Monday, March 18, 2019

Baritone Robin Adams makes house debut at Staatsoper Stuttgart

Robin Adams (Image from Staatsoper Stuttgart)

Baritone Robin Adams made his debut yesterday at the Staatsoper Stuttgart in the title role of Henze’s opera Der Prinz von Homburg.

The initial impetus for Henze’s Der Prinz von Homburg came from Italian director, Luchino Visconti, with whom the composer had worked with on the ballet Maratona di Danza in 1957. Henze asked Ingeborg Bachmann to adapt the libretto from Heinrich von Kleist’s play, Prinz Friedrich von Homburg oder die Schlacht bei Fehrbellin and the opera was premiered on May 22, 1960 in Hamburg. The text shows Henze's strong personal dislike of German militarism.

The opera begins with the eponymous Prince of Homburg who, having been distracted by a daydream before a major battle, misses the field marshal’s briefing and risks the army’s victory when he leads his troops into the fight. The battle is won nonetheless, but the prince is sentenced to death for disregarding orders. Der Prinz von Homburg explores the prince’s struggle with guilt and reconciliation, as well as the justice or injustice of his sentence.

Performance will run until May 4th and tickets and cast information is available online.

Henzes's operas can be seen at three other houses this year. Beginning in May with Der junge Lord at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz in Munich and his final opera Phaedra at the Royal Opera House in London featuring the Jette Parker Young Artists. In July, a new production of the Elegy for Young Lovers will open at Theater Aachen.

Vittorio Prato to make role and house debut in Hamburg

Vittorio Prato (Photo from artist's website)
Vittorio Prato will make both his role debut and house debut when he steps on the stage this week at the Hamburg State Opera.

He'll be singing the role of Lescaut in Puccini's opera Manon Lescaut, led by the stunning soprano Kristine Opolais in the title role and tenor Jorge de León as Des Grieux. Performance are on March 21 and 29 and tickets are available online.

Puccini's libretto is an amalgam of text by five different librettists whom Puccini employed, including the composer Ruggero Leoncavallo, as well as Marco Praga, Giuseppe Giacosa, Domenico Oliva and Luigi Illica. The opera was composed between 1890 and 1893 and is based on the 1731 novel L'histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost. It was the composer's third opera and his first big success.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Damien Pass in "Jakob Lenz" at Festival le Balcon

Damien Pass
Australian barihunk Damien Pass (whose birthday is today), is taking on the role of Oberlin in Wolfgang Rihm's one act chamber opera Jakob Lenz at the Festival le Balcon at the Athénée Théâtre Louis-Jouvet in Paris. The title role is being sung by Vincent Vantyghem, as regular with Maxime Pascal’s contemporary Ensemble Le Balcon. Vantyghem has also sung the role at the Dialogues Festival in Salzburg. 

The opera runs through March 29th and tickets are available online

The opera was first performed at the Hamburg Staatsoper in 1979 with the late English baritone Richard Salter in the title role. It has subsequently been performed at the Wiener Festwochen and at Oper Stuttgart with Georg Nigl, Teatro Comunale di Bolgna with Tomas Möwes, Theater Bielefeld with Evgueniy Alexiev and at the English National Opera with Andrew Shore. 

The opera Jakob Lenz is based on the novella "Lenz" by Georg Büchner which deals with an incident in the life of the German poet. Lenz, who along with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, formed the “Sturm und Drang” (Storm and Stress) movement in German literature which made German authors the cultural leaders of Europe during the 18th century. 

Jakob Lenz at the Athénée Théâtre (Photo: © Le Balcon)

The source of Büchner's material comes from the diaries of the social reformer and priest Johann Friedrich Oberlin, which detail the activities of his house guest, who was clearly suffering from mental illness at the time.  The suicidal poet stayed with Oberlin in a small village in the Vosges Mountains near the German-French border in the hope of recovering from his depression.

Büchner's opening pages describing the mountain landscape and hinting at Lenz's inner state with the single sentence "he did not feel at all tired, only it sometimes annoyed him that he could not walk on his hands instead of his feet" are reduced to a stage direction, but the rest of the libretto roughly follows Büchner's outline. A key element of the libretto deals with his trauma around the death of a small child whom was he was unable to resuscitate.

At the end of Lenz's life he lived with Goethe's brother-in-law, Johann Georg Schlosser, where he lived in poverty.  After years of increasingly poor physical health and debilitating mental problems, Lenz died on the streets of Moscow 1792.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Cody Quattlebaum to premiere new edition of Handel's Brockes Passion

Cody Quattlebaum
Bass-barihunk Cody Quattlebaum will perform the role of Christus with The Academy of Ancient Music in a performance recording of Handel’s Brockes Passion. The project is the culmination of several years of scholarly research, setting Handel’s Passion as the composer intended, featuring previously unheard music and instrumentation. 

The restored version reinstates the first 63 ‘missing’ bars, brings in additional instruments, and showcases choruses and other numbers omitted from some editions.

Led by Richard Egarr, The Academy of Ancient Music will premiere the new edition at the Barbican Centre in London on Good Friday, April 19th, which is the 300th anniversary of the work’s premiere. The rest of the cast includes Robert Murray as the Evangelist), Elizabeth Watts as the Daughter of Zion, Ruby Hughes as the Believing Soul, Tim Mead as Judas and Gwilym Bowen as Peter.

Cody Quattlebaum sings "Deh vieni alla finestra":

The text of Brockes Passion is based on text by the German poet Barthold Heinrich Brockes, which has been set to music by numerous composers, including Georg Philipp Telemann. It is not known exactly why or when Handel set the text of the Brockes Passion, but the work was performed in Hamburg in 1719.

The performance will be recorded for release on AAM Records later in the year.

This season at the Dutch National Opera, Quattlebaum will perform Bruno Zirato in Hamel's Caruso a Cuba and Zuniga in Bizet's Carmen.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Ryan McKinny featured in world premiere of Rilke Songs

Ryan McKinny (Photo from artist website)
Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas will mark his 25th and final season as the San Francisco Symphony’s music director with a schedule that includes newly commissioned works by John Adams, Julia Wolfe, Adam Schoenberg and the composer/conductor himself.

Bass-barihunk Ryan McKinny will be featured along with mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke in the world premiere of Tilson Thomas' composition, "Rilke Songs," a musical setting of lyric poems by German modernist poet Rainer Maria Rilke. A number of composers have set Rilke texts to music, including Alban Berg, Paul Hindemith, Anton Webern, Arnold Schoenberg and Peter Lieberson.

Tilson Thomas has been an active composer throughout his career  He has set the texts of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Anne Frank. Other compositions include Street Song for brass instruments and Agnegram, an overture for orchestra.

Performances run from January 9-12 and tickets and additional concert information is available online.

Ryan McKinny can currently be seen in the European premiere of John Adams' "Girls of the Golden West" at the Dutch National Opera

Four low male voices advance to Met Semifinals

Hubert Zapiór and William Guanbo Su
Twenty-one young opera singers who have won regional auditions around the United States will compete in the semifinal round of the country's leading vocal competition, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, on Sunday, March 24.

The 2019 semifinalists include two baritones, one bass-baritone, one bass, nine sopranos, three mezzo-sopranos and five tenors.

The two baritone semifinalists are Thomas Glass (Rocky Mountain Region: Edina, Minnesota) and Hubert Zapiór (Eastern Region: Brzesko, Poland).  The bass-baritone semifinalist is Nicholas Newton (Western Region: San Diego, California).  The bass is William Guanbo Su (Eastern Region: New York, New York).

The closed semifinal competition, held on the Met stage before a panel of judges, will determine the select group of finalists who will advance to the final round of the competition-the Grand Finals, which is open to the public and will be held on the Met stage on Sunday, March 31.

William Guanbo Su sings Rossini's La calunnia:

The finalists who advance to the Grand Finals will have a week of training with Met musical and dramatic coaches to prepare for the Grand Finals Concert on March 31. Each finalist will sing two arias on the Met stage with conductor Carlo Rizzi leading the Met Orchestra. Bass-barihunk Christian Van Horn, who was a Grand Finals winner in 2003, will perform for the audience while the judges deliberate to decide the Grand Finals winners. Following the performance, the winners will be announced, each of whom will receive a cash prize of $15,000 and career-making exposure. 

Other singers who advanced are Sylvia D'Eramo, Monica Dewey, Meryl Dominguez, Anna Dugan, Alaysha Fox, Mary Hoskins, Meghan Kasanders, Murrella Parton, Elena Villalón, Abigail Dock, Camille Sherman, Michaela Wolz, Piotr Buszewski, Dashuai Chen, Anthony Ciaramitaro, Miles Mykkanen and Joshua Lee Wheeker.

Tickets for the Grand Finals Concert are on sale now and may be purchased at the Met Box Office, by phone at (212) 362-6000, or online.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Trio of low male voices in UK staged premiere of Smetena's Libuše

James Quilligan (Photo: Twitter @JamesQuilligan)
Regular readers (with a long memory) might recall our post in 2015 about the first barihunk sextet to be featured in a professional production. British barihunk James Quilligan was part of that cast and now he's featured with a trio of male low voices in the the British staged premiere of Smetana's 1872 masterpiece Libuše.

The U.K. debut of Libuše will debut take place on March 18th with the University College Opera. Joining Quilligan as Chrudos, will be British baritone Robert Davies as Libuše's husband Přemysl and Scottish baritone John Mackenzie as Lutobor. Joining the men will be Kirstin Sharpin as the queen Libuše and Eve Daniell as Krasava. The opera is directed by Cecilia Stinton. Additional performances are on March 20, 22 and 23 and tickets are available online.

Premysl's aria and quartet from Libuše:

In Czech historical myth, Libuše, the title character, prophesied the founding of Prague. In the current production, Smetana's Bohemian queen and her medieval court reside in a modern-day city, where soaring skyscrapers promise glamour and wealth at a human cost.

The opera was composed in 1871–72 for the coronation of Franz Josef as King of Bohemia, but was not performed. The opera was finally premiered nine years later at the National Theatre in Prague. After a fire destroyed the theater, the opera was performed at the reopening in 1883. The current production is being performed to celebrate the refurbishing and reopening of the 541-seat Bloomsbury Theatre, marking the University College Opera's return to its home after three years away performing at the Theatre Royal Stratford East.