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The Druid Way

Opera, Nakedness & Generosity

November 20th, 2008

ROH calendarArguably the the three most important things in the world – the capacity to be magnanimous, generous, charitable; the sublime experience of Opera; and the equally sublime experience of nakedness that celebrates the gift of our form in the natural world – have come together under the auspices of London’s Royal Opera House. They have produced a charity calendar for 2009 that depicts opera singers and musicians in the nude in sumptuous surroundings.

If you have had the misfortune to sit in the Upper Circle of the English National Opera House in the summer you will know of the overwhelming desire you might have had to rip your clothes off – such is the poor quality of the ventilation. Rather than spending thousands on new environmentally-unfriendly air-conditioning why don’t we lobby ENO for ‘Opera in the Buff nights’?

Your dilemma over what to give Great Aunt Griselda for Christmas is solved. Just click here and order a calendar for her. It’s only £10 and you will be supporting the Macmillan Cancer Appeal.

23 Responses to “Opera, Nakedness & Generosity”

  1. Those photos look lovely!

    Maybe not quite the thing to hang in the kitchen as the family calendar though.

    Or is that me demonstrating my prejudices against nakedness?!

    Certainly worth a tenner 🙂


  2. My goodness! Opera is looking extremely athletic these days! That six pack didn’t come from diaphragmatic breathing alone you know! Where do they find the time?!

    I am really liking the ‘In The Buff’ series; first shopping, now opera – this could run and run…

    Being a great aunt (a very young one I may add!) to four, my Christmas is looking up.

  3. Philip,
    I must say I love reading about your love of nakedness and your joy in the word itself. People often try to pretty it up with the more acceptable use of ‘the nude’ but naked is real. Of your three most important things in the world, it is only the opera that I cannot yet agree with you, only because I have not experienced it myself. Generous naked souls though are very important indeed!

  4. The two photos shown from the calendar here are terrific, and there is a natural inclination to like to look at well-sculpted bodies BUT I fear that the more these “body-beautiful” photos are disseminated, the more ordinary people will go, “Why would I want to display my fat, ugly, misshapen bodies – these are beautiful bodies that people enjoy looking at, people would be horrified if I inflicted my imperfections on them.” I hope some of the other photos in the calendar are of people with more ordinary bodies.

    I think it’s the thing about appearances, isn’t it? You think you are being judged by those around you, and sometimes you are. That’s what’s great about naturist beaches, and I expect camps and resorts though I’ve not been to one – seeing the mass of naked people puts your own imperfections into perspetive. If all we see are finely tuned bodies then we will never accept ourselves as we are.

    Opera in the buff? I’d go 😀

  5. Paul that’s exactly what Annie told me she was wanting to get at in her comment. I don’t know what the other people in the calendar look like, but I hope they are not all ‘perfect’. What made ‘Calendar Girls’ such a success – and why it has become a craze to produce naked charity calendars – is precisely your point that it includes all types. I’ll see if they want to do a charity calendar in the office! On a cold day like today the thought is chilling rather than thrilling!

  6. The postman has arrived with my Christmas shopping. I am happy to report that the calendar features all sorts of body types – including someone who is pregnant. It’s a triumph of good taste erring perhaps too far on the side of caution so that drapery is a little over-used. It’s funny how we are still coy in this day and age…but what it does mean is that you can hang this in the kitchen if you live in a reasonably liberal household. It’s interesting to note how many people involved in opera have tattoos…

  7. Mmm it’s all very complex. Can I look forward to your idea for an Oak Tree Press unclothed calendar being broached at our next meeting?

  8. It is easy to compare and find oneself wanting – I think the very restricted images of the perfect body – as dictated by our culture – do encourage a great deal of self-loathing and body hating. I have certainly been guilty of this – still am on occassion.

    And yet I know that my idea of what is beautiful covers an incredibly wide spectrum. In reality, when we are confronted with a real naked human being, not a two dimensional image, our understanding of beauty is much more expansive.

    Nakedness is so much more than a constructed image; our perception of beauty is much more complex.

  9. I have water-colour paintings of naked figures in my bedroom, I think they’re art.

    But where is the line between nakedness/nudity and pornography, I wonder.

    Is it the intention behind the image that makes it pornography? I’m not sure. I like to look at beautifully painted nudes in art galleries and museums….but I’m sure that at last some of these were probably printed as porn? 🙂


  10. Not in the slightest Alison! The Patrons of the Royal Opera House and MacMillan Cancer Support wouldn’t allow anything that could be construed as such to be issued in their name. I’ve got the calendar now and can assure you that they are all very ‘tasteful’ if that’s the right word!

  11. For me, I think a pornagraphic image is one that distances and dehumanises. Pornographic images don’t have to be nude to be pornographic. Our culture has a very strange attitude towards the naked body. We seem deeply confused and neurotic about it, still having quite strong taboos, and yet using the naked, or near-naked body (mostly female) to sell things, endlessly. I would say that the use of the body in advertising is quite often pornagraphic because it shows us diddly squat about the person who is being photographed. The body becomes a cipher, something merely to project our fantasies upon. For me, good, naked images, speak of the whole person, say something about their humanity. I am not saying that such images have to be merely earnest, they can be fun too, even sexy.

    I understand exactly what Paul is saying, and it got me thinking about how we judge ‘imperfections’. The aesthetic around the ‘body beautiful’ borders on fascistic. It’s horribly bullying and we are encouraged to internalise these notions, and judge ourselves accordingly. I have some very beautiful female friends in their forties and fifties, who are struggling with aging at the moment. As a woman (and increasingly for men too) our culture implies that aging and beauty are incompatible. Many women say that they start to feel invisible as they age. It makes me incredibly sad that my friends cannot see how beautiful they are because of what our culture reflects back to them. If we told our children they were ‘ugly’ and ‘imperfect’ we would be considered dysfunctional and cruel parents, and yet our cultural norms encourage us to inflict this cruelty upon ourselves. We need a new aesthetic, one that has widened its focus, that honours the beauty of the naked body, celebrates diversity, applauds the amazing process of aging.

    I feel very sad that full frontal nudity is such an issue (actually particularly male full frontal – hasn’t there actually been attempts to make it illegal?). I can understand that context is important but even then, the way we deal with these things at present, feels quite unhealthy.

    Time to get that office calendar going Philip! :0)

  12. I agree Maria – the reason nakedness as a theme is so important, I think, is because it helps to clarify our feelings about honesty, authenticity, simplicity, naturalness and even the idea of ‘enough’.
    Why are we not ‘enough’ as we are? Why am I only accepted, admired, approved of, indeed ‘legal’ if I have to be ‘added to’ by clothing? It really is most peculiar when you come to think of it.
    And why as we get older and our bodies change is that not acceptable either? The “Yuk – I’d rather they kept it to themselves” attitude is so deeply offensive.
    In Dzogchen Buddhism they speak about ‘naked awareness’ – the idea that one lets go of attachments to the ‘clothing’ of the mind and heart to stand or sit in just beingness. The outer reflection of this inner state is to simply be naked, if embodying inner states is what you feel moved to do. That after all is what ritual often is – acting out or embodying states or inner realities.
    As regards full frontal nudity I find the hiding of parts of the body simply silly (as if somehow by hiding it we can pretend it doesn’t exist) and also offensive again – as if all of me is ok except one small (!) part of me which is not ok. That’s actually the problem for me with the Royal Opera calendar. Each model has a bit of them that is not ok and we can’t see. There’s a lot of drapery in the calendar, so it all looks a bit coy. And as you say Maria all that feels rather unhealthy.
    I’ll try my best to persuade everyone in the office to make a stand for these noble principles!

  13. I think what lies beneath all this is our culture’s attitudes towards sex. We hide those particular parts of the body because we have ascribed to them the most ‘power’. However, we don’t seem to view this ‘power’ positively as a joyous or sacred thing – there seems to be a great deal of fear around it and so those obvious physical symbols need to be controlled and censored, as if all hell would let lose if they weren’t.

    I find this really weird because it shows how narrow our focus is. How can we reduse sex to merely our genitals? Is not the entire body (and hopefully being) involved? Do we really believe that these taboo parts of us are the only bits that hold erotic and sexual power?

    There is certainly a big difference in the way full frontal female and male nudity is assessed and treated. I don’t like to be essentialist about these things; culture is a powerful influence and I get very depressed when folks get all ‘Desmond Morris’ and start talking about ‘human nature’ (whatever that is), like it just ‘is’ and can’t be changed. Trying to steer away from any essentialist interpretation here – with cultural shaping more in mind – when talking to female friends, I get a sense that the erotic power of the body (bearing in mind that it seems to be this that our culture wants to control) is perceived as being much more expansive and inclusive, than my male friends. I had a female friend driven to distraction by a man’s naked ankles (he was in her Yoga class)! As far as I know, we don’t get moral panics about men’s naked ankles, but a naked penis (heaven forbid erect!) and there’s uproar! My male friends seem to focus more on very specific parts, i.e. breasts, bums and genitals (I hope I am not being unfair to men here). Perhaps this is the problem. We have culturally narrowed our focus on the things we perceive as being sexually powerful, and in doing so, dissected our own bodies and psyches, causing us to be somewhat fractured in our attitudes to sex. As a result, our attitudes to nakedness suffer also.

    A man’s penis is beautiful and has erotic power(erect or otherwise), but then so does his arms, hands, neck…all of him; a women’s breasts, backside and genitals are beautiful and have erotic power, but then so does her back, feet,belly…All of her. What we chose to hide says a great deal about the complex relationships we have with ourselves and each other; about the extraordinary hypocrisy and dishonesty that resides in our culture’s attutudes to sex and gender roles.

    I’m with you on this Philip. I think our attitudes towards nakedness are very important. If we address this issue, then we find that so many others issues are connected to it.

  14. Ha! Thanks for letting me know that I was missing an important nude-opera event. That explains some of the “ROH 2008 nude” searches I’ve got hits from off google.

  15. Public nudity isn’t for everyone . . . I think that’s why some sections of our body are called “privates.”

    I’m a bit worried about my recent decision to study Druidry if this theme is so recurring in our Chosen Chief’s blogs.

    Beautiful clothing speaks much louder about the Mysteries of Life than being exposed, literally, to a stranger’s genitals….

    • Hi – I agree with you that public nudity isn’t for everyone, but the reason why nakedness is a theme on this blog is because I have been researching the concept of nakedness for the last few years for a book which is being published in April, details of which can be found here:
      This book is a serious attempt to explore the deeper philosophical and psychological issues in relationship to the subject and the first third of the book deals with it in relation to religion, the second third in politics and the third in popular culture.
      In addition it is important to realize that this site is not an ‘official’ Chosen Chief’s site or Druid site, but is an informal blog (see ‘About’ section which clarifies its purpose.)
      To really ‘get’ where my interest in nakedness is coming from please see the post ‘Nakedness and our ability to Share intimacy’:

  16. I’m sorry for misunderstanding, Philip. It’s after hitting “submit” that one often thinks, “hmmm, maybe I took this out of context.” And of course, I did. So mark my original comment as a prime example of why your book is needed in the market place. Please accept my apologies; and kind readers, forgive my interference in your discussion.

  17. Hi Ocean,
    Thank you for your understanding. It is a really difficult subject to approach because so many people have suffered at the hands of inappropriate behaviour, and sex (and hence nakedness) is a very charged subject, but much of this suffering has come (so ironically) from people who argue that these things must be hidden or denied (all the recent prosecutions of Catholic clergy a prime example) that it seems the best approach is to attempt to uncover these ‘private’ domains. I hope the book will go some way to help in this way. But thank you for bringing up this issue – because this subject is a sensitive and controversial one and all views on it needs airing!

  18. It really helps to be thin. Here at the Centre for Situational Agronomy we have taken many naked pictures of ourselves and they are more comical than alluring!

  19. Comical can be alluring – it is said that women are attracted to men that make them laugh! :0)

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