Poll: Should Opera Singers Bare All?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - 05:04 PM

A performance that includes nudity can still stir up controversy. That may be especially the case in opera, where audiences often have very specific expectations about what a production should and shouldn't include. And as the old saying about the fat lady singing suggests, not every opera singer can impress in his or her birthday suit.

This week, Operavore blogger Fred Plotkin looked at nude awakening among some opera companies, asking what's gratuitous, what's dramatically appropriate, and how singers practice their craft in the buff.

The issue recently came into the public sphere as the 2012 Munich Opera Festival opened in Germany. The photographer Spencer Tunick staged an outdoor re-creation of scenes from Wagner’s Ring cycle involving more than 1,000 naked volunteers. They arranged themselves in various configurations that were intended to be Tunick's visual interpretations of scenes from the Ring.

Tell us what you think. Take our polls and leave a comment below:


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Comments [12]

Marilyn Brace from New Jersey

Let's face it. Not too many people look good in the buff. More is less as the saying goes. Who wants to see blubber or even spare tires? Not me. Let us use our imaginations and be taseful.

Jul. 20 2012 08:46 PM
Carl Schwartz from Paterson, New Jersey

There's such a thing as "tasteful" nudity--the recent Met production of "Salome" with Kari Mattila (spelling?) showed this. One could also do this to establish Violetta's identity as a high-priced courtesan. For live audiences, opera is very expensive and you'd expect somebody other than prudes from isolated communities. For the Met shown at theaters and again on "Great Performances" (where we caught "Salome" one recent Easter weekend), the nudity at the end of the Dance of the Seven Veils was most tastefully handled.

Jul. 20 2012 04:59 PM
whitkeen from Tenafly, NJ

In general, I think it is absurd for opera singers to be shedding their clothes (even if they have perfect bodies, and most don't) but if it makes sense in context and is not just added for sensationalism AND the performer is willing, then it is OK. Generally, though, I can't think of an opera I have ever seen where it makes sense and improves the performance.

Jul. 20 2012 04:26 PM
Siggy from NJ

Ok with me IF it's called for in the context of the show. If it is just for publicity's sake, like much of the gratuitous nudity the Met uses in their newer productions, count me out. Words and music, when delivered with sensitivity and artistry, can do more to convey an idea than showing naked bodies ever could. If I want to see naked bodies, I can go to the beach.

Jul. 19 2012 11:14 AM
John J. Christiano from Franklin NJ

The question is absurd, as is the premise. Is opera in such a state that we need to add gimickry and sensationalism to the libretti?

Singers, orchestras and conductors would really have to ask themselves "Are these people coming to hear me or see me?" "Are they here for my voice or my....?"

Jul. 19 2012 09:45 AM
Frank from Strong Island, NY

I'm for nudity only if attractive singers are cast in such roles. Danielle De Niese, yes. Elina Garanca, no complaints here. For the ladies, maybe Jonas Kauffman. For others, well, get back to me.

Jul. 19 2012 09:09 AM
Alex from Milano

I suggest we stick to what the opera composers intended?

Jul. 19 2012 04:41 AM
Daniel Polowetzky from NYC

I think the question depends upon which singers will be nude and which company is putting on the production. I assume the Met will not be casting any leading roles in the nude, for obvious reasons!

Naked Rheinmaidens, made up of the Met chorus will not do!

Jul. 19 2012 12:46 AM
kriss from Piscataway, NJ

Please! Spare us!
If we wanted to see nude performances or bodies, we could go elsewhere.
Nudity distracts from the artistry, and especially from the sound of singing, which is what we want from opera. So, let's accensuate the MUSIC!

Besides that, let's face it - many opera singers are - well - no longer slim. Artful costuming can help, but nudity just makes it worse.

Jul. 18 2012 10:57 AM
Constantine from New York

I'm with whoever it was who said that "If the good lord had intended us to run around naked, we'd have been born that way."

I've no problem with nudity on stage. Watching people have sex is quite another thing. I can't even stand to see people smooch in public. (A kiss hello or goodbye, walking arm in arm, fine!)

Jul. 18 2012 12:21 AM

Given the current state of opera, I see no reason to not have nudity. Whatever gets people into seats, provided it is tasteful and not gratuitous. The 70s and 80s saw partial nudity--loincloths, etc. A nude in Macbeth. Actually, I just saw Alan Cummings' Macbeth at Jazz at Lincoln Center and there was nudity in that and I think it was fine. With the problems the Met is facing--read about some of my recent experiences: http://schleppynabuccos.blogspot.com/2012/07/why-met-is-failing-and-it-aint-just.html and

I don't think anything should be off the table.

Jul. 17 2012 09:33 PM
Judy Szabo from Landing, NJ

I have been going to the opera for 60 years and can find no reason why singers should bare it all. Even in "Thais," a suggestion of nudity is much better than actual nudity. The same is true for "Samson and Delila." There is no reason why there should be naked bodies in the Ring. Unfortunately, more and more directors and designers go for shock value as opposed to an intelligent telling of the story.
At the Geneva opera house during "Tannhauser" there was an actual copulation scene. Many people walked out and cancelled their subscriptions.

Jul. 17 2012 06:00 PM

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Operavore is WQXR's digital 24/7 audio stream and devoted to Opera. The Operavore blog features breaking news, expert commentary and reviews by writers Fred Plotkin, David Patrick Stearns, Amanda Angel and others. The music stream features a continuous, carefully programmed mix of classic and contemporary opera recordings.

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