Nudists at the Opera

Tuesday, January 07, 2014 - 12:00 AM

no nude sunbathing (Shutterstock/blewisphotography)

This article is being written on what is being described in the media as the coldest night in 20 years. The Huffington Post has a screaming headline in ice-blue print:

‘POLAR VORTEX TO SMASH RECORDS

-70˚ Wind Chills Possible...Tundra-Like Temperatures Expected...

Schools Already Closing Next Week...Weather Is Life-Threatening

 

And yet the subject at hand is one that is like a midsummer night’s dream. In 2012 I did an article called “Nudity for Opera Buffs” that got a rise out of certain readers. While some said there was no place for naked performers on the stage and others thought we should have even more than we do, the general consensus was that nudity was acceptable when it was appropriate for the telling of the story.

I must confess that it never occurred to me that the subject of nudity at the opera would relate to anything apart from what happens onstage. That was until I came across some comments on the website of Opera Frankfurt, which I will soon visit. It seems that some audience members would like to attend a performance in the nude. I should note that, even though this opera company is German, those who participated in this discussion (from the summer of 2010) were not.

Here is part of the thread:

“I too am interested in the dress code. Since last writing I have become a naturist and wonder if the Opera Frankfurt had thought of putting on a special performance for this growing band of opera lovers who have no dress code.”

Percival Taxmon

Petworth, U.K. - Friday, 27.08.2010, 19:40:30

“There is a lot to be said about listening to music whilst unattired. In this beautiful summer we have here, perhaps Glyndebourne could persuade its members (sic) to have a naturist day? Perhaps fellow subscribers could suggest music to be played?”

Hugh Hampton

Liverpool, UK - Friday, 27.08.2010, 23:13:43

“Percival - the problem would then be that the orchestra, soloists and chorus would feel obliged to perform in the buff. These would, in turn, be a distraction for the hard-working technicians and could create a health and safety issue. As far as the public is concerned there is a very real risk of dangly bits getting caught in the folding seats, with ensuing litigation implications.”

Simon Bailey

Saturday, 28.08.2010, 13:01:48

In a more recent posting on this thread, someone asked about renting opera glasses. This was the official response from the opera company: "Unfortunately, for hygienic reasons, we have no opera glasses on hire." If sharing binoculars is deemed unhygienic, I don’t think we will be seeing any group sales to nudists at Opera Frankfurt.

But we are living in straitened times, and often gimmicky ones, in which impresarios are trying to find ways to sell tickets to opera and other performing arts. Because the opera company in Germany’s financial capital was named the world’s best in the 2013 International Opera Awards, they should not have trouble getting Frankfurters in the seats. But that might not be the case elsewhere, even if what would be in the seats are buns.

I have seen many opera companies do events that package performance tickets with lectures and receptions in which people with common interests are brought together. It is a good way to build a mailing list and target marketing. A few years ago, I was engaged by the Met to give a pre-opera talk to single heterosexuals (La Bohéme) one evening and to gays and lesbians (Jenufa, don’t ask me why...) on another. These events drew good attendance and I am sure some of them became regular operagoers. I would have no objection to addressing a naked audience as long as I can be clothed or at least have a very large lectern.

So, if there is a potential for audience development among naturists, should arts organizations throw caution (and not only) to the wind and make accommodations on special occasions? At the very least, I think some kind of sanitary precautions should be taken, with towels or some other sort of protection placed on seats. Perhaps a part of the cost for the ticket should be a souvenir beach towel with the name and logo of the opera company on it.

I also think that a budget line would have to be created to pay for ushers and other employees who are unwilling to work on a night with an audience full of opera nudists. The fact is that, while there are many pleasurable and positive things to be said for living one’s life in the altogether, it is not something everyone shares or wants to be witness to.

But, to address an aspect of this topic that all of us can explore, our sensory perception at performances happens not only with our eyes and ears. I am hardly the only concertgoer who slips his shoes off in concert halls and places his stockinged feet flat on the floor to feel the vibrations as an orchestra plays. It does enhance the experience. I see this all the time and I recommend it. I have seen plenty of bare feet too, though I have not done that. 

I would imagine that it might be a bracing experience for an “unattired” person to experience music more fully when the entire surface of his or her skin is exposed to the vibrations that beautiful sound creates. If you want to try this at home while listening to WQXR, go ahead and see what it is like. Just wait until we are past the polar vortex.

As to special evenings for naturists in an opera house, please share your views, tongue in cheek and otherwise. Here is a question: If we were to contemplate operas we might want to listen to in the nude, whether in public or private, which ones would they be? 

I will leave that discussion to you, dear readers. For me, it would have to be an opera buffa.

Photo: Shutterstock/Stanislav Komogorov

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Comments [25]

Bobby from Georgia

Thanks, Fred. I can't wait for your April 1st post!!

Jan. 14 2014 01:15 AM

Ed in Florida
When I lived on Cape Cod a motion was made to make one of the beaches clothing optional. The debate was ended when a woman stood up and said, :those that should don't and those that shouldn't do!" That was about the end of the discussion, with a huge round of applause.

Jan. 11 2014 07:06 PM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, va.

DuckDeadeye, TMI, somethings are best left unsaid. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Jan. 10 2014 02:42 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Sometimes salty language can be entertaining. Example, some years back when the earthquake happened in Haiti, medical assistance arrived from all over the world. I watched Italian news and who should be there but that great humanitarian, Hillary Clinton, being interviewed while all the commotion was going on with the medical people being overwhelmed by this tragedy. An Italian official remarked what was she doing there "fra le palle". This translates to what is she doing here tangled in our balls. Well, the American media was upset with the Italians, saying they were disrespectful. Well it was not the Italians who were trying to help the victims who were showing disrespect, but Hillary who was being disrespectful by being nothing but an opportunistic politician trying to cash in on this tragedy. God I love the Italians.

Jan. 10 2014 07:58 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Sometimes salty language can be entertaining. Example, some years back when the earthquake happened in Haiti, medical assistance arrived from all over the world. I watched Italian news and who should be there but that great humanitarian, Hillary Clinton, being interviewed while all the commotion was going on with the medical people being overwhelmed by this tragedy. An Italian official remarked what was she doing there "fra le palle". This translates to what is she doing here tangled in our balls. Well, the American media was upset with the Italians, saying they were disrespectful. Well it was not the Italians who were trying to help the victims who were showing disrespect, but Hillary who was being disrespectful by being nothing but an opportunistic politician trying to cash in on this tragedy. God I love the Italians.

Jan. 10 2014 07:58 AM
NudistSingle.net from adger

Nudism is NOT about seeing or being seen. It's about de-stressing, relaxing, and returning to innocence. It's about accepting yourself and others for who you are, how you act, and what you say, rather than what you look like, wear, or own.

Jan. 08 2014 08:27 PM
Stephen from Vail

As for operas one would wish to contemplate in the nude, isn't Salome an obvious choice? Speaking of Salome, and to answer Bernie's question, I saw Karita Mattila in the title role a few times several years ago and she looked just as good with her clothes off than she did with her clothes on.

Jan. 08 2014 04:02 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Happy New Year to you as well Carol.
Happy New Year to all. Great Music to all.

Jan. 08 2014 11:21 AM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

WQXR, I'm sorry to hear that the Showdown has been discontinued - I will miss it, but I look forward to whatever else you have planned for the future.

Jan. 08 2014 10:45 AM
WQXR

@Carol - the Showdown has been discontinued. But stay tuned for other fun interactive features in the weeks and months ahead...

Jan. 08 2014 10:18 AM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

Happy New Year Concetta! I don't know if this is worth starting a kerfuffle over, but I agree with you that I would rather not see many of these opera singers nude, and I certainly do not want to see an audience full of people in their birthday suits either!
This is off the subject, but where is the Showdown at High Noon today? Maybe we can start a kerfuffle over that!

Jan. 08 2014 09:45 AM
Concetta Nardone from Nassau

Mr. Furrer, very funny, opera buff-a. Thanks. We can all use a few laughs.

Jan. 08 2014 09:34 AM
Frank from UWS

OK, TMI, Dead Duck. I wouldn't mind seeing that soprano whose filling in for Netrebko in a nude production.

Jan. 08 2014 09:07 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

I do not think I would like to see any of the singing elephants naked. It is bad enough I have to look at some of them fully clothed. Oh, don't get your dander up on this. Opera is theatre. Celeste Aida, Forma Divina, means divine form. Two years ago, there was a blimp on stage as Aida.
Carol, if you are on page, can we start another kerfufel here. It is the new year and we do have to start somewhere.
Best wishes

Jan. 08 2014 07:37 AM
Gev Sweeney from The Jersey Shore

An audience of naturists ... The conductor will have to make sure the high Cs are coming form the stage ...

Jan. 08 2014 06:04 AM

Not specifically opera oriented, but I attended a performance of "Naked Boys Singing" where the audience was also naked. (We provided our own towels to sit on -- de rigeur for many nudist events.)

It gave new meaning to one of the songs, "With Nothing but the Radio On," which I often recall in the shower every morning, listening to WQXR.

DD~~

Jan. 07 2014 10:32 PM
Silversalty from Brookln

I think nudity is best left on the stage where it's professionally selected. Do you really want a gander at Monsieur Plotkin au naturel?

Another troll post. Please. If opera ain't interesting, dump it. Mario Bro Luigi don't cut it.

Jan. 07 2014 10:04 PM
Barry Owen Furrer

Dear Mr. Plotkin,
Thank you for yet another titilating article stating the bare facts so much so one cannot turn the other cheek. Also, does this qualify as opera buff-a?

Jan. 07 2014 06:34 PM
Bernie

The more intriguing question is: what opera singers would you like to see naked on stage? Any takers?

Jan. 07 2014 05:29 PM
Colline

A funny article, Fred. I think the nosebleeds would be the best place to sit given the typical ages there vs the premium seats… though it might be hard not to get distracted. As far as nude productions, I think Turandot is a must. Then we could see what all the fuss is about…. Of course, trouser roles would be difficult. (This might ignite the debate about looks vs pure vocal ability for singers again.)

Jan. 07 2014 02:57 PM
Ted Davidson

Either on stage or in the audience, there's safety in numbers. That's why it's easier to get Rhinemaidens and Flowermaidens to sing au naturel. Might work to block off the upper balcony as "clothing optional". And yes, the cost for the steam cleaning of the seats could be factored into the ticket price.

Jan. 07 2014 11:39 AM
dana from New York

Nudism is about being comfortable with your nude body and acceptance of your nude form.
Meet nudist friends on nudistfriendfinder.org

Jan. 07 2014 10:53 AM
Cara De Silva from New York City

This reminds me too much of newspaper articles I have read about laboratory tests done in New York theaters and New York taxis in which even clothed people (perhaps all wearing shorts?) have left traces of bacteria and more on the seats. So although I can imagine this experience, it is only while lying in a field somewhere, alone or with a beau, that I would undertake to participate in it. The combination of nature and nudity and opera could be extraordinary. But otherwise, no thank you--unless the producers provided not towels, which could shift, but seat covers that fastened and could then be thrown away or washed in machines full of vigorously agitated suds and scalding hot water.

My big takeaways from this are three: first, the image of the auditorium filled with nude attendees (which unfolds almost like a New Yorker cartoon in my head); Then the singers all performing in the nude, as well. And, finally, the notion of stockinged feet set on the floor to pick up the orchestral vibrations. Love the latter and will certainly be trying it. But not the rest, even should the possibility suddenly arise.

Jan. 07 2014 08:48 AM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

Every year in Paw Paw, West Virginia there is a large "clothing optional" folk festival. About a dozen years ago I won two tickets for it on a local radio station that played folk music on Saturday nights.
I had no intention of removing my clothing but wanted to hear a few old artists from the 1970' who were performing there.
When I arrived I was mortified, shocked and frankly scared, just one look around at aging hippies with no clothing made me and my friend run to our car and head out as fast as we could. Believe me even with a bad leg I ran as fast as I could, and laughed all the way home.
I would hate to think of the average crowd at a Metropolitan Opera performance running around without their clothing, a truly scary sight indeed.
I know heartburn can cause nightmares, but really Fred where did you get the idea for this post? Halloween is not for another ten months. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Jan. 07 2014 07:23 AM
Sanford Rothenberg from Brooklyn

This is certainly a topic worthy of heated discussion on a frigid day.There have been several small-scale presentations in naturist facilities where both performers and audience were nude.Schoenberg's "Moses und Aron" specifically lists 4 naked virgins in the cast of characters,and NYCO had nude performers in its production.Salome's dance of the seven veils lends itself to nudity,notably in performances by Maria Ewing,and Karita Mattila,as do the Rhinemaidens in "Das Rheingold", with nude singers at Bayreuth.There are stories of people being naked under blankets at outdoor performances,along with cases of (usually intoxicated)individuals removing articles of clothing in opera houses."The Snow Maiden"by Rimsky-Korsakov could possibly be a choice for the hardiest opera-going nudists.

Jan. 07 2014 03:54 AM

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