Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Barihunks "Best of 2014"

It's time for our annual year-end wrap up with our "Best of 2014" feature where we highlight our favorite posts. Many of these were actually chosen by our readers, as we closely followed how much traffic each of our posts were receiving.
(L-R top row) Björn Bürger, Malte Roesner, Michael Mofidian (L-R, bottom row) Ivan Oreščanin, Mattia Olivieri and Davide Luciano
BEST NEWCOMERS: There were six singers who we introduced to readers this year that generated amazing traffic to our site. In fact, they were so popular that we decided to lead off our annual tribute with them. German Björn Bürger, German-American Malte Roesner, Scotsman Michael Mofidian, Serbian Ivan Oreščanin, and Italians Mattia Olivieri and Davide Luciano. You can click on their names to read the original posts. This is what the future of opera looks like and sounds like, which seems encouraging.

Previously unpublished photos of Italian barihunk Ernesto Petti
Jens Søndergaard and Saïd Pressley
BEST READER SUBMISSION: Our best posts continue to come from our readers and this year was no exception. Few singers generated more interest than Ernesto Petti on both our blog and in our calendar, where he appears as part of our August feature. Since we couldn't run all of his photos in our calendar, we've added some new photos above.

Honorable mention has to go to Jens Søndergaard and Saïd Pressley, both of whom proved immensely popular with our readers.

Bottom Row - Austin Siebert, George Arvidson, Clay Thompson, Nate Mattingly, Mason Jarboe, Michael Miller
Top Row - Keith Browning, Trevor Martin, Michael Hewitt, Damian Faul
(L-R) Sarah Larsen, Michael Todd Simpson, Steven LaBrie, Joseph Lattanzi & Colin Ramsey

BEST GROUP PHOTOS: We love it when we see our tee shirts being modeled by the hottest barihunks in opera, so imagine our glee when we were sent a photo featuring TEN stunning men all gathered together at the Seagle Music Colony in upstate New York. Michael Hewitt ended up being featured in our Viva, Italia! Barihunks Calendar, as well. It turns out that the family names on his mother's side are DiPane and Mazzola.

On the other side of the continent at the Seattle Opera, our tee shirts ended up on four of the cast members in their production of Menotti's The Consul. The opera starred four barihunks, including Michael Todd Simpson as John Sorel, Steven LaBrie as the Police Agent, Joseph Lattanzi as Assan and Colin Ramsey as Mr. Kofner. The four singers showed off their Barihunk tee shirts on the set with soprano Sarah Larsen, who played the secretary. Joseph Lattanzi also appeared in our 2012 calendar.

Bevan Bühler
BEST TWITTER DISCOVERY: Canadian barihunk Bevan Bühler posted the following on Twitter: "My life goal is to be listed on barihunks." Of course, we obliged and he instantly became one of our most viewed posts of the year. The former model and emerging singer clearly caught the eye of many of our readers.

HOTTEST PHOTO: As one might imagine, we get sent a lot of photos and press materials from opera companies and publicists. Most of them are pretty useless and clearly were not sent with our mission in mind. So when an email arrived from the Los Angeles Opera touting their upcoming production of Andrè Previn's Streetcar Named Desire, we were pretty sure that it would be filled with glossy pictures of soprano Renee Fleming. Much to our delight, it included these AMAZING photos of Ryan McKinny, whose voice and body just get more amazing with each passing year. He has become the quintessential barihunk in our view.

Agrippina cast (L-R) Hadleigh Adams, Peabody Southwell, Nathan Medley, Jamie-Rose Guarrine, Jennifer Rivera, Zachary Wilder and Douglas Williams
HOTTEST OPERA CAST: Who would've thought that the sexiest cast in opera this year would be found at Opera Omaha for their production of Handel's Agrippina. The opera featured former model and rising superstar Hadleigh Adams as the emperor Claudio. In the role of Pallante, one of two men that Agrippina pledges to marry, was Doug Williams a rising superstar in the baroque music world, who could easily grace the cover of GQ.

Stéphane Degout and Franco Pomponi
HOTTEST NUDE SCENE: For a dramatically sensible use of nudity, nothing could surpass Stéphane Degout and Franco Pomponi alternating the role of Hamlet in director Olivier Py's production of the Ambroise Thomas opera at La Monnaie in Brussels. Degout also performed the role at Theater an der Wien.

Paul Robeson as photographed by Nickolas Murray
HOTTEST HISTORICAL NUDE: We received a lot of appreciative email from readers who didn't know about the legendary Paul Robeson's nude modeling past. Robeson did some nude modeling for photographer Nickolas Murray, who later went to photograph President Eisenhower, painter Freda Kahlo, actresses Colleen Moore and Greta Garbo, and the Lucky Strike girls. Robeson also posed nude for Italian-American sculptor Antonio Salemme. Born in Princeton, New Jersey in 1898, Robeson made his singing recital and his film debut in 1925. His resonant bass was a major highlight in the London production of "Show Boat" particularly with his powerful rendition of "Ol' Man River." Paul Robeson may have been the original barihunk!

(L-R) Doug Carpenter, Michael Scarcelle & (Jacques) L'Oiseleur Longchamps
BEST CALENDAR MODELS: Perhaps the smartest thing that we did this year was to give our Barihunks Charity Calendar money directly to singers who participated, rather than to organizations. The level of appreciation was enormous and we heard about how the funds paid for lessons, coachings, music, rent and travel to competitions.  

Doug Carpenter walked away with our top prize of $500 for submitting the picture that best exemplified this year's theme "Sexy and Italian." One of our judges was so conflicted about having to choose a winner that she offered up an additional $500 to be split between the runner-ups,  Michael Scarcelle & (Jacques) L'Oiseleur Longchamps. Everyone was a winner.

Dan Kempson
BEST GRAMMY AWARD NOMINEE: Barihunk Dan Kempson received a well-deserved GRAMMY Award nomination for his portrayal of the critical role of Orestes on Darius Milhaud's trilogy L'Orestie d'Eschyle on the Naxos label. The performance, which is up for Best Opera Recording, also features Sidney Outlaw as Apollo, as well as the University of Michigan Choirs and Symphony Orchestra, which amounted to some 350 musicians.

Philippe Sly
BEST NEW CD:  The ridiculously talented Philippe Sly released "In Love’s Minstrels" with accompanist Michael McMahon. They perform English music from the late 19th and early 20th century by Healey Willan, John Ireland, Roger Quilter, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst. The CD is available at Amazon, as well as on Spotify.

Pietro di Biano and Matija Meić
BEST COMPETITION WINNERS: 2014 was yet another year where barihunks dominated international singing competitions (so, to all of you naysayers, YES, THEY CAN SING, TOO!). Few performances were more exciting than Barihunks Calendar model Pietro di Bianco winning the prestigious Paris Opera Competition or Matija Meić taking two prizes at the Mirjam Helin Competition, with both becoming overnight sensations.

Cyril Rovery
BEST MEN'S FITNESS MODEL: The European edition of the August 2014 edition of Men's Health magazine featured French barihunk Cyril Rovery in a feature called "Baryton Man." Rovery studied at the Marseilles Conservatoire graduating in 2000. In 1999, he won 1st Prize at the Symphonies d’Automne International Competition in Mâcon and in 2002 he won the Siena International Competition for Singers. He's been a regular at Marseille singing Scarpia in Puccini's Tosca, the Duke of Verona in Roméo et Juliette and Monterone in Verdi's Rigoletto.

Edwin Crossley-Mercer poses for Karl Lagerfeld
BEST PROFESSIONAL MODEL SHOOT: When fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld attended a performance of Robert Carsen's production of Rameau’s Platée at the Opéra Comique, he must have been as impressed as us with barihunk Edwin Crossley-Mercer. Crossley-Mercer's Jupiter was styled as a Karl Lagerfeld lookalike with white ponytail and dark glasses and the designer greeted the singer backstage and offered to do a photo shoot of the barihunk, shooting him in a variety of couture.

BEST PHOTO IN DRAG: Barihunk Daniel Okulitch, who has appeared in various states of dress and undress in his career, finally appeared in a dress when he donned this stunning getup as Jove in Francesco Cavalli's La Calisto at the Cincinnati Opera. Okulitch's drag wasn't some German regie concept that was imported to Cincinnati, but an actual part of the plot. Jove, the ruler of the gods, hatches a plan to wend his way into the heart and bedroom of Calisto by donning a Diana-like disguise. But when Jove’s wife Juno, sung by Alexandra Deshorties, catches wind of the scheme, her fury knows no bounds. As many singers know, Cincinnati has one of the best make-up artists on their staff, so Okulitch was in good hands.

BEST MAGAZINE FEATURE: Baritones became the new cover boys this year, as Aubrey Allicock appeared in OUT Magazine, Simon Keenlyside on the cover of Opera News, Ildar Abdrazakov in VANITY FAIR, Morgan Smith in Opera News, and Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek in Bleep magazine. But our favorite feature was the Opera News' Sound Bites article on John Brancy.  The New Jersey native had an exciting year, with major debuts at Oper Frankfurt in Puccini's La Fanciulla del West and the Kennedy Center for a recital dedicated to the 100th anniversary of WWI. This enormously talented and innovative artist is clearly destined for stardom and it was nice to see Opera News take notice.

Emmanuel Franco
BEST SINGER/DANCER: Mexican-American barihunk Emmanuel Franco caught our attention as one of the three baritones competing in the finals of the 50th International Vocal Competition in 's-Hertogenbosch, Holland. The 30-year-old singer has performed throughout Mexico, the United States and Europe, but he also has a true passion for dancing. While a student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, he founded a zumba class in a nearby gym. After  graduation, he was certified as zumba instructor before moving to The Netherlands, where he has become a popular instructor (who even sings occasionally during class).

Giorgio Caoduro
BEST ROLE DEBUT: Giorgio Caoduro's role debut as Rigoletto couldn't have come at a better time for Opera Australia. They had just weathered a rough couple of weeks dealing with the Tamar Iveri scandal, a soprano who had referred to gay people as "fecal matter" on her Facebook site. Caoduro's performance at the Joan Sutherland Theatre was a major revelation that allowed people to put the scandal on the back burner. Caoduro had previously performed in the opera as Marullo opposite Placido Domingo's Rigoletto in the movie version. The Opera Australia cast also included two other barihunks, Sam Dundas as Ceprano and Luke Gabbedy as Marullo.

A protester at The Death of Klinghoffer (left) and Aubrey Allicock
BIGGEST SCANDAL: The most talked about action in opera this year happened off the main stage, as John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer at the Met turned out protesters who claimed the opera was anti-Semitic and glorified terrorism. Making his Met debut in that production was upcoming barihunk Aubrey Allicock as the terrorist Mahmoud. He shares critical moments in the opera with fellow barihunk Paulo Szot, who sang the role of the Captain. Regardless of how you felt about the piece, it was great to see a worldwide discussion about an opera. 

Had it not been for The Death of Klinghoffer, we would have listed the BARITONE BLACKOUT at the OPERALIA competition in Los Angeles as our biggest scandal. Despite 11 of the 40 competitors being baritones in the competition, not a single baritone made it to the final round. Many felt that a top prize winner should have come from the talented field of low voices that included Igor Bakan, Aleksey Bogdanov, Alexandre Duhamel, Dan Kempson, Alexey Lavrov, Alex Lawrence, Shea Owens, Damien Pass, Pavel Shmulevich, Anatoli Sivko and Ivan Thirion.

(L-R) Philippe Sly, Elliot Madore & Gordon Bintner
BEST TENOR BLACKOUT: We couldn't feel too bad about the Barihunk Blackout at Operalia because 1,360 miles north of Los Angeles in Edmonton, Alberta, their Symphony was presenting a "No Tenors Allowed" concert. The program featured Canadian barihunks Gordon Bintner, Elliot Madore, and Philippe Sly, who joined forces with conductor Bill Eddins for a program of from music from Bizet's Carmen, Verdi's Macbeth, Rossini's Barber of Seville, and Wagner's Tannhäuser.

Charles Castronovo (left) and Erwin Schrott (right)
BEST BARIHUNK/HUNKENTENOR BATTLE: We all know that there is tremendous competition between baritones and tenors, but it reached new heights when barihunk Erwin Schrott went after hunkentenor Charles Castronovo's soul. The social media regular wrote on Twitter, "Dear Faust @CharlieTenor, meet me @ Laeiszhalle, Hamburg tonite 7:00 PM. Don't forget: bring soul! Tschüs! Méphy x"

Castronovo was singing Faust opposite Schrott's Méphistophélès in Gounod's opera in Baden-Baden, and the duo were joined by fellow barihunk Jacque Imbrailo, who was Valentin.

BEST PERSONAL STORY: Speaking of souls, it's rare for an artist to bare his or her soul in an interview, but that's just what Hadleigh Adams did in an interview with San Francisco's leading LGBT paper, the Bay Area Reporter. He minced no words in talking about what it was like to be effeminate, not to fit in with the other boys, having a friend commit suicide and facing challenges with family. We also had the privilege of hearing him turn this very personal story into an evening of song, which we think would be a hit on the recital circuit. Adams just wrapped up his second year at the prestigious San Francisco Opera Center Adler Fellows‎ and is surely destined for a great career in opera. It's one thing to grow as an artist, but Hadleigh Adams has shown us how amazing it is to watch someone grow as a human being.

Duncan Rock
BEST ANNOUNCEMENT: In our opera travels, we frequently get asked why certain European singers haven't appeared in the U.S. Topping that list is Duncan Rock (now that Edwin Crossley-Mercer has sung in America). So imagine the excitement surrounding the highly-anticipated U.S. stage debut of British Barihunk sensation Duncan Rock, which will occur not far from another rock, Plymouth Rock. The Boston Lyric Opera has snagged the charismatic fan favorite to portray the title role in Mozart's Don Giovanni next season. Performances will run from May 1-10, 2015. His gender bending performance in Don Giovanni: The Opera at London's famous nightclub Heaven was a huge sensation.

Kelly Markgraf and Sasha Cooke

Dan Kempson
BEST NEW OPERA: The world premiere of Laura Kaminsky's opera "As One," which explores the revelatory and redemptive journey of a transgender individual, opened on September 4th at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with the real-life married couple of mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and barihunk Kelly Markgraf. The opera was a critical success and will be reprised at Caine College of the Arts at Utah State University in April 2015 with Markgraf and again at West Edge Opera in July/August 2015 with Dan Kempson. who will be joined by the Friction String Quartet at the Oakland Metro Opera House.

Kaminsky was inspired to write the opera after reading an article in the New York Times in 2008 about a New Jersey marriage in which one of the parties transitioned from male to female, transforming the couple from heterosexual to homosexual.

Finally, we have to close with our favorite email of the year, which came from a reader in Michigan back in May. "Dear Barihunks, I was pleasantly surprised when I came upon your website. It is surprisingly intelligent and well-written. I have learned about singers that were heretofore unknown to me and you have exposed me to much new music. I've also learned about opera competitions and smaller companies that I would not have read about elsewhere. For this I am eternally grateful, but frankly, I'd much prefer more pictures and less text."

Lastly, if you enjoyed Barihunks this year and if you like supporting young artists, please order your Charity Calendar today, so that we can keep up our tradition if assisting the hottest young talent in opera. Our calendar features 19 of the most amazing singers, who also happen to be easy on the eyes. Order NOW by clicking below. Thank you for your support.
Support independent publishing: Buy this calendar on Lulu.


  1. This is a wonderful feature! Bravo!! And in a few days I can hang my 2015 calendar (while saving the 2014 with the earlier ones) and Barihunks can start another wonderful year!!

  2. Congrats to my dearest colleagues !
    Enjoy happy holidays
    And don t forget to vote for your favorite Barihunks baritone

  3. Duncan Rock is marvellous, but he is an Australian.