersected without cohering. His life likewise illuminates the homintern discourse, whose arc coincided roughly with the arc of his career. Barber succeeded despite that discourse, and much else shaped his career, but it threaded its way through his life—after all, he did set the words “every day another version of every known perversion” to music.
Growing up in a maturing arts culture, Barber (1910–81) drew on the cultural currents of his era, but at arm's length. “Moral and cultural conservatism” marked West Chester, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, where he grew up in a family of local gentry.1 But cosmopolitan connections started early: his uncle, Sidney Homer (1864–1953), was arespected composer; his aunt, Louise Homer (1871–1947), was a leading contralto at the Metropolitan Opera, singing in its first efforts at American opera.2 The first opera Barber saw featured her opposite Enrico Caruso in Aida. He watched her at Victor's recording studio, and she later sang his music at Carnegie Hall and ontour, sometimes with her nephew accompanying. The familycultivated Barber's ambition and his entry into Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music in 1924. Success as organist, pianist, singer, and composer came fast; the Philadelphia Orchestra premiered his Overture to “The School for Scandal” (1931). In Rosario Scalero, his Italian American composition teacher, and Leopold Stokowski, the Philadelphia's con