Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Nathan Gunn to make English National Opera debut

Renée Fleming and Nathan Gunn in Met's Merry Widow (Brigitte Lacombe/Metropolitan Opera)
Über-barihunk Nathan Gunn will make his English National Opera (ENO) debut as Hanna’s former lover Danilo in Franz Lehár's The Merry Widow.  He previously sang the role with the Metropolitan Opera in 2014 opposite Renée Fleming.

The Merry Widow has enjoyed unprecedented popularity and was performed an estimated half a million times across the world in its first 60 years. It acted as the bridge that would lead from opera to the rise of 20th century musical theatre. The story of the wealthy widow Hanna Glawari and her pursuit by men trying to keep her wealth in their bankrupt Balkan nation forms a classic romantic comedy, containing some of the most beloved music in opera including the Merry Widow Waltz and the ‘Vilja Song.’

Hanna will be sung by Sarah Tynan, who has performed regularly with ENO, including as Lucia, Rosina and Partenope.

The operetta opens on March 1st and runs through April 13th. Tickets and additional cast information is available online.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Şzymon Komasa in Opera Columbus world premiere "The Flood"

Şzymon Komasa as Stanley Kowalski
We originally featured Şzymon Komasa back in 2013 when a readers spotted him participating in an online master class at Julliard with Joyce DiDonato. His father is the famous Polish actor, Wieslaw Komosa, who appeared in Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List

He just wrapped up a run in Leonard Bernstein's Candide at Opery Wrocławskiej and now has two exciting projects on the horizon. From February 8-10, he'll appear as Hans in the world premiere Korine Fujiwara and Stephen Wadsworth's The Flood with Opera Columbus. The opera tells a story of human connection through loss and shared tragedy, centered around the devastation of Columbus’ Franklinton neighborhood in the Great Flood of 1913. Tickets and additional cast information is available online.

In March, he'll return to the Teatr Wiekl as Stanley Kowalski in Andre Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire, which he performed with the company in May. Tickets and additional cast information is available online

Şzymon Komasa as Stanley Kowalski
Komasa was born in Poznań, Poland and studied at the Academy of Music in Łódź, from which he graduated with honors in 2009 in both cello and vocal studies. He graduated from the Opera Studies program at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and the Juilliard School in New York.

He has won awards in international singing competitions, including the Best Wagner Singer at the 7th Annual Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition in Dublin in January of this year. He previously took third prize at the Ada Sari Vocal Art Competition in Nowy Sącz in Poland, first prize at the Puccini International Singing Competition in Verona and first prize at the Halina Halska-Fijałkowska Vocal Competition in Wrocław. In 2011, he represented Poland in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, but fell ill and had to withdraw before the finals.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Reader Submission: French Barihunk Philippe Estèphe

Philippe Estèphe as Don Giovanni (photos: Paul Fave)
Our latest Reader Submission is 30-year-old French barihunk Philippe Estèphe, who hails from Agen, nestled between Bordeaux and Toulouse. He has been performing Raimbaud in Rossini's Le Comte Ory at the Opéra de Rennes in December and January. Performance will resume on March 1st.

Other upcoming performances this season include Monsieur de Brétigny in Massenet's Manon at the Opéra National de Bordeaux and the Opéra-Comique in Paris, as well as Albert in Massenet's Werther at the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse.

Philippe Estèphe (photo: LucieMdB)
He made his operatic debut with Chants de Garonne and the Opéra Bastide. He frequently performs with the Aquitaine Philharmonic Orchestra, where he has performed Papageno in Mozart's The Magic Flute, Escamillo in Bizet's Carmen, Albert in Massenet's Werther and the title role in Mozart's Don Giovanni. He also toured with Opéra Eclaté singing the role of Don Giovanni.


In 2016, Estèphe performed in the premiere of Dominique Spagnolo’s La Princesse Maritorne. He recently sang the role of Sparck in Offenbach's Fantasio at the Opera Comique,  Dedale in Jonathan Dove's Le Monstre du Labirynthe at the Montpellier Opera, Peer Gynt at the Limoges Opera and Morales in Bizet's Carmen in Montpellier.  

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Martin Achrainer performs semi-staged Winterreise

Martin Achrainer (photos from artist website)
Austrian barihunk Martin Achrainer will perform Schubert's Winterreise in a staged adaptation by Hermann Schneider in the Black Box space at the Theater am Volksgarten in Linz from January 20-Februarty 24. He'll be joined by Tommaso Lepore on piano.

When Schubert's Winterreise premiered in 1827, the public was perplexed by the piece, finding it too raw, too dark, too hard to digest. Only the famous song Der Lindenbaum found favor. But Schubert was completely sure that he had created a work of importance; no composition seems to have been as important to him as the musical realization of these 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller.  

Martin Achrainer as Don Giovanni:


Of course, today one can't have a serious discussion about great lieder without mentioning Winterreise. The piece's influence on other composers can not be overstated and few baritones having included all or portions of the cycle in their repertoire. 

Tickets are available online

Saturday, January 5, 2019

John Brancy featured in Classical Singer


American barihunk is featured prominently in the new issue of Classical Singer magazine. You can read the interview below. 

He can next be heard singing "Memorial in Song" presented by the Arizona Opera on January 9th in Phoenix and January 12th in Tucson.  

[DIRECT LINK to Classical Singer magazine. We highly encourage you to subscribe]

John Brancy’s intense musicality and communicative power places him in the front ranks of baritones of his generation. Hailed by the New York Times as “a vibrant, resonant presence,” Brancy won first prize in the Art Song Division of the 2018 Concours musical international de Montréal, a win that recognizes him as a premiere interpreter of art song repertoire in our time. The New Jersey native also won first prize in the 2018 Lotte Lenya Competition in New York, second prize at the 2017 Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation International Song Competition in London, and prior to that won the media prize in the 2017 Belvedere International Singing Competition in Moscow and first prize in the Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition in 2015. He is also a past winner of the Marilyn Horne Song Competition and the Sullivan Foundation grand prize. 

In between his final performances of Opera Frankfurt’s new adaptation of Lost Highway, Brancy found time to write to me about his career since winning the 2007 Classical Singer Vocal Competition in the Classical High School Division.

From September 28 to November 12, 2018, you embarked on a nationwide recital tour entitled “A WWI Memorial in Song.” What are some insights surrounding your creative conception and inspiration for the recital?
It was inspired when pianist Peter Dugan and I were asked to put together our first official recital program for our 2014 Kennedy Center debut, which was our professional debut as a duo. We wanted to perform music that needed to be heard and we decided that since it was the 100th anniversary of World War I, we would consider the repertoire of that time in our history. What we uncovered was a treasure of music in varying styles from composers who fought in the war. We have spent the past four years uncovering more and more of this forgotten music and have grown incredibly close to the stories and themes that are present in this dynamic repertoire.
We always hoped to set up a substantial tour for ourselves, but we never imagined it would materialize in quite the way it has. Last fall, situated around the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, we embarked on a 12-city tour to universities, museums, military academies, and concert halls throughout North America performing our “Memorial in Song” recital programs—“A Silent Night: A WWI Memorial in Song” and “Armistice: The Journey Home”—for discerning audiences of all ages and backgrounds. 

Dugan and I are very proud to have turned this vision into a reality and we feel that it’s only the beginning of what is possible with a little entrepreneurial spirit and imagination. We believe there is a resurgence of interest and need for art song and we want to lead by example with this project.

Please expand upon some of the other entrepreneurial aspects of creating and performing such an innovative and wide-reaching artistic endeavor.
For this tour, we aimed to connect with some key social partners to share our content and get the message out. The great thing here is that all our presenters have well maintained social channels with a lot of followers and engagement. Many of them committed to share our content from the get-go, and we have connected with other channels to partner with us throughout the tour. For young artists and musicians to be heard and seen, it’s important to put out great content that channels such as Classic FM are interested in sharing. Maintaining these partnerships are key as well—you don’t want to inundate them with work, but you want to stay consistent and up to date with your various projects.

Another major component of our tour was live streaming. We had a handful of the presenters committed to live streaming our concerts on their social media channels. This is such a simple add-on for most presenters, yet it’s something that isn’t always done, especially for ticketed events. 

I feel it’s always worth asking the presenter of your recital or show if they have an in-house AV team that can live stream onto their social channels. It helps build buzz and draw in way more people from the web. We were particularly excited about the live stream events that took place on the 100th anniversary weekend when we performed at the Smithsonian Institute and the Kennedy Center! 

We wanted to create some compelling content that will have a lasting effect on our closest fans and give our work access to an entirely new audience of people online. You may have heard the phrase “content is king”; this phrase is accurate and important to recognize. I have been putting out content consistently for the past four years with this project, and it is paying off.
Content creation is not cheap. Whether you are looking for an album or specialty video work, you want to be sure you have a budget in place to complete it at the highest level. This is an investment that is truly worth pursuing. I’ve been lucky to have Erik Braund as my producer these past four years, and I’m certain our collaboration is just in its infancy!

John Brancy (photo from artist website)
There are several avenues to take when seeking funding for high-level artistic pursuits. Whether you are looking to your local state arts council, private foundations, personal arts philanthropists, or government organizations, the task can at times be daunting. What was your experience with the process of receiving of a commission, and how did you use it?
In 2015, we became centenary partners with the United States World War I Centennial Commission (WWICC). Back then, the commission was an entirely volunteer endeavor, made up of some key executive members and a nationwide collection of state commissioners. We were a volunteer project up until just recently—last fall our commitment to their mission and to the centennial anniversary paid off. We were granted funding to create some amazing content, particularly for our performance at West Point academy for active and nonactive duty members of their community. 

We showcased the maquette (the miniature sculpture design of the new World War I memorial which the commission is currently raising funds to have built in Washington, DC) and aligned our performance with the WWICC’s mission of remembrance and recognition of the war that changed the world. We wanted to show how the power of music, particularly vocal music, can change someone’s heart or make them feel something deeply about this not so distant past.
In our programs, the horrors of this war were felt in the music and the text. For me, singing these songs in this context, 100 years after this war, felt prophetic and important. We need to not forget that war is tragic—the enemy is not humanity or our fellow man, but war itself and the very nature of war.

Outside of the “WWI Memorial in Song” tour, you have also been on a recent competition winning streak. Please share some thoughts about what has contributed to this success.
These past two seasons have been a whirlwind for me on the competition circuit. I’m very proud of these accomplishments, but they didn’t come without a ton of work, focus, and preparation. I really have Dugan to thank for helping me ascend to these heights. Our collaboration was clearly valued by the jury, and he was deeply committed to the preparation process. At times, when the anxiety and pressure were high, it was Dugan’s calm, collected nature that helped me through the various rounds and ultimately to the win. 

In preparing for these competitions, it’s important to always recognize that you need to pace yourself, so programming is key. Be sure you program something dramatic and well rounded for the first round, then something exciting and ecstatic for the semifinal. For the final, give all your heart and soul and make it as technically challenging as you can. 

Classical Singer was the first competition I entered. I won first prize in May 2007 when I was still a high school senior. For me, that was one of the most exciting moments of the beginning of my singing career. It’s crazy to think that almost 12 years have passed by, but I already feel as though I’ve accomplished so much and have a ton to be thankful for in my career.

John Brancy (photo from artist website)
You have been recognized for your dynamic interpretations of text. What are some of your practicing and memorization techniques?
I have many teachers to thank for encouraging me to go deep on text. But it really was the acting training that I received at Juilliard that helped me to really tap into the deep aspects of my acting abilities. I worked with some incredible directors and acting coaches while studying at Juilliard. Sometimes, I would take one-on-one lessons with these teachers, and we would explore Shakespeare and other dramatic works. 

Learning and understanding the art of acting is something I’ve always been interested in. I have found that through acting, one can find myriad ways to interpret text, poems, stories, and scenarios and deliver them truthfully and effectively in their performance. Learning music and memorizing are kind of one and the same for me. The process of learning music is quite repetitive and meditative. 

I used to dread learning music and spending hours just to learn a few lines. Now that my musicianship has greatly improved and I continue to learn many styles of music, I find it very comforting and I feel that bringing a sense of joy and curiosity to the act of music-learning really helps speed up the process and solidify what you are working on. As a rule for me, I always perform recitals from memory—one time I had one week to memorize the entirety of 20-plus songs. One effective method of memorization is writing the poem and its translation out several times until it’s entirely locked in. It can feel like you’re stuck in a time warp, but this is one of the most effective methods of memorizing within a short timeframe.

What about future collaborations? Any thoughts there?
There are other composers, such as Matt Aucoin and Thomas Adès, with whom I’d love to create music. I think we are living in such an incredibly fascinating and exhilarating time for our art form, and the fact that we get to make music with these incredible composers is a dream come true. 

I also feel that opera has a distinct opportunity to move into different genres. I’m hoping to work with composers from the gaming and movie industries. I’d love to explore operatic possibilities with the likes of Michael Giacchino, Clint Mansell, or video game composer Marcos “Lorn” Ortega. Another project I’m truly excited for is the next installment of Operation Superpower with composer and cocreator Armand Ranjbaran!
The dreams and the visions continue to expand, and there is truly so much to be excited for in opera and live stage work.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Steven LaBrie to debut role of Charlie in Three Decembers

Steven LaBrie (Photo right: Braddon Murphy)
Barihunk Steven LaBrie is the latest singer to take on the role of the gay son Charlie in Jake Heggie's chamber opera Three Decembers. His role debut will be at the San Diego Opera on March 8, 9 and 10 at the Patrick Henry Performing Arts Center.

The role of Charlie has become a barihunk vehicle with Matthew Worth, Jesse Blumberg, Carlton Ford, Keith Phares, Wes Mason, Daniel Teadt and Jarrett Ott all taking on the role.

Daniel Teadt sings Charlie's Act 1 aria: 


Three Decembers tells the story of a famous stage actress – Madeline Mitchell – and her two adult children: Beatrice and Charlie. Both children resent their mother's long absences on the road and her lack of concern for the tragedies in their lives. Charlie believes his mother is distant because he is gay, even as his partner, Burt, is dying of AIDS. Meanwhile, Beatrice, trapped in an unhappy marriage, feels Madeline resents her enduring affection for their deceased father. As the story unfolds over the decades, long-simmering resentments surface, accusations are hurled, and family secrets revealed, leading ultimately to a hard-won peace and forgiveness for both the living and the dead.

Frederica Von Stade will sing the role of the mother Madeline Mitchell, which the composer wrote for her, while Kristin Clayton portrays the other sibling Beatrice.

Before heading to San Diego, Steven LaBrie can be heard singing Belcore in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore at the Omaha Opera on February 15 and 17. 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Watch Harry Thatcher online as Mozart's Count Almaviva

Harry Thatcher
We introduced readers to British barihunk Harry Thatcher to readers back in 2016 with a shirtless picture on the beach. We kind of lost track of him, so we were thrilled to see that he's performing Count Almaviva in the OperaVision broadcast of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro from the Royal College of Music.

You can watch the broadcast HERE until March 26, 2019. The cast also includes Adam Maxey as Figaro, Josephine Goddard as the Countess, Julieth Lozano as Susanna, and Lauren Joyanne Morris as Cherubino. The production is directed by the legendary baritone Sir Thomas Allen.

Harry Thatcher sings "Hai gia vinta la causa...Vedro mentr'io sospiro":


He has sung numerous roles at the Royal College of Music International Opera School, including the Forester in Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen, the Priest in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, the title role in Britten's Billy Budd, Taurquinius in Britten's The Rape of Lucretia , Demetrius in Britten's A Midsummer Night’s Dream and and Frank Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus.