The Naked Shit Songs (2017)

A reconstruction of an interview from 1996
by Theo van Gogh and Gilbert & George,
presented as : Opera.

This complete interview is being sung,
in very understandable tunes: “Art for All
according to Gilbert & George’s philosophy.

“Art has to be provocative.”
(Even taxidrivers from London should be able to sing along.)

Part from the opera: The Naked Shit Songs  (scene V, part 7 and 8) :

+ lyrics :
7. … driven forward by fear. Like everyone.
Yes. We are very much, I think we, have a lot to do with fear. A lot to do with fear.
What what is your biggest fear?
Every single day it’s fear.
Fear. Fear. We never said we were happy, whoever said that
I said
He said
I said
We never met anyone more miserable than ourselves
To be honest, that’s true.
So you should commit suicide with the two of you.
No. We’re not so, we’re not so japanese.
Ha ha ha ha ha
So, what do you have to conquer when you wake up every day? What’s so scary about life? Tell me.
What’s so scary about life?
It’s it’s a terror.
It’s a terror.
What’s a terror?
Every part of one, every inner part of one. Everything is a terror.
Because it always can be attacked?
Yes. We’re totally…
8. under attack every day.
As an artist you’re under attack every day. Because you’re trying to do something new.
And at the moment you’re trying to do something new, you’re under attack.
If you are, maybe our what it called middle-class artists, there isn’t, doing Good art then we probably would not be under attack.
Mm mm
So what what what the biggest terror for you is eh cliché ideas
Yes, we we want to rise to the expectations of the viewer.
They they exp…the spectator of the pictures deserves enormous treatment we believe.
But don’t you think
Yes but we only we always want to be outside. We don’t want to be in someway.
We don’t want all our friends say: “aaah wonderful wonderful wonderful”, nah
We don’t want that. Yeah, running away from that all the time.
mm mm
Cause we, we want to be…

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photo © Bowie Verschuuren

Only one bass-theme is being repeated throughout the complete opera,
sometimes upside down, sometimes in ‘mirror’.


Xander van Vledder (actor) as Theo van Gogh
Christopher Robson (countertenor) as Gilbert
Nigel Robson (tenor) as George

Kristján Martinsson – repetitor, keyboards/flute
Wiek Hijmans – electric guitar
Onno Govaert – drums
Tim Sabel – piano
Vasilis Stefanopoulos – double bass
additional choir:
GALA-koor o.l.v. Yt Nicolai
reART Wereldmuziek Koor o.l.v. Selim Doğru
Jasper Hupkens
pre-recorded choir : NKK olv Peter Dijkstra
pre-recorded: trio Escapada (Emma Breedveld, Bence Huszar, Sebastiaan van Delft)

Huba de Graaff – composer – artistic director
Marien Jongewaard – direction
Erik-Ward Geerlings – dramaturgy

Photo © Bowie Verschuuren
Photo © Janiek Dam
premiere June 22 – 2017 Holland Festival ©Janiek Dam

stage design – Juul Dekker
lightdesgn – Wilfred Loopstra
costumes – Bernadette Corstens
ass. costumes – Siebe ten Dam
sound design – Vid Ahacic
video design – Willem Weemhoff
voorstellingsleider – Janneke Lindner
technical coördinator- Huub Mars
subtitling arabic – Bakhcha Mohammed
graphic design- Emmy Visser
production: Geertje Spaan

managing director Britt Verstegen
31 (0)6 4577 8047 

publiciteit Lonneke van Eden – bureau tamtam 
31 (0)6  290 30 776

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data:  do 22, vr 23 juni 2017 Holland Festival
location:  Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam, Rabozaal
duration: 1’40 , no pause
language: English with Dutch – English – Arabic subtitles

Touring : 2019

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de ‘Groene Amsterdammer’:
“Most surprising at the Holland Festival was the new opera from Huba de Graaff  ….”
“…. outstandingly sung by the  Scottish brothers Nigel en Christopher Robson ….”

****Parool: “… intelligent, surprising compositions by De Graaff …, excellent performance  by cast and musicians.”

NRC:“… from ‘a nice conversation’ to enthralling musictheatre. Actor Xander van Vledder as Theo van Gogh : messy, cheerful, impatient, sharp, with sense of humor and absurdity. (…)
…the end: shocking and well timed…”
“….Gilbert & George : beautiful acting/singing roles of brothers Christopher en Nigel Robson…”

Theodor Holman – Parool : “Als u vanavond naar de Schouwburg kunt, ga kijken. Van Gogh als onderdeel, bijna de hoofdrol, in een opera. …”

****Theaterkrant: “… de opbouw van de muziek, die naar een exuberant crescendo toewerkt…”
“…‘Art has to be provocative’, as Gilbert & George are saying.
The Naked Shit Songs succeeds.”

interview VPRO-gids
interview cultuurpers
interview Christopher Robson – BBC4
interview Telegraaf
interview Theatermakers (radio) with Erik-Ward Geerlings: part1
part 2part 3part 4part 5
interview Huba Parool
Artikel NRC
interview VPRO-television
recensie Theaterkrant ****
recensie Parool ****
interview Huba de Graaff VK
column Theodor Holman
artikel over HF – De Groene Amsterdammer
HF video interview Nigel & Christopher Robson
HF video interview Xander van Vledder
HF video interview Huba de Graaff with Thea Derks

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Theo van Gogh interviews Gilbert & George in 1996

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The Naked Shit Songs
a retropera

The opera is a reconstruction of an interview by Theo van Gogh – murdered in 2004 – with the british artist duo Gilbert & George. The complete interview is being sung.

During this interview the three men talk freely about religion, homosexuality, racism, money, death, and above all: about tolerance and love.
By singing the interview (including laughter and stuttering) the meaning and content of all words are highlighted.

‘We believe in democratic pictures. That a child can see them and understand in some level, and a person of ninety.’ This is what Gilbert & George said to Theo van Gogh in 1996. Van Gogh spoke to the artist duo in his legendary programme Een Prettig Gesprek (A Nice Chat) at the time of The Naked Shit Pictures exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum. Huba de Graaff, composer of Apera (about the origin of singing) and Pornopera (about the art of moaning), used the interview as libretto. Directed by Marien Jongewaard, actor Xander van Vledder as Theo van Gogh, Nigel Robson and Christopher Robson as Gilbert & George, and a choir sing this ‘retropera’ – about art, sex and religion, Muslims, tolerance, love and death.


1996, it seems so long ago.
People were drinking wine and smoking cigarettes on television, meanwhile discussing everything, frankly.
About gay people, about muslim people, about art, about Christian values, about money, shit, and about love, tolerance and death.
These spoken words are all very impressive, and are emphasized by singing. (Hahaha and hehehehe too.)
Moreover, we know what happened to Theo van Gogh in 2004.

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Een Prettig Gesprek van Theo van Gogh met Gilbert & George is een programma van Theo van Gogh, Olivier Jansen en René van Praag (c) 1989-2017 TVAmsterdam/RVP Produkties, Amsterdam’.
photography London: Chris Gloag / Britt Verstegen
Many thanks to Jan Elbertse, who came up with the VHS-tape from 1996

co-production  Nieuw West / Marien Jongewaard

managing director Britt Verstegen

production Geertje Spaan

publiciteit Lonneke van Eden – bureau tamtam


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