Monday, May 20, 2019

Edwin Crossley-Mercer in first performance of Hippolyte et Aricie in Zurich

Edwin Crossley-Mercer in Hippolyte et Aricie (Photo: T+T Fotografie)
Barihunk Edwin Crossley-Mercer performed Thésée in the first performance of Jean-Philippe Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie at the Zurich Opera House last night, which was conducted by 18th-century French music expert Emmanuelle Haïm. They were joined by Stéphanie d’Oustrac  as Phèdre, Cyrille Dubois as Hippolyte and Mélissa Petit as Aricie.

There are additional performances of this French Baroque rarity on May 22, 24 and 30, and June 2, 7 and 14. Tickets and additional cast information is available online.




Jean-Philippe Rameau was 50 years old when he staged his first opera, Hippolyte et Aricie, in 1733. There was little in his life to suggest he was about to embark on a major new career as an opera composer. He was famous for his works on music theory as well as books of harpsichord pieces. The closest he had come to writing dramatic music was composing a few secular cantatas and some popular pieces for the Paris fairs

As the most important musical theorist of his day, Rameau created a work that far surpassed the conventions of French musical theatre of the time. The French libretto, by Abbé Simon-Joseph Pellegrin, is based on Racine's tragedy Phèdre. The opera takes the traditional form of a tragédie en musique with an allegorical prologue followed by five acts.

After a performance at the Paris Opéra in 1767, the work disappeared from the stage until the 20th century. The first modern performance took place in Geneva in March 1903 and returned to Paris in 1908. More recent performances include Aix-en-Provence in 1983, Lyon in 1984, the Opéra Comique in Paris in 1985, Lausanne in 1987, Versailles, in 1994, Palais Garnier in Paris in 1996 and Glyndebourne in 2013.

American audiences will be thrilled to know that Edwin Crossley-Mercer will appear at Carnegie Hall on June 24th (keep an eye out for an upcoming post with all the details)!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Fabio Lesuisse sings in Dido & Aeneas (and models for ad)

Barihunk Fabio Lesuisse and mezzo Rina Hirayama (Photo: Theater Aachen)
Germany's Theater Aachen near the Belgian border managed to get our attention with their gorgeous poster for Purcell's Dido & Aeneas. The shirtless model happens to be Belgian barihunk Fabio Lesuisse, who is making his role debut as Aeneas in the opera. The work will premiere on June 23, with additional shows on June 29 and July 5. The company is partnering with the School for Music and Dance in Cologne for this production. (Frustratingly, the Theater Aachen website does not list cast members for the show, but you can find them at the School for Music and Dance in Cologne website). Tickets are available online.

Purcell's Dido & Aeneas is based on Book IV of Virgil's Aeneid. It recounts the love of Dido, Queen of Carthage, for the Trojan hero Aeneas, and her despair when he abandons her. A monumental work in Baroque opera, Dido & Aeneas is remembered as one of Purcell's foremost theatrical works.

Belgian barihunk Fabio Lesuisse is a graduate of the Cologne University of Music and First Prize winner at the 2015 Bach Competition in Barcelona, Spain.

He is currently a guest artist at the Theater Aachen in Germany, where this season he has also performed Mercutio in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette and Junior in Bernstein's A Quiet Place.

He has performed the title role in T.J. Hermann's Hamlet at the Theater Dortmund, as well as numerous roles at Oper Bonn, including Morales in Bizet's Carmen, Ned Keene in Britten's Peter Grimes, Marco in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi and Ramiro in Ravel's L'heure Espagnole.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Barihunk Duo Touring Agrippina with Joyce DiDonato

Luca Pisaroni, Joyce DiDonato and Andrea Mastroni
Barihunk Luca Pisaroni and bass-barihunk Andrea Mastroni are hitting the road with "honorary barihunk" Joyce DiDonato in Handel's Agrippina.

Pisaroni is singing Claudio, Mastroni is taking on Pallante and DiDonato is singing the title role. Also in the cast are Elsa Benoit as Poppea, Franco Fagioli as Nerone, Xavier Sabata as Ottone, Carlo Vistoli as Narciso and Biago Pizzuti as Lesbo.

The opera opened yesterday at the Philharmonie Luxembourg and now heads to the Teatro Real in Madrid on May 16, The Liceu in Barcelona on May 18, the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris on May 29, London's Barbican Centre on May 31 and the Turku Concert Hall on June 2.

Rising mezzo star Samantha Hankey will sing the title role on the final stop of the tour in Turku and countertneor Jakub Józef Orliński will take over as Narciso.

Barihunk Damien Pass sings and (strips for) the aria "La mia sorte":

In 1707-1708, Agrippina gave the young Handel his big chance to establish his reputation as an opera composer in Italy. The commission came from the famous Teatro San Giovanni Crisostomo in Venice, which was funded by the influential Grimani family. The Venetians were extremely demanding when it came to music, but Handel succeeded in creating a wise, gripping and entertaining opera on the basis of the humorous libretto about lust for power and sexual desires in Ancient Rome. The success was overwhelming.

 Joyce DiDonato and a sexy dancer perform "Pensieri, voi mi tormentate":

The story takes place in Rome, 54 A.D. where Agrippina is married to the Roman Emperor Claudio, who is currently away on a crusade. When the rumor surfaces that he has been killed in battle, she tries to make her son Nerone, the result of an earlier liaison with another man, emperor. It turns out, however, that Claudio is not dead, but was saved by Ottone, one of his generals. Out of gratitude, Claudio has made him his heir. Consequently, there are now two heirs. The situation is made even more complicated by the fact that Claudio, Nerone and Ottone are all in love with the same woman: Poppea. Who will win the woman and the throne? Agrippina schemes, sometimes successfully, sometimes less so. In the end, Ottone wins Poppea – for the time being – and Nerone is heir to the throne. But as we know from history and Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea things are not going to remain this way for long. 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Barihunks win prizes at 10th International Moniuszko Vocal Competition

Bass-barihunk Cody Quattlebaum accepting the Marcella Sembrich-Kochańska Prize
They had to wait until after midnight when the final prizes were finally announced, but barihunks Cody Quattlebaum and Hubert Zapiór both walked away with prizes at the 10th International Moniuszko Vocal Competition. 

Quattlebaum walked away with $2,000 and the Marcella Sembrich-Kochańska Prize, as well as a Beethoven Prize, which gives him the opportunity to perform the composer's work in Poland. 


Hubert Zapiór won a special prize, which affords him the opportunity to perform with a major Polish orchestra. 

This year's competition clearly belonged to higher voices, as First Proze went to Russian soprano Maria Motolygina, Second Prize to Slovakian soprano Slávka Zámečníková  and Third Prize to Chinese tenor Long Long.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Introducing Italian barihunk Francesco Cascione

Francesco Cascione
The great soprano turned director Katia Ricciarelli will be directing barihunk Francesco Cascione in the title role of Mozart's Don Giovanni.

The performance will be at the Teatro Stabile di Potenza where Cascione is part of Young Artists 2.0, whose participants will fill out the cast. The opera is part of the 2019  Camerata delle Arti festival and they will be joined  the chorus of the Bitonto Opera Festival. There will be one performance on May 7th.

If you miss the Potenza performance, you'll have a chance to catch the opera this Fall when it tours to Matera, Taranto, Barletta and Lecce.

Ricciarelli is best remembered for singing Desdemona opposite Plácido Domingo's Otello in Franco Zeffirelli's 1986 film version of the opera. Since her retirement from singing she has founded the Accademia Lirica di Katia Ricciarelli and served as Artistic Director of the annual summer Macerata Opera Festival.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Barihunks star in NY premiere of Britten's Owen Wingrave

Michael Weyandt and Robert Balonek
Barihunks Robert Balonek and Michael Weyandt will alternate the title role in Benjamin Britten's Owen Wingrave at The Little Opera Theatre of New York from May 9-May 12. The performance is being billed as the New York premiere of the opera. Performances will be at the GK Arts Center in Brooklyn and tickets are available online.

Owen Wingrave, which premiered in 1970, tells the story of a committed pacifist born into a renowned military family.  Despite strong disapproval over his beliefs and desperate to maintain the love of his would-be bride, Owen Wingrave is determined to prove his inner strength – even if it leads to his own demise.

Britten was a deeply committed pacifist, which traces back to his early life, particularly during his years at Gresham’s, his public school in Holt, Norfolk. He was know as a sensitive young boy who abhorred violence and bullying. World War I had cast a huge shadow over Britten’s generation and it was felt nowhere more keenly than at Gresham’s.  Britten was born a year before the onset of WWI  where the U.K. and its colonies saw 887,711 killed in action between 1914 and 1918. 100 boys from Gresham’s alone lost their lives.  His school formed one of the first branches of the League of Nations Union, which was designed to foster peace and prevent future conflict. The school also banned corporal punishment.

Britten's most famous pacifist composition is his War Requiem.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Barihunk duo in Oper Köln's "Street Scene"

Timothy McDevitt as Harry Easter (right)
Barihunk Timothy McDevitt will be singing the role of the sleazy boss Harry Easter and fellow barihunk James McOran-Campbell will sing the alcoholic husband George Jones in Kurt Weill's Street Scene at Oper Köln.  The production is a co-production with the Teatro Real and Opéra de Monte-Carlo. The Madrid performance featured barihunk Paulo Szot, hunkentenor Joel Prieto and soprano Patricia Racette.

The current production in Cologne features Kyle Albertson and Oliver Zwerg as Frank Maurrant, Jack Swanson as Sam Kaplan and Allison Oakes as Anna Maurrant. Performance run from April 28 through May 16 and tickets and additional cast information is available online.

In 2010, McDevitt won the Lys Symonette Prize at the Lotte Lenya Competition for his outstanding extraordinary artistic promise. Lenya was the widow of Kurt Weill and competitors are judged on their ability to interpret Weill's music.

An overview of Street Scene from the Madrid production:

Street Scene is an American opera with music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Langston Hughes, which was written in 1946. It was the composer's first opera composed during his American exile years and is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by Elmer Rice.  Weill referred to the piece as an "American opera." intending it as a groundbreaking synthesis of European traditional opera and American musical theater. He received the first Tony Award for Best Original Score for his work, after its Broadway premiere in 1947.

The story tells of a series of anonymous lives in a big city from a brutally realistic viewpoint. The score contains operatic arias and ensembles, including Anna Maurrant's "Somehow I Never Could Believe" and Frank Maurrant's "Let Things Be Like They Always Was." It also has jazz and blues influences in "I Got a Marble and a Star" and "Lonely House". Some of the more Broadway-style musical numbers are "Wrapped In a Ribbon and Tied In a Bow," "Wouldn't You Like To Be On Broadway?" and "Moon-faced, Starry-eyed," an extended song-and-dance sequence.

James McOran-Campbell (photo: Jane Hobson)
After his run in Street Scene, McDevitt moves on to the music of Leonard Bernstein, when he performs Maximillian in Candide on June 20th with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin with tenor Alex Shrader and soprano Erin Morley. He sticks with Bernstein for his Mass with the Chicago Symphony on July 20th under the baton of Marin Alsop at Ravinia.

James McOran-Campbell will sing Dr. Falke in a re-imagined version of Strauss' Die Fledermaus with Baseless Fabric Theatre in London from August 1-14.