The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music poll: For sexy, how does baritone Nathan Gunn’s bare-chested and beefcake opera singing compare with Yuja Wang’s micro-skirt piano playing?

August 27, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

The enormous brouhaha over pianist Yuja Wang’s micro-skirt (below) when she played Rachmaninoff’s titanic and difficult Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the Hollywood Bowl recently continues unabated, judging by all the hits the posting received on this blog and by other follow-up stories and columns:,0,4569255.story

Wang’s critics are adamant that such revealing concert attire is or can be a distraction from the music, and that it is more a marketing and PR ploy than a genuine expression of taste and artistry.

Wang’s defenders are no less adamant is proclaiming that it is perfectly acceptable and maybe even desirable that attractive young women should be able to dress as they want in performance without being the target of outrageous and sexist criticism, especially if such attire doesn’t interfere with the performance of the music.

The Ear found himself thinking: Is there a male equivalent or comparable besides, say, Liberace’s infamous and cheesy hot pants?

The closest equivalent I could come up with is the penchant for the popular young baritone and opera star Nathan Gunn – himself a looker – to keep revealing his well-built and obviously pumped up physique, especially his chest.

Check out Nathan Gunn over the past several years in these various roles:

Here is Nathan Gunn in Tobias Picker’s “An American Tragedy”:

And here he is in Benjamin Britten’s operatic version of Herman Melville’s homoerotic classic “Billy Budd”:

And here is again in Georges Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers”:

Has anyone or any major critic accused Nathan Gunn of Rated X or R gratuitous bad taste because of his penchant for beefcake singing and showing off his six-pack abs?

Not that I know of. Still, the possibility must be on somebody’s mind.

Here is The New York Times’ chief critic Anthony Tommasini defending Gunn and proclaiming: “And he sings well with his shirt on too!”

But is he protesting too much? as some might say. I think it is a simply news peg question, but you be the judge.

And here is another critic’s ruminations — along with a photo gallery of Gun shirted and unshirted — on Gunn’s bare and beautiful chest:

What do you think?

Is there any applicable comparison to be made between baritone Nathan Gunn’s shirtless singing and Yuja Wang’s leggy piano playing?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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