Dynamic Duo

Arts & Entertainment

Dynamic Duo

Patricia Racette
and Beth Clayton celebrate their wedding and sing out
for pride at Lincoln Center

Patricia Racette
and Beth Clayton celebrate their wedding and sing out
for pride at Lincoln Center

By Dave White

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 shifted 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. “Frankly, we
get spoiled by it,” says Clayton.
“We’re in an environment that’s
very supportive of our sexual
orientation—celebratory even. It may shock some
patrons in regional houses, but even that’s
changing. I can’t feel any negativity.
We’re both committed to being singing
actresses onstage, so you’d never hear someone
come to a performance and say, ‘Oh, my gosh,
that’s not believable to see, Patricia
Racette onstage with a man.’ It’s quite
the opposite. That’s part of our craft.”

“There’s an implied tolerance
we’ve come to expect,” adds Racette.
“As for fans, I can’t count the
number of times that people have approached me
after a performance and said, ‘Thank you for
coming out.’ That is really so important to me.”

That comfort level extends to the
couple’s playful rapport together—their
conversation is peppered by jokes about their unfunky
opera-friendly long hair and how having similar
vocal repertoires would doom their relationship.
It also informs their connection to their families, who
will be in attendance at their commitment ceremony in
Santa Fe, N.M. “It’s incredibly
special for us because our families, individually, have
never met over the eight years we’ve been
together. Not for any bad reason, but because
it’s just been impossible to get them in the same
place at the same time,” explains Racette.
“So we’re overjoyed. We have really
supportive families. We’re close to them.”

The only problem? What to wear to the
wedding. “Because of what we do for a
living, we didn’t want to wear dresses,”
says Clayton. Adds Racette, laughing:
“We’re going in our finest flannel.”

White writes about film for E! Online.

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Patricia Racette

href="http://www.imgartists.com/?page=artist&id=448&c=2">Beth Clayton

Lincoln Center

Charles Busch

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