Monday, September 30, 2013

2014 Barihunks Charity Calendar is NOW ON SALE!

Xavier Edgardo: Mr. January

The wait is over! The 2014 Barihunks Charity Calendar is not available for purchase and it's HOTTER than ever.

This year's calendar features sixteen of the sexiest men in opera from five countries. And we mean it when we say SEXIEST. American barihunks include Aaron Sorensen, Anthony Reed, Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek, Christopher Temporelli, Craig Verm, David Adam Moore, Doug Carpenter, Michael Mayes, Keith Miller, Timothy McDevitt, Wes Mason and Zachary Gordin. Also appearing are Jonathan Estabrooks from Canada, Gianluca Margheri from Italy, Xavier Edgardo from Puerto Rico and Vasil Garvanliev from Macedonia.

Once again, every penny raised from the calendars will go to support young artists and young artist programs. This year, we used only a handful of photographers, giving the calendar a more cohesive look.

Click HERE to buy your calendar today.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of The Pearl Fishers

Philip Cutlip as Zurga at Minnesota Opera
On this date 150 years ago, Georges Bizet' s Les pêcheurs de perles  (The Pearl Fishers) premiered at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris. Along with Carmen, it's one of his nine operas that has managed to maintain a place in the standard repertoire of opera companies around the world. Occasional performance of La jolie fille de Perth and Ivan IV can still be seen, but they are relatively rare.

The Pearl Fishers tells the story of how two men's vow of eternal friendship is threatened by their love for the same woman, whose own dilemma is the conflict between secular love and her sacred oath as a priestess.

Despite a good reception by the public, press reactions to The Pearl Fishers were generally hostile and dismissive, although other composers, notably Hector Berlioz, found considerable merit in the music. The opera was not revived in Bizet's lifetime, but from 1886 onwards it was performed with some regularity in Europe and America.

William Burden and (the original barihunk) Nathan Gunn in Pearl Fishers:

After its opening run, The Pearl Fishers was not performed again until eleven years after Bizet's death when it was presented in Italian at La Scala on March 20, 1886. After this it received regular stagings in European cities, often with the Italian version of the libretto. These revivals, which possibly reflected the growing success of Carmen, were followed by the publication of several versions of the music that incorporated significant differences from Bizet's original.

The opera is also somewhat responsible for the term "barihunks," as opera lore has it that director Francesca Zambella coined the phrase to describe a shirtless Nathan Gunn, who was singing the role of Zurga in her Philadelphia production in 2004.

The role of Zurga has certainly kept us busy at Barihunks, as it is often staged either shirtless or with a liberal amount of skin exposed. Barihunks on the site as Zurga include Lee Poulis, Philip Cutlip, Nmon Ford, Troy Cook, Craig Verm, Liam Bonner, David Adam Moore and, of course, Nathan Gunn.

Upcoming performances of the opera, include performances the Fort Worth Opera Festival from April 19 to May 2, 2014 starring Lee Poulis as Zurga and Sean Panikkar (of Forte fame) as Nadir. As an added bonus, barihunk Justin Hopkins has been cast as Nourabad. The production will be directed by the exciting and talented John de los Santos. 

A concert performance in Nantes, France will feature two barihunks familiar to readers of the site, Etienne Dupuis as Zurga and Nicolas Courjal as Nourabad.

Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick coming on DVD and PBS Great Performances

The epic performance of Jake Heggie's opera Moby-Dick from the San Francisco Opera is now on DVD and Blueray disc.  The release is part of a new partnership between the San Francisco Opera and EuroArts Music International, which will include six operas taped at the historic War Memorial Opera House.

The all-star cast includes barihunk Morgan Smith, Jay Hunter Morris, Stephen Costello, Jonathan Lemalu, Talise Trevigne and is conducted by Patrick Summers. Smith plays the critical role of Captain Ahab's first mate Starbuck, the first mate and family man who tries desperately to dissuade Ahab from his single-minded, suicidal pursuit of Moby-Dick. The role includes more beautiful baritone music from Jake Heggie in the aria "Captain Ahab? I must Speak with you." You can listen to a recording of the aria with piano on barihunk Randal Turner's site.

Heggie and Gene Scheer brilliantly adapted Herman Melville’s epic tale of a fierce, obsessive whaling-boat captain who descends into madness and puts his crew in mortal danger. The opera is already assured to be part of the operatic standard repertory, with every production receiving critical praise for the work. The opera was originally co-commissioned by the Dallas Opera, San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera, State Opera of South Australia and the Calgary Opera and debuted on April 30, 2010.

The opera is 142 minutes, but the DVD includes and additional hour of extras including interviews with Morgan Smith, Jay Hunter Morris, Stephen Costello, Jonathan Lemalu, Talise Trevigne, Jake Heggie, Patrick Summers and Gene Scheer.

The opera will also be presented as part of PBS's Great Performances 40th anniversary season on November 1, 2013 at 9 PM. Check your local listings.

There are two upcoming live performances of the opera. The Fargo-Moorhead Opera will present free scenes from the opera on October 1, 2 and 3, 2013 with tenor David Hamilton, tenor Joshua Kohl, baritone Cory Renbarger and bass Ashraf Sewailam. The highly anticipated East Coast premiere of the opera will take place at the Kennedy Center with the Washington National Opera from February 22 - March 8, 2014. Starbuck will be sung by newlywed barihunk Matthew Worth and Queequeg by fellow barihunk Eric Greene. Tickets go on sale December 4, 2013 to the public and on November 25, 2013 to Kennedy Center members.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Christopher Dylan Herbert in Jonathan Berger's The War Reporter

Christopher Dylan Herbert in War Reporter
When Christopher Dylan Herbert recently attended our annual Barihunks lunch in New York City, it reminded us that we had never posted the video of his haunting performance last April in Jonathan Berger's The War Reporter. He was joined by his fellow members of New York Polyphony, soprano Heather Buck and the St. Lawrence String Quartet at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

Jonathan Berger's The War Reporter is based on the true story of Pulitzer Prize–winning photojournalist Paul Watson. Convinced that he is haunted by the ghost of an American soldier he photographed in Mogadishu in 1993, Watson seeks to rid himself of this curse.

Visit the New York Polyphony website for a listing of their upcoming performances.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Barihunk Gustavo Feulein joins Hunkentenor Joel Prieto in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore

Our nifty "Eyes on the Island" in Puerto Rico spotted barihunk Gustavo Feulien, who will be starring as Belcore in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore at the Centro De Bellas Artes De Santurce in San Juan, Puerto Rico on September 28th. We first introduced him to readers in 2011. Also starring in the performance will be hunkentenor Joel Prieto, one of the most gifted young singers to emerge on the scene in recent years. Tickets are available online

Tenor Joel Prieto sings "Una furtiva lagrima" from L'elisir d'amore:

Feulien is an Argentine native who made his operatic debut in 2006 as Don Giovanni in his home country, where he also performed Germont in Verdi's La Traviata and Figaro in Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. A first-prize winner at the Il Trovatore International Competition in Argentina, he was also a semifinalist in the Hans Gabor Belvedere International and the Francisco Viñas competitions, and a finalist in Caballé's International Vocal Competition.

In 2007-08 he sung the roles Haly in Rossini's L'italiana in Algeri for Buenos Aires Lírica, Di Luna in Verdi's Il Trovatore and Il Marito in Menotti's Amelia al ballo. He has performed the leading roles in La Traviata and Rigoletto in several performances in Buenos Aires as well as many cities throughout Argentina as part of the Teatro Colon's Institute. He also performed in Monserrat Caballé's "Voices Concert" in Spain and in the 100th Anniversary of Teatro Colón`s celebration gala. 

Coach Joan Dornemann works with Gustavo Feulein on Escamillo's aria:

Now based in New York City, he made his debut there with America's Society with scenes from Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Le Nozze di Figaro. He recently appeared with the DiCapo Opera in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. He has sung a number of roles at DiCapo, including
Robert in Iolanta and Silvio in I Pagliacci.

In 2011, he was awarded the Argentinian Music Critics Association Award for his performances in Wagner's Lohengrin and
Mario Perusso's Fedra.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Buon Compleanno, Ettore Bastianini

Ettore Bastianini
One of our favorite barihunks of all-time is the great Italian Ettore Bastianini. He's been a regular on this site and we love exposing his artistry to a younger generation of singers. Like the German tenor Fritz Wunderlich, we lost him long before his artistry was fully realized. Bastianini died of throat cancer at the age off 44, long before many baritones celebrate their greatest successes.

Bastianini was considered one of the finest Verdi and verismo voices of his day. His voice was naturally beautiful and he started his career in 1945 as a bass in a recital debut in Siena. His stage debut came later that year in Ravenna as Colline in Puccini's "La bohème." He later moved into the baritone range where he voice seemed better suited. His top notes thrilled audiences throughout his career for their ringing splendor. He made his debut as a baritone in Siena in January 1952 and later that year sang Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame at the Teatro Comunale in Florence. In 1953 he sang in Turin in Giordano's "Andrea Chenier" and Verdi's La traviata the Metropolitan Opera.

He was a regular at La Scala between 1954-1963 and the Vienna State Opera between 1958-1964. In the United States, he performed regularly at Metropolitan Opera between 1954-1957 and at the Lyric Opera of Chicago between 1955-1958.  His last performance was in 1965 at the Metropolitan Opera.

He was buried in his hometown of Siena.

Met Season opens with Mariusz Kwiecien as Onegin

Mariusz Kwiecien & Anna Netrebko
Tonight the Metropolitan Opera opened its 2013-14 season with Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin," starring barihunk Maurisz Kwiecien, soprano Anna Netrebko and tenor Piotr Beczala. Valery Gergiev will conduct Deborah Warner's new production directed by Fiona Shaw. The opera was last performed at the Met in 2009 in Robert Carsen's minimalist production.

Performances of "Eugene Onegin" will run through October 19, with the October 5 performance being transmitted in Live in HD in movie theaters around the world. On Nov. 23, the opera will be revived with barihunk Peter Mattei, soprano Marina Poplavskaya and tenor Rolando Villazon in the lead roles.

Mariusz Kwiecien as Onegin at the Bolshoi in 2008:

Anna Netrebko will be teaming up with her barihunk husband Erwin Schrott at The Met, opening in Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore on January 9, 2014. 

On September 28, another popular barihunk will take the stage, as Paulo Szot opens as Kovalyov in Shostakovich's The Nose.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Barihunks lunch in New York City

Dan Kempson, Jonathan Estabrooks and Chris Herbert
We hosted another Barihunks Lunch in New York City this week. Although the Met rehearsal schedule prevented a number of singers from attending, three of our favorite young singers joined a table that included a composer, an accompanist, the executive director of an opera organization, a photographer...and even a hunkentenor!

We featured Dan Kempson in our last post, but we should let you know about his upcoming schedule. He's currently covering the role of Jake in Nico Muhly's Two Boys at the Metropolitan Opera, which opens on October 21st. In the Spring, he returns to the Fort Worth Opera to portray Lt. Gordon in Kevin Puts' Silent Night. Fans on the West Coast can catch him in Carl Orff's Carmina Burana with the Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra.

Jonathan Estabrooks sings Soliloquy from Carousel:

Jonathan Estabrooks will be singing two supporting roles in the American Debut production of Felipe Padilla De Leon's Noli Me Tangere based on the famous Filipino novel by Dr. Jose Rizal. The opera will be performed on October 4, 5 and 6 at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College. Keep an eye on our site for updates about his upcoming classical/crossover debut album, which was funded through Kickstarter.  

New York Polyphony sings "Times go by turns"

Christopher Herbert continues to perform recitals in addition to his work with New York Polyphony. The talented vocal quartet resumes touring on October 6th with stops in Alabama, New Hampshire, Virginia and California. Check out their complete schedule online. Their latest album Times go by Turns is available for purchase and download. The program features masses by Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, a three-voice religious setting by medieval English composer John Plummer, and three new works written for New York Polyphony by composers Gabriel Jackson, Andrew Smith and Sir Richard Rodney Bennett.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dan Kempson named Donald Gramm Memorial Award winner

American barihunk Dan Kempson has been awarded the Donald Gramm Memorial Award by the Santa Fe Opera named in honor of the internationally acclaimed American bass-baritone who appeared numerous times with the Santa Fe Opera. Kempson was given the award for his outstanding contribution as a baritone during his summer with the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Singer Program.

The famed apprentice program received 968 applications this year and only 43 singers were chosen to perform with the Santa Fe Opera during its 57th season. Kempson was the cover for Count Almaviva in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, performed Le Notaire​  and was the cover for Baron Grog in Offenbach's The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein and performed Father Flynn from Douglas Cuomo's Doubt in the Apprentice Scenes Showcase where they performed the final scene from Act 1.

The Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Singer Program provides young artists the opportunity to work and perform with some of the most respected conductors, directors and singers in the classical music world. The apprentices form the backbone of the season’s five operas as members of the chorus and in supporting roles. They receive coaching, lessons in diction, period music style, and performance with faculty from The Juilliard School, the Curtis Institute of Music, San Francisco Opera, and Manhattan School of Music, as well as master classes by artists such as Harry Bicket, Christine Brewer, and Joyce DiDonato.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Jesse Blumberg stunning as Ulysses

Jesse Blumberg in Opera Omnia's The Return of Ulysses
We were very excited when we learned that the innovative young opera company Opera Omnia had hired Jesse Blumberg for their production of Claudio Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses. He's become a favorite of ours, as well a favorite of composers like Ricky Ian Gordon and a number of leading opera companies. A thoughtful singer with great dramatic instincts and a beautiful voice, he's also a true barihunk in every sense of the word. For this role he had to sing shirtless for almost the entire first act and we heard that he stuck to a pretty strict workout regime. Of course, we had to get a picture to share with our readers.

The New York Times wrote of his performance, "And the vocal performances were in general excellent. Jesse Blumberg was compelling as Ulysses, throwing himself into the role physically as well as vocally."

Blumberg can next be seen on October 4th in the premiere of Paul Richards' Biennale with fellow barihunk Christopher Burchett in Philadelphia. Later that month he can be heard performing music of Emmanuel Chabrier with the Mirror Visions Ensemble in New York and Philadelphia. We're most excited about a performance in April next year with the Minnesota Opera when he'll be performing Papageno in the brilliant production of Mozart's The Magic Flute created by director Barrie Kosky and the British theatre group 1927. We saw this in Berlin and it is brilliant. Add it to your opera travel calendar today. More information is available online.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Watch the Barihunk Superheroes unleash their superpower

Barihunk Superheroes John Brancy & Tobias Greenhalgh
We've covered the groundbreaking work of barihunks John Brancy and Tobias Greenhalgh with "Operation Superpower." The program uses their love of classical music to teach young students about their own unique superpowers.

The two singers joined by pianist Peter Dugan and composer Armand Ranjbaran focus on courage, hope, honesty, imagination, and friendship to deal with the topic of bullying and helping kids find their own inner strengths. The group is marketing their program as a school assembly program and they have performed in Peoria, Illinois, as well as schools throughout New York State. 

We thought that you'd enjoy seeing the two in action with the school kids in this latest video posted on YouTube. You can check out the program's website HERE

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Luca Pisaroni on BBC before Covent Garden debut; Upcoming US dates

Luca Pisaroni on BBC's "In Tune" singing Schubert
Luca Pisaroni appeared on BBC's "In Tune" to talk about his Covent Garden debut as Figaro in David McVicar's "Marriage of Figaro." You can listen to the interview and hear him sing Schubert's "An die Musik" on BBC Radio 3 until September 19th.

Performances of the opera will run from September 16-October 7 and include fellow barihunk Christopher Maltman as the Count. The opera will be conducted by John Eliot Gardiner. The opera will be revived in May 2014 with barihunk Alex Esposito as Figaro and the sensational Gerald Finley as the Count. Tickets for all performacnces are available online.

Pisaroni actually made his opera debut in 2001 as Figaro in Klagenfurt, Austria after completing his studies at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan, and later in Buenos Aires and New York. He'll be reprising the role again at the Wiener Staatsoper in January 2014 opposite the Count of fellow barihunk Simon Keenlyside.

San Francisco's restored Nourse Theater, site of April 1, 2014 Luca Pisaroni recital
His fans in the United States will have to wait until 2014 to hear him live. He'll be performing recitals on opposite coasts, beginning in Washington D.C. on January 31 with the Vocal Arts DC series and then at the beautifully restored Nourse Theater in San Francisco on April 1. In between those recital, he will return to the Met as Caliban in The Enchanted Island from February 26-March 20. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

More great photos of Ben Connor (and a recital)

Ben Connor (all photos by Lukas Beck)
We had to share these pictures of Australian barihunk Ben Connor, who originally created quite a sensation on this site when he appeared in Puccini's La boheme in his skivvies. Connor has been a member of the young artist program at the Theater an der Wien, where in addition to La boheme, he performed in Rossini's La cambiale de matrimonio, the opening night concert and was featured in his own recital. These photos are by the Lukas Beck and are part of a series of the entire young artist program.

Connor has been on the opera world's radar for some time, having won the Art Song Prize of the Australian National Eisteddfod and the Welse Singing Competition, as well as a grant from the Australian Britain Society, which brought him to Europe. After entering the young artist program he immediately was singled out as a star performer, with his beautiful lyric baritone and natural acting style.

You can hear Ben Connor live on October 1st in a recital with accompanist Tomasz Kamieniak at the Kammeroper in Vienna. In November, he will be starring as Dandini in the company's production of Rossini's La cenerentola.

Daniel Okulitch to star in operatic version of Brokeback Mountain

Daniel Okulitch in Dead Man Walking
Madrid's Teatro Real has confirmed that Canadian barihunk Daniel Okulitch will star in the world premiere of  Charles Wuorinen's operatic adaptation of Brokeback Mountain, based on the 1997 Annie Proulx's story of a cowboy love affair that became an Oscar-winning film. Okulitch will play the role of Ennis Del Mar, which was portrayed by Heath Ledger in the 2005 movie adaptation. American tenor will Tom Randle will play the Jake Gyllenhaal role of Jack Twist.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain
Although no exact date has been announced for the premiere, it is expected to open on January 28, 2014 and run through February 11th. We suspect that the music will be drastically different from the movie soundtrack by Gustavo Santaolalla, as Wuorinen writes in the 12-tone style. His previous opera was Haroun and the Sea of Stories, based on Salman Rushdie's novel. Santaolalla won the Academy Award for "Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score."

 Guitar transcription of Gustavo Santaolalla's "Brokeback Mountain" music:

David Fry sings Wuorinen's "Never again the same"

Brokeback Mountain was originally commissioned for a 2013 premiere by Gerard Mortier while he was at the embattled New York City Opera. When he became the head of the Teatro Real, Mortier decided to revive the work and present it there. Annie Proulx has written the libretto and it will be directed by Dutch director Ivo van Hove.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Martin Achrainer (shirtless) in another Philip Glass premiere

Martin Achrainer in Spuren der Verirrten
Tyrolian barihunk Martin Achrainer is making quite a name for himself as an exponent of new works by American minimalist composer Philip Glass. An alert reader spotted these pictures from Glass' new German language opera Spuren der Verirrten (“Footprints of the Lost”)," which is based on the play by Peter Handke. We've previously seen Achrainer in Glass' Orphée and in the world premiere of Kepler.

Much of this is attributable to the fact that Achrainer is in the ensemble at the Landestheater Linz, where the music director and principal conductor is long-time Philip Glass collaborator and champion Dennis Russell Davies.  Glass wrote “Spuren der Verirrten” for the opening of the new Musiktheater am Volksgarten, a state-of-the-art opera house that Davies was instrumental in getting built.

Martin Achrainer in Spuren der Verirrten
Although the world premiere of Spuren der Verirrten was in April of this year, the opera is being perfromed again beginning on November 9 and running into January 2014. Tickets are available online

Achrainer's character is called "F' and the rest of the cast includes A, B, C, get the picture. Although the opera has many of the typical characteristics of the composer's works, including repetitiveness and minimalism, he has added alphorns and zithers to give it an Austrian flavor. The text is typical Glass, as well, with singers often repeating the question “Where are we?”

The joke at the opera house has been that this work is “Two Notes, One Opera.”

Monday, September 9, 2013

Gabriel Preisser's new CD and upcoming performances

Gabriel Preisser
We first started following Gabriel Preisser three years ago when an opera insider wrote us and told us to keep an eye on the then 26-year-old singer. At the time, he was headed off to be a studio artist in his native state of Florida. The buzz about this gifted young singer really picked up steam as he scored a series of critical successes in regional houses. His big break came when the Minnesota Opera and Opera Company of Philadelphia cast him as Lieutenant Gordon in the world premiere of Kevin Putz’s Pulitzer Prize winning opera Silent Night, which he'll be reprising at the Cincinnati Opera on July 10th and 12th, 2014. 

He's gone on to make quite a name for himself in contemporary opera, singing the title role in Robert Aldridge’s Elmer Gantry, Tom Joad in Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath, and Riolobo in Daniel Catan’s Florencia en el Amazonas all at the Moores Opera Center; Antonio in Daron Hagen’s New York Stories at Kentucky Opera; John Brooke in Mark Adamo’s Little Women and the Shoe Salesman/Puppet role in Dominick Argento’s Postcard from Morocco both at Pensacola Opera.

Gabriel Preisser
We also just learned that he'll be singing in the double bill of Francis Poulenc's Les Mamelles de Tiresias and Kurt Weill's Mahagonny Songspiel with America's hottest new company, Opera Parallèle in San Francisco. The photo at the top of the page was taken at the recent photo shoot for the production.

Gabriel Preisser sings Soliloquy from Carousel:

If you can't make it to San Francisco or any of his upcoming performances [check out his schedule], you can listen to this hot new talent on his new CD "Being Alive," which features arias, lieder, Italian songs and the best baritone music from Broadway. You can listen to samples, but the CD or download the music at CD Baby.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Trio of barihunks in contemporary opera in Vienna

Tomasz Pietak
A regular reader of ours in Austria alerted us to a performance of Šimon Voseček's Biedermann und die Brandstifter at the Neue Oper Wien and its trio of barihunks. The opera opens on September 17th with additional performanes on the September 19, 21 and 22. Tickets and additional information are available online.

The first of the trio is Tomasz Pietak who sings the role of Josef Schmitz. The talented 33-year-old was born in Skarżysko-Kamienna, Poland where he began piano lessons at age 10. After graduating from the Academy of Music he focused on voice and joined the Warsaw Chamber Opera.

From 2005-2009 he was the cantor and organist at the St. Anne's Church in Warsaw's Old Town. In 2009, he took second place at the International Song Competition in Sofia and was awarded the Minister of Culture's cholarship.

He is currently continuing his studies in Vienna with the great bass-baritones Robert Holl and Peter Edelmann. He has previously appeared as Orestes in Gluck's Iphigenia in Tauris and the title role in
Mozart's Marriage of Figaro at the Schönbrunn Castle. 

Till von Orlowsky 
25-year-ols Till von Orlowsky was born in Freilassing Germany. He began his vocal studies at the Lübecker Knabenkantorei before continuing at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna. While there, he performed in Puccini's La bohème and Gluck's Iphigenia in Tauris.

He will be singing the role of Wilhelm Eisenring in Biedermann und die Brandstifter.

Christian Kotsis

Christian Kotsis is performing the role of the Feuerwehrmann. He is a former member of the Vienna Boys Choir where he was often chosen to sing solos.  He has appeared on recordings of Leo Fall's operettta Der fidele Bauer and Franz Lehar's Frasquita. We don't know too much more about him, but we'll be keeping our eye on this GQ looking singer.

The opera Biedermann und die Brandstifter is based on the play by Max Frisch. It's a parable on the bourgeois understanding of morality in which all rules of reason are suspended. This is also reflected in the music: while it is initially oriented toward the language of classical opera, more and more elements of this language are lost over the course of the evening. At the end the end of the opera, with the protagonists having nearly run out of room to maneuver—the music is rendered entirely “speechless.”

Šimon Voseček is a Czech-born composer who now resides in Vienna. Biedermann und die Brandstifter was recognized with an award from the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture in 2008.

We always love our reader submissions, especially when they come in threes. You are our best eyes in ears in the opera world, so when you see hot talent send it to us at

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Celebrating the anniversary of La clemenza di Tito

Alex Esposito as Publius
Today is the anniversary of the premiere of Mozart's La clemenza di Tito and we thought it deserved a mention, since we give a disproportionate amount of attention to the Big 3 - Don Giovanni, Marriage of Figaro and Cosi fan tutte. The opera doesn't really have much music for a baritone to show off. In fact, there is only one aria, "Tardi s'avede," which belongs to Publius and was written for a lyric bass.

Nonetheless, we found this beautiful version of the aria sung by bass-barihunk Luca Pisaroni, which is worth sharing. In the aria, Publius feels sorry for his Emperor and tries to get Tito to wake up to the fact that his best friend, Sesto, had tried to assassinate him.

The opera premiered on September 6, 1791 and was written as a commission to celebrate the coronation of Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor as King of Bohemia. The opera remained popular after Mozart's death and in 1806 became his first opera to be performed in London. It wasn't performed in the United States until 1952, when it was presented at Tanglewood in English.

There are a couple of all-star productions of the opera this year, led by barihunk Alex Esposito taking on Publius at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels in October. The cast also includes Kurt Streit as Tito, Véronique Gens as Vitellia and Anna Bonitatibus as Sesto.

In November and December, the opera will be performed at the Paris Opera with Bálint Szabó as Publius and Saimir Pirgu as Tito.

Workshop of Borzoni's "Antinous and Hadrian" this weekend

Brian Mextorf
Composer Clint Borzoni and librettist Edward Ficklin have been workshopping their new opera Antinous and Hadrian at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Chelsea. You can attend the workshop of Act 2 this Saturday, September 7 at 4 PM. The church is located at 296 Ninth Avenue at 28th Street. Tickets are $10 and are available online. Jennifer Peterson will conduct the Queer Urban Orchestra.

The opera tells the story of the second century Roman emperor Hadrian and his love for the Greek youth Antinous. It examines the mystery behind the tragic death of the young Antinous. Upon his death, the distraught Emperor declared his beloved a god. Drawing on both historical sources and dramatic imagination the work has been written in the grand opera tradition.

The video is of baritone Brian Mextorf rehearsing the role of Marcus. We've heard pieces of this opera and encourage people to go check it out. 

Justin Hopkins part of "30 Days of Opera" at Opera Memphis

We have always maintained that some of the best opera happens away from the major houses at the second tier houses. One of the most innnovative opera companies is Opera Memphis, run by director Ned Canty, who won us over in Santa Fe with his brilliant work on Gian Carlo Menotti's “Last Savage.”

He is one of the leaders in bringing opera to the masses and attracting new audiences to the art form. His latest project is "30 Days of Opera," a month-long event of free opera performances performed at various public venues around the Memphis area. The 30 days will end in time for the company’s season-opening production of Verdi's Rigoletto on Oct. 3th and 5th.

During the first four days they performed at two parks, two libraries, Aldo's Pizza, City Hall, the Little Tea Shop and at the corner of South Main and Monroe.

As part of their promotion, Ned Canty appeared on WNEG Channel 3 with soprano Caitlin McKechney and barihunk calendar model Justin Hopkins, who walked onto the television set singing Escamillo's music from Bizet's Carmen. The Philadelphia native will be making his debut with the company as Ceprano in Rigoletto. Also in the cast is fellow barihunk Matthew Treviño as Monterone/Sparfucile, Michael Corvino as Rigoletto, Anya Matanovič as Gilda, Jason Slayden  as the Duke and Caitlin McKechney as Madellena. Tickets are available online.

Hopkins will be singing Nourabad in Bizet's Les Pecheurs de perles at the Fort Worth Opera Festival next spring with our favorite young director, John de los Santos.

L.A. Opera adds Streetcar with Ryan McKinny & Renée Fleming

Ryan McKinny in Der fliegende Holländer
The Los Angeles Opera has just announced that it is adding André Previn’s Streetcar Named Desire  to its 2013-14 season. Taking on the role of Stanley Kowalski will be Ryan McKinny, who just created a sensation in Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer at the Glimmerglass Festival. We didn't need much evidence, as our sexy photos of him almost doubled traffic to the site.

Joining the rising superstar barihunk will be Renée Fleming in the role of Blanche DuBois, instantly making this one of the hottest tickets in opera.  The performances are being presented in a semi-staged concert version on May 18, 21 and 24. 

Rounding out the cast are  soprano Stacey Tappan as Stella and tenor Anthony Dean Griffey as Mitch Mitchell, a role he performed at the opera’s 1998 premiere. Tickets will be available online beginning on October 20th.

Morgan Smith's many upcoming debuts (mostly in Texas!)

Morgan Smith
Perhaps one of the most anticipated American premieres this year is that of exiled Polish-Jewish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s Holocaust opera The Passenger. We covered the opera two years ago when it was at the English National Opera with barihunk Leigh Melrose as Tadeusz. A year earlier the piece was done in Bregenz with Artur Rucinski in the baritone role.

In January 2014, the opera is coming to the Houston Grand Opera with barihunk Morgan Smith as Tadeusz, in a cast that also includes rising tenor sensation Joseph Kaiser, two of our favorite sopranos Kelly Kaduce and Melody Moore, as well as mezzo-soprano Michelle Breedt. David Pountney’s production and Johan Engels’s two-level set, which received critical acclaim at ENO and in Bregenz, will be brought to Houston.

Leigh Melrose in The Passenger
The libretto is based on the eponymous novel by Auschwitz survivor Zofia Posmysz and is set in the late 1950s. It depicts a German couple, Liese and Walter, on board an ocean liner where former SS officer Liese thinks she recognizes an Auschwitz prisoner among their fellow passengers. Although Weinberg completed his score in 1968, the opera was not performed until 2006 and not fully staged until the 2010 Bregenz Festival.

The Houston Grand Opera will present a number of activities related to the opera. A series of three free concerts begins on November 10 with the world premiere of a new work by HGO Studio alumnus and composer David Hanlon, commemorating the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht and based on the story of his grandfather, one of the thousands of Jewish people arrested on that infamous night and sent to Dachau. On December 9, they will host a concert exploring the music, art, poetry, and philosophy that emerged from Terezín, a concentration camp located in the Czech Republic. The third and final performance on February 22 features music of memory and hope with world premieres of works by Lawrence Siegel and Paul English based on text and inspiration from Holocaust survivor Naomi Warren.
Morgan Smith
Morgan has a number of new roles besides Tadeusz that he is adding to his repertoire next season. In Novemeber 2013, he takes on Captain Brandt in Marvin David Levy's Mourning Becomes Electra at the Florida Grand Opera. In March 2014, he debuts the role of Fritz in Erich Korngold's Die Tode Stadt at the beautiful Winspear Opera House in Dallas. When he wraps up, he heads down Interstate 30 to the Fort Worth Opera where he performs Lt. Audebert in Kevin Puts' Silent Night in a cast full of his fellow barihunks.

If you've not had the chance to see Morgan Smith live, we highly recommend adding one of these performances to your opera travel calendar. He is one of the most compelling young artists to hit the scene in years.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Barihunk-laden Don Giovanni in bucolic setting

Gregory Gerbrandt and Nora Graham-Smith
Don Giovanni and his little black book are returning to Northern California, this time at the Hidden Valley Opera Ensemble. The burgeoning opera company is a little over 2 hours from San Francisco and just a half an hour from the beautiful resort of Monterey.

The title character will be sung by barihunk Gregory Gerbrandt, who has been a familiar singer on this site. Gerbrandt is returning to Hidden Valley Opera where he portrayed Jim in David Conte's The Gift of the Magi.  This is debut as Don Giovanni. Previous Mozart roles have included Count Almaviva in the Marriage of Figaro, Papageno in the Magic Flute and Guglielmo in Così fan tutte. 

Gerbrandt earned his Master of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music and his Bachelor of Music from the University of Northern Colorado, where he studied voice and opera with his late father, Dr. Carl Gerbrandt.

Ryan Bradford
New to this site is the Masetto, Ryan Bradford, who is a familiar face to Bay Area opera audiences. A first prize winner at the Chicago and San Francisco National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competitions, he was a memorable Guglielmo in both the San Francisco Conservatory’s production of Mozart's Così fan tutte and the teacher in Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar at Opera Parallèle. He is a recipient of the Joan and David Traitel Vocal Scholarship. You can check out Bradford on YouTube singing Schumann's Wehmut.

Don Giovanni opens on September 12  and runs through September 22 at the 300 seat Hidden Valley Theater in Carmel Valley, California. Call (831) 659-3115 for tickets.

Featured Barihunks dominate St. Gallen's Don Giovanni

Thomas Oliemans
A loyal reader who is catching some opera in Switzerland next week alerted us to the Don Giovanni in St. Gallen, which features four singers who have appeared on this site. Of course, there are two casts, so one won't find them all on stage at once. Performances will be running throughout the remainder of the calendar year, so there is plenty of time to make your travel plans and catch both casts.

Rotating as the title character are Danish barihunk Palle Knudsen and Dutch barihunk Thomas Oliemans, who was first brought to our attention by the very same reader. Oliemans released a recording of Schubert's Schwanengesang in 2011 with Malcolm Martineau that is not to be missed.

Matt Boehler sings Leporello's Catalog aria:

Alternating as Leporello are Swedish baritone Gabriel Suovanen, who is new to this site, and American Matt Boehler, who we featured when he made his New York City Opera debut as the Hotel Manager in Thomas Ades’ Powder Her Face. Boehler is now part of the regular ensemble at St. Gallen. Upcoming performances include Daland in Wagner's Der fliegende Hollander, Sparafucile in Verdi's Rigoletto and Der Pfarrer in Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen.

Jordan Shanahan, as seen in the Barihunks charity calendar
Alternating as Masetto are American baritones Jordan Shanahan and David Maze. Shanahan, you may recall was featured in our Barihunks calendar in photos taken from Jake Heggies' Dead Man Walking. Shanahan is also part of the ensemble at St. Gallen where he will be featured as Harlekin in Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, Marullo in Verdi's Rigoletto, Harasta in Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen and Fritz in Korngold's Die tote Stadt.

Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani
For those of you who like a little tenor eye candy, as well, check out the Don Ottavio of Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani. If the owners of the Hunkentenors site ever decide to resurrect their site, Giustiniani should be their next post. The guy can sing, too.