Wednesday, March 21, 2018


EXCERPTS from the new opera by Rufus Wainright about Hadrian and Antinous will be performed tonight in Cincinnati Ohio ahead of its worldwide premiere in Toronto in October 2018.

The opera ... simply titled HADRIAN ... with a libretto by Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor will have its world premiere as the opening production of Toronto's Canadian Opera Company's 2018 season.

Wainwright and MacIvor have been selected to be in Cincinnati as part of the Opera Fusion: New Works program, a collaboration between the Cincinnati Opera and University of Cincinnati, College Conservatory of Music's Opera Department.

Excerpts will be performed at 7:30 p.m. tonight. Tickets are sold out, but you can listen via the the Cincinnati Opera Company's LIVE STREAMING site.

The opera by Wainright and Daniel McIvor, entitled "Hadrian," which explores the relationship between Roman Emperor Hadrian and the young Antinous, will run October 13–27 at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre.

Peter Hinton will direct a cast that includes Thomas Hampson as Hadrian and renowned tenor Isaiah Bell as Antinous, with Karita Mattila as Plotina.

Wainwright and MacIvor's Hadrian (October 13-27) is a major draw for the company's 2018/19 season. 

The piece marks playwright/actor MacIvor's first libretto (the text of an opera) and Wainwright's second opera, following his 2009 Prima Donna. 

Their piece tells the story of the Roman emperor and his young lover Antinous, who was deified after his mysterious and premature death.

Between the Wainwright factor and Hadrian's subject matter, it's fair to say that this world premiere comes with a lot of hype.

Wainwright has offered the promise of something provocative:

"I think in our modern world," he says, "among younger audiences especially, there's a hunger for a sort of spectacle that the opera world thinks is no longer relevant."

The COC rounds up a fascinating cast of big names (Thomas Hampson, Karita Mattila and Ben Heppner ... who will venture out of retirement for the occasion) and rising stars Isaiah Bell (pictured at right) as Antinous and Ambur Braid as Hadrian's wife, Sabina.

"What's interesting about the story of Hadrian is he was actually in love with Antinous, who was another man," Wainwright says

"And he was persecuted for it. A lot of the same problems that exist today with homophobia and so forth were very much present back then," he adds.

Wainwright is the gifted Canadian singer/songwriter/musical man about the world who has forged a unique career in mainstream contemporary music as an original, quirky, thinking person's pop star. And he's not new to the world of opera.

"Prima Donna," his 2009 debut, which told the story of an aging opera singer attempting to make a comeback, has been presented in Manchester, London, New York, Toronto and around the globe, to reviews that roamed from the enthusiastic ("a love song to opera," wrote The Times of London) to the outraged (The New York Times called it "an ultimately mystifying failure") – the quality of reaction being determined, more or less, by the closeness of the reviewer to the world of classical music.

Wainwright started talking about Hadrian around the time he was serenading his mother with the opera's overture in early 2010.

As his mother, Kate McGarrigle, faced her final days in January, 2010, Wainwright played his latest composition for her at the family piano ... the overture to his new opera about Antinous and Hadrian.

What attracted him to Hadrian was the power of the story Wainwright wanted to tell. 

Certainly the story of the Emperor Hadrian has plenty to offer contemporary audiences. Quixotic, domineering and visionary, Hadrian represented the end of the Classical era in Roman history, a fascinating period when the influence of Greek ideas began to predominate in Roman society, changing its political landscape in significant ways.

Wainwright adds, "And then there's Antinous, essentially the male equivalent to Helen of Troy ... though we know he actually existed and exactly what he looked like. At one point he was neck and neck with Christ in terms of cult status after disappearing in the Nile. Imagine what a different world that would have been if he had lived!"

Wainwright explains, "When I first discovered the story of Hadrian, I was instantly struck with the idea of transforming this historical subject into operatic form. 

"Both its intimate nature and wild grandeur seemed perfectly suited for what opera does best: creating a hyper-illustration of the dark inner lives of people up against formidable outer circumstances while at the same time musically careening through the jagged and surreal dimensions of what lies in between. 

"No other theatrical form truly refracts life into myriad vibrantly bright colors as much as opera does, and the tale of Hadrian, arguably Rome’s greatest ruler, is a diamond perfectly cut for such a task.

"I could go on and on exploring all the fascinating ideas which swirl around the subject of my second opera. But I am a composer, and therefore my armchair intellectual reach should be superseded by the music … music that I hope you enjoy."


ADONIS was the most beautiful boy that ever lived, so beautiful that Venus fell totally in love with him and forsook all her love-joys in order to follow him on his hunt through the forests of Mt. Lebanon.

But Adonis was unmoved and completely rejected her advances. She became infatuated and abandoned herself to the boy who only cared to hunt.

Mars was jealous of his rival, and outraged to see Venus subjected to desperation and lust, so he contrived to lure Venus away by having Mercury recall her to her neglected duties, because without her influence to temper the raging schemes of her Erotic son, there was no love in the world.

While she was away, Mars transformed himself into a wild boar and let Adonis pursue him through the woods.

The God of War suddenly charged the young God of Beauty and disarmed him, and with a deadly kiss, gored Adonis in the groin sinking his razor tusk between his perfect white legs.

When she returned, Venus found her beloved boy dead and cut her hair in mourning, she immortalized his soul as a flower, and made the river that bears his name flow red.

The love between Venus and Adonis was unfulfilled, her adoration for him was unreturned because Adonis had no care for women, and he preferred his hunting dogs to her gentle caresses.

Only the War God Mars had his way with Adonis, though motivated by jealousy and rage, it was a violent sexual attack, for which all the world must mourn, because in the savagery of the Lust of Mars, the world was forever robbed of the beauty of Adonis.

Flamen Antonius Subia says:

"We venerate Adonis and seek his shadow in the gardens of human beauty. Antinous is the 'Adonis of the Underworld' ... our perfect desire who flees from our embrace ... but we, like Venus, never abandon him to his endless hunt, and caress his cheek even though our hands can never touch him."

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


WHEN the Sun enters the Sign of Aries at the March Equinox, we honor Antinous in his special guise as Antinous/Mars.

Mars, God of War, son of Jupiter and Juno, father of Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome, was the divine spirit of the Roman Army whose legions subjugated the world.

His power ran like molten steel in the blood of Romans who he made them invincible.

The ram was sacred to him, and thus the sign of Aries was devoted to him, as it was in the early spring, after the fields were sown and before the harvest that the men went to war.

Originally Mars was an agricultural deity, whose duty was to protect the fields from marauders. But he soon became an aggressive conqueror, whose sacred spears were ritually shaken by the Flamen Martialis when the legions were preparing for war.

He had twin sons who accompanied him and went before the armies in battle, their names were Phobos and Deimos, fear and panic.

He was the illicit lover of Venus, and it is said that they were the co-creators of Rome who through war brought love and peace to the whole world. It was in this spirit that Hadrian worshipped the pair.

Mars is the great spirit of masculinity, the violent, courageous power of the male sex, the penetrator and subjugator.

His emblem, an iron spear, is a symbol for the phallus, and so it is that Mars is the great potent Phallus of Man, the impregnator.

In this sense he is venerated as the warrior within all men, and as our most extreme, animalistic, carnal, aggressive nature.

He is the conqueror of winter, the dominator of spring, the protector of life, and the bringer of death.

He is war and fury, selflessly courageous, for the protection of the weak and for the defeat of the strong.

Mars never surrenders, and this is why Venus is so mad with lust for him, and why we adore him as our protector.

Monday, March 19, 2018


ON March 19 the Religion of Antinous honors Robert Mapplethorpe, Saint of Antinous.

In 1990, the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center and its director were charged with "Pandering Obscenity" after an exhibition of Mapplethorpe?s photographs. 

They were eventually acquitted but the event fueled a national debate over federal funding of the arts in the United States. 

The debate, which has affected American art ever since, focuses on whether tax dollars should be spent on projects which political conservatives deem objectionable. Specifically, the debate is over whether gay-theme art should be funded.

Robert Mapplethorpe died from AIDS in March 1989, at age 42, one year before his art spawned the controversy, so he was only able to speak through his photographs.

His subject matter portrayed homosexually charged images of nude men.

The controversy that Robert Mapplethorpe sparked exposed the double standard by which homosexual art is judged against heterosexual art. He revealed that nudity is most "obscene" to non-gays when it involves males.

We proclaim his sainthood to be heroic and dedicated to Antinous, because Robert Mapplethrope beautifully photographed a plaster statue of Antinous (shown at left), indicating that he must have known our God and in some way loved him.

Sunday, March 18, 2018


SAINT Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, who was born on this day in 1928, was a Berlin trans/gay who survived the Nazis and East German communists and about whose life a Pulitzer Prize winning play, "I Am My Own Woman", has been staged at theatres around the world.

The title is misleading since the original German is "Ich bin meine eigene Frau" and the word "Frau" can mean either "Woman" or "Wife"

The phrase was Charlotte's answer to her mother's question: "Don't you think it's time you got a wife?"

Charlotte was her own man and her own woman and her own husband/wife. In a long life amidst dictatorship, war and oppression of human-rights, Charlotte learned to create her own identity. We honor Charlotte as a Saint of the Religion of Antinous.

St. Charlotte, who liked to wear frumpy house dresses with a clunky handbag and a strand of pearls and matronly shoes, somehow managed to survive the Gestapo, the East German Stasi secret police and assaults by neo-Nazis. In doing so, Charlotte made serious ethical compromises along the way in order to stay alive. 

Charlotte amassed a huge collection of Victorian antiques which some said came from the homes of Jewish Holocaust victims and (later) from homes of people fleeing East Germany.

But Charlotte DID stay alive in dangerous times during which others perished. Charlotte's life forces you to ask yourself what YOU would have done in similar circumstances.

After German unification, Charlotte became something of a reluctant gay icon in Germany in the 1990s. Charlotte never had any pretensions of being intellectual or a political activist. 

Charlotte never quite fit in with post-Stonewall activists, who were a bit puzzled by her dowdy grand-motherliness and her passion for 19th Century Renaissance Revival style antiques. Like Quentin Crisp (also a Saint of Antinous), Charlotte belonged to another era.

But unlike Quentin Crisp, Charlotte wasn't especially witty or campy (despite her appearance) and was not an artist of the arch one-liner the way Quentin was. In appearances on talk shows, she would sit there, smiling politely, with not a great deal to say unless it was about collecting and restoring 19th Century antiques. But what she did say was eloquent in its simplicity: 

People should be kind to each other and let each other get on with their lives the way they want to.

Above all, she didn't much like being a celebrity. Too many people  expected things of her. She became a target for neo-Nazis, mostly drunken, youthful vandals in the 1990s. Not surprisingly perhaps, considering all she had lived through, she became somewhat paranoid towards the end of her life. In the end, she fled to Sweden where she spent her final years in virtual isolation before dying in 2002.

We honor St. Charlotte von Mahlsdorf for being someone who was not afraid to be openly trans/gay in the face of totalitarian dictatorships and police states. Someone who survived the Nazis and the Stasi secret police ... wearing a dress, a strand of pearls and a handbag.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


MARCH 17th is the anniversary of the death of Marcus Aurelius and we in the Religion of Antinous set aside this day each year to remember the last of the great philosopher-emperors, and a man who knew both Hadrian and Antinous.

What follows, is adapted from writings over the years by Flamen Antinoalis Antonius.

As a young boy Marcus Aurelius had caught the eye of the Emperor Hadrian. He was appointed by the Emperor to priesthood in the year 129 (just a year before the death of Antinous), and Hadrian also supervised his education, which was entrusted to the best professors of literature, rhetoric and philosophy of the time.

Marcus Aurelius discovered Stoicism by the time he was 11 and from his early twenties he deserted his other studies for philosophy. The Emperor Antoninus Pius, who succeeded Hadrian, adopted Marcus Aurelius as his son in 138.

Antoninus Pius treated Aurelius as a confidant and helper throughout his reign; Marcus Aurelius also married his daughter, Faustina, in 139. He was admitted to the Senate, and then twice the consulship. In 147 he shared tribunician power with Antoninus. During this time he began composition of his Meditations, which he wrote in Greek in army camps.

At the age of 40, in 161 Marcus Aurelius ascended the throne and shared his imperial power with his adopted brother Lucius Aurelius Verus. Useless and lazy, Verus was regarded as a kind of junior emperor; he died in 169. After Verus's death he ruled alone.

Most of his reign was spent fighting and negotiating with the Germanic barbarians who were steadily crowding around the borders of the Empire. Marcus was able to hold them back with a succession of victories and peace treaties. In 177 he made his son, Commodus, joint-Emperor, though Commodus had no interest in the responsibility, caring more for the gladiatorial sports, but Marcus, the philosopher- king, took no notice of his son's blood-lust, which was to later cost the Empire dearly.

For much of his reign, Marcus Aurelius had suffered from severe illness, but his calm devotion to stoic virtue gave him the strength to continue without rest and without his poor health interfering with his duties. While with the legions on the German frontier, Marcus Aurelius suddenly died on March 17th in the year 180AD.

His ashes were conveyed to Rome and placed in Hadrian's Mausoleum. Commodus assumed power and began the chain of tragic events that are said to have brought the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

For his wisdom, and strength, and because he was the last instrument of Hadrian's plan that brought so much glory, and prosperity to Rome, we venerate the deified Marcus Aurelius as a god of the Religion of Antinous.

An important feature of the philosophy was that everything will recur: the whole universe becomes fire and then repeats itself.

Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul; and observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception of this one living being; and how all things act with one movement; and how all things are the cooperating causes of all things which exist; observe too the continuous spinning of the thread and the contexture of the web. (from The Meditations)

Friday, March 16, 2018


WE are proud to announce that the world's first opera about Antinous has won the prestigious QUEER URBAN ORCHESTRA COMPOSITION CONTEST for 2018.

This ground-breaking opera, ANTINOUS AND HADRIAN, which premiered in 2013, was written by composer CLINT BORZONI with a libretto by EDWARD FICKLIN.

CLICK HERE for exclusive excerpts from the opera.

Those duets from were performed as part of the SOUND DEPARTURES 2017 in New York.

Borzoni's award-winning music reflects his passion for lyricism and functional harmony. He has written over sixty pieces, including a full length opera, two one act operas, a piano concerto, percussion quartet, piece for orchestra, two string quartets, several works for chamber orchestra, and many art songs. 

Ficklin has composed and written librettos for various forms of music-theater. He has realized his works in a number of unusual venues, like a store window near Grand Central Station and a vacant bank lobby near the World Trade Center (with the support of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the September 11th Fund). His work has also been presented by numerous opera companies across the United States and Europe.

He describes "Antinous and Hadrian" as truly "grand opera," a hugely ambitious project.

"Rome wasn't built in a day," says Ficklin. "When embarking on something large, we're often given that sage, if cliche, advice. Having recently laid down on paper, finally, the first few lines a new libretto destined to be a grand opera, I find that I need to remind myself of this. Indeed, large endeavors always require a large perspective.