Tom Austin of the Miami Herald wrote about Dmitri Hvorostovsky - "billed as the 'Elvis of opera' by Elle and 'opera's reigning hunk' in W." In the same article Hvorostovsky comments about bearing flesh, "Actually, I'm all for it, since I've posed topless -- took my shirt off anyway -- for the cover of a new pop album of Russian songs we shot in Kiev...The times dictate the fashions, and opera is part of the same media game as pop music." The article continues to speak about the attraction Hvorostovsky has on the audience, with an 80% female audience in Tokyo.
The article also mentions Lara St John who did a topless album cover, although the violin was covering her more than most women's appearal does now days. Last May, Sarah Hicks posted on the Inside the Classics a bit about the Lara cover and about Miley Cyrus and the uproar about her photos appearing in Vanity Fair. Of course, much of the anxiety of Miley's photos was the tarnishing of Disney's "family" image - although, if you'll follow the link to Sarah's article you'll see the photo is nothing even close to what Britney Spears or Scarlett Johanssohn have done for similar magazines.
Perhaps Classical music and the performers of it should be a "cut above" the tabloid press. However, in a world driven by marketing and media exposure, exposing a little bit for the press, or displaying some "flesh" for the audience is getting the attention turning this exposure into profits. Dmitri Hvorostovsky has an extremely active schedule and Lara St John is among the top of her field in terms of box office draw. Previously I've mentioned other classical stars who've taken with getting a bit of attention by showing they are not only top performers, but good looking as well.
Do they have anything to be ashamed of? None of these performers is lip syncing to their performances (ref: Ms Spears) and the reviews of their performances continue to remark on the quality. So, No, they have nothing to be ashamed of - rather to be proud of. They can perform AND look good AND are getting the attention of people who might not look their way. For those that think that classical music is all about old, stuffy and out of date, let's show we have some beautiful people performing beautiful music. What a perfect combination.