Sunday, June 18, 2017

Remembering Cardiff's 1989 epic "Battle of the Baritones"

Dmitri Hvorostovsky at Cardiff in 1989
As we wrap up the 2017 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, we're recalling the most famous show down of all, which was the 1989 "Battle of the Baritones" between Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Bryn Terfel.

The Siberian barihunk went on to win the competition and, of course, both men have gone on to sensational international careers. Hvorostovsky sangs two pieces from Verdi, Rodrigo's aria "O Carlo, ascolta" from Don Carlo and "Eri tu che macchiavi" from Un ballo in maschera, "Ja vas lyublyu" from Tchikovsky's Queen of Spades.

The late, great soprano Elizabeth Soderström, who was one of the judges in 1989, famously marked a series of exclamation marks on her scorecard as she listened to Hvorostovsky sing. The performance wasn't as easy as it looked, as Hvorostovsky has just listened to Bryn Terfel over the speakers and, for the first time, realized that he could lose the competition. When he went out on stage, he was determined to give it 110%, but almost fainted when he took, not one, but two long phrases in Rodrigo's aria on a single breath. The gambit obviously paid off and the singer is still known 28 years later for his ability to float long Verdian phrases on a single breath.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky's 1989 performance at Cardiff:


The win also came with a bid of levity, as an excited Hvorostovsky grabbed the crystal trophy from the Lord Mayor before she could hand it to him. He also won more than the trophy and prize money, as Russian President Boris Yeltsin gave him a huge apartment in the middle of Moscow as a prize for his win.

He later moved from Moscow to London after his family felt threatened by the Russian mafia.

The "Battle of the Baritones" has never been repeated, although many believed that this year's competition might have been the year, with its rich crop of top notch low voices. However, in 2013, there was a "Battle of the Mezzos" when Jamie Barton squared off against Daniela Mack, Barton grabbing the crystal trophy.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Atilla and Mefistofele to get San Francisco airings; Some Sam Ramey history

Samuel Ramey and Ildar Abdrazakov
Lovers of low voices in the San Francisco Bay Are area in for a real treat this summer, as their local PBS station KQED has announced that both Verdi's Attila and Boito's Mefestofle will be aired.

Attila will feature a veritable feast of Verdi low voices, led by the legendary Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role, Quinn Kelsey as Ezio and Samuel Ramey as Pope Leo I. The 1846 masterpiece about the legendary warrior who is tormented by internal doubts will air on Thursday, August 3 on KQED Channel 9.
Verdi’s 1846 masterpiece about a legendary warrior who is tormented by internal doubts, will air on Thursday, August 3 on KQED 9 - See more at: https://sfopera.com/about-us/press-room/press-releases/KQED-Attila-Mefi/#sthash.LC1AnggY.dpuf

Boito’s Mefistofele will feature barihunk Ildar Abdrazakov in the title role accompanied by Ramón Vargas and Patricia Racette. The retelling of the Faust legend will be telecast on Thursday, August 24th. Adventurous opera goes can also see Abdrazakov as Attilla, as he will be singing the role in April at the Gran Teatre del Liceu.

Barihunk afficionados will recall that Samuel Ramey attained barihunk status before the word was even coined, when he sang Mefistofele at the San Francisco Opera in 1989 in a cast that included Daniel Harper as Wagner, Gabriela Benacková as Margherita and Dennis O'Neill as Faust. He secured his barihunk status as Attila in 1991 with the company, in a cast that included Elizabeth Connell as Odabella, Vladimir Chernov as Ezio, Philip Skinner as Pope Leo I and Craig Estep as Uldino.

Barihunk Zachary Gordin in Festival Opera double-bill

Zachary Gordin sporting his Barihunk tee shirt at the gym
Barihunk calendar model Zachary Gordin is replacing fellow barihunk Hadleigh Adams in the Festival Opera's double-bill on Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and Kurt Weill's The Seven Deadly Sins.

Gordin will sing Nedda's lover Silvio, whose affair with Canio's wife leads to the play-within-a-play's tragic turn. He'll be joined by Hope Briggs as Nedda, Alex Boyer as the jealous husband Canio and Laura Bohn as Anna, who will be led by Michael Morgan in the pit.

The Seven Deadly Sins is a satirical ballet chanté in seven scenes. Setting out on a journey across America to aid her poverty-stricken family, Anna I - manifested as two facets of one personality, one who sings and one who dances - finds herself on a seven-year, seven-city quest where she ultimately encounters each of the seven deadly sins. Anna I will be sung by Laura Bohn, who will be joined by Gordin, Kirk Eichelberger, Jonathan Smucker and Robert Norman, with Bryan Nies conducting.

With a libretto by Bertold Brecht, The Seven Deadly Sins was an artistic triumph at its premiere in Paris, but was not performed in the United States until twenty-five years later in 1958, with Lotte Lenye singing the role of Anna I.

There will be two performances of the double-bill on Saturday, June 24 and Sunday, June 25 at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, just a short train ride from both San Francisco and Oakland. Tickets are available online.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Barihunks founder interviewed on German blog


Zachary Gordin on the cover of Queer.de
The founder of Barihunks was interviewed by Kevin Clarke for the gay German blog Queer.de. You can read the entire interview in German HERE or read the English translation below.

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You started the blog Barihunks 10 years ago, in 2007. It’s dedicated to hunky baritones representing a sexy, sportive and youthful vision and version of opera. What inspired you to create your blog, where did the initial spark come from? (And how long did it take from the initial spark to the actual website?)
The inspiration for Barihunks started as a conversation between a friend in New York and me in San Francisco. By coincidence, we had both just seen Dmitry Hvorostovsky and Mariusz Kwiecien in different performances. Director Francesca Zambello had recently coined the term “barihunk” in reference to Nathan Gunn performing shirtless in The Pearl Fishers. We joked around that it would be fun to create a tribute blog, believing that perhaps a handful of people would look at it. Within a few weeks we noticed a huge surge in traffic and realized that we had tapped into something with the opera crowd.
Was there anything like Barihunks around before? Or was this a complete novelty in the world of classical music/opera?
I don’t know of anything like Barihunks before it appeared on the scene.
I was personally put off by a number of bitchy opera blogs and felt like opera needed a more positive and fun portrayal of the artform. In fact we’ve posted the following under our Mission Statement: “Keep opera positive! No bitchiness allowed! This industry is tough enough.”
There have been a number of copycat sites, like “Sexy Sopranos,” but none have really taken off. There is something so unique about a gorgeous man with a low voice singing the most beautiful music ever written that just can’t be copied.
Many people don’t realize that we also use the site to raise money to support young artists and new compositions for baritones and basses through our sale of the Barihunks calendar and our tee shirts. Our goal is to truly be a positive force in opera.
There’s a famous saying, “It’s not over till the fat lady sings.” Most people do not associate opera and opera performances with well-build singers. Yet you present a never-ending army of them: where do they all come from suddenly? Did something in opera change around 2007? Has sex appeal become important in a business so exclusively focused on “voice” alone for so many years? Is there a historic precedent from sexy singers – back in the 17th or 18th century? Are you rediscovering something that was an original appeal of the art form opera?
This is a complicated question and I will answer it in the affirmative and the negative.
Yes, something did change, which is the omnipresence of TV and movies that made appearance more important. I had a singer say to me once, “Being on your site has given me the edge. If ten of us are going in for an audition for Don Giovanni and we all sing pretty much at the same level, but I may look better shirtless or in a closeup that is being broadcast on TV or on a movie screen, then I’ll probably get the role.” We talk about singers taking care of BOTH their voices and their bodies, as directors are demanding more physicality on stage and broadcasts are making appearance more important, whether one likes it, or not.
No, sexy singers are not new and that goes back to the earliest days of opera. The castrati singing in the 18th century European courts were often gorgeous and made up as beautifully as any woman. More recently, there have been barihunks around who we can still watch on old TV broadcast and videos on YouTube. We’ve featured many of them as “Historical Hunks,” including Gérard Souzay, Justino Diaz, Theodor Upmann, Paul Robeson (who famously posed nude!), Ettore Bastianini, Mario Sereni and the German Roland Hermann. I still think for both voice and looks, Ettore Bastianini is one of the sexiest singers to ever grace the stage. 
Duncan Rock
Why baritones and not tenors or basses? What is it about baritones that makes them physically hunkier than others? (Do they have to make up for the sex appeal tenors have in climactic high notes with pumped up torsos? Is the baritone sound in itself hunkier than other sounds….. are there any historic baritones you would describe as hunks, vocally or physically? And what about the basses, not sexy at all?)
If you look at our Mission Statement on the site, it reads “To promote the baritone to bass voice range, especially emerging talent.” We LOVE basses and feature them all the time. As for tenors, or hunkentenors as they’ve been dubbed, I’ll leave that to someone else. We do sneak a few onto our site and even into our calendar. Tenor Glenn Seven Allen is one of our sexiest photos in this year’s calendar. There was a Hunkentenor site that briefly appeared and went dark pretty quickly.
I do believe that the baritone has a special appeal. The great composer Ricky Ian Gordon said that the baritone is the voice of the “All-American man.” Both he and Jake Heggie compose many, if not all, of their lead roles for baritones. The tenor as the lead may be an artifact of the past. Baritones and basses are no longer always the villain and are becoming more sympathetic characters.
As for basses, I would argue that some of the sexiest singers on our site are basses, including the German Malte Roesner, who is the seventh most viewed singer on our site of all time and a regular in our calendars.
How do you select the barihunks you feature? How do you get the photos? (How many photos or messages a day do you receive? How strong is the increase in numbers since 2007 and 2017? From any region in particular?)
I receive photos and “barihunk tips” on a daily basis, for which I am grateful. When I first started the site, I had to hustle for content, but now it shows up in the in-box. Content comes from a variety of sources. Some are not surprising, like from singers, colleagues, boyfriends/girlfriends, spouses, opera marketing departments and agents.
However, my favorites come from mothers! Not a month has gone by without a submission from a mother and it usually comes with a note that says something like, “I know I’m biased, but I think my son is beautiful and definitely a barihunk.” I have one mother who gives me monthly updates on her son’s career. I simply adore her for it.  What’s more beautiful than a mother’s love and pride for her son?
As for regions, I’d say 80% of my content comes from the United States, Germany, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. Sadly, for someone who loves Latino men, the most underrepresented area is Central and South America.
You are a gay man living together with another man. How much has your sexuality influenced your fascination for hunky baritones? Do you think a heterosexual male opera lover would have ever thought of creating such a blog? (Are there any heterosexual equivalents with gorgeous sopranos or mezzos, or is that not necessary because it’s how the current mainstream opera business works anyway, Miss Netrebko showing her décolleté and selling a million more CDs/concert tickets?)
This is a fascinating question, because intuitively I would say that my sexuality totally influenced me to create the site. However, I’ve learned so much from the straight barihunks on the site about self-esteem and fitness. A number of singers, including Keith Miller and Kasey Yeargain, have created fitness sites and businesses which are an outshoot of what we’ve created. Therefore, I would say that a straight man could have created the site, but I would argue that Barihunks probably had to happen first.
I find mezzos to be the female equivalent of barihunks. There are a ton of sexy mezzos out there on the world’s opera stages. We’ve had Joyce DiDonato on our site in an “Honorary Barihunk” tee shirt. There is a young mezzo named Laura Krumm who is both sexy and has the most seductive voice I’ve heard in years. 
Jan Rekeszus (Bild: Dennis König Photographie)
Is it an act of gay liberation to be able to openly admit and discuss ones fascination for attractive singers today, without feeling ashamed about it? (And how do the singers react to being thus admired?)
I wouldn’t call it an act of gay liberation. Directors have made the fascination with attractive and even naked singers a pretty ordinary occurrence (especially in Germany!). Most singers love being admired. After all, anyone who walks out onto a stage is seeking approval and admiration.
I was surprised by a conversation with a barihunk on my recent visit to Germany, who said to me, “I don’t mind being admired for being shirtless on stage, but I am uncomfortable with posing for a calendar.“ He said being admired as beefcake made him feel like a woman who is sexualized simply for being attractive and not for her other traits.
Traditionally, “opera queens” as Wayne Koestenbaum describes them or Terrence McNally portrays them worship sopranos. Are you the next step in the opera queen evolution?
I started as the quintessential “Diva worshipper,” which comes out of that old stereotype of gay men idolizing strong, passionate, over-the-top female femme fatales. I find it a bit passé today. What I love about the barihunk phenomenon is that it appeals equally to men and women, as well as straight or gay.
Considering the homoeroticism of many barihunk photos: are the visitors of your blog only gay men? (Do you ever have to deal with homophobia? Do you discuss sexual orientation with your barihunks? Is it an issue for baritones today whether they are admired by gay men or heterosexual women? Are there regional or age differences?)
From what we can tell from analytics and sales of our merchandise, we’re almost 50-50 male to female. As I mentioned earlier, many of our male readers are straight men obsessed with fitness and exercise. We’ve done some Bari-Chunk to Bari-Hunk features which have generated ten times our usual traffic. Most of the email about those posts comes from straight guys thanking us for inspiring them to get in shape and to improve their self-esteem.
As for homophobia, we’ve experienced virtually none in ten years of posts. We did have one singer ask us to remove a post because it violated his religious beliefs.
We’ve had a series of “Barihunk Lunches” where we gather a group of low voices and discuss a variety of topic over a meal. I’m so impressed with how easily straight and gay men in this business get along, tease each other and even toss around sexual innuendos. I believe there has been a true generational shift around sexual orientation. Fortunately, the opera world is miles ahead of everyone else.
What do you think attracts heterosexual women to barihunks? And is the opera industry fully responding to the needs these women have? Any suggestions for improving the image of opera, in general?
I love that Barihunks has allowed women to not only talk about, but brag about, their attraction to men. Some of the most provocative comments and emails that I receive are from women – and they know what they like! It is interesting to me that gay men and straight women tend to be attracted to completely different men. For instance, Nathan Gunn and Thomas Hampson seem to be total magnets for women, but don’t’ generate the same level of intensity from men.
If you look at an average opera audience, the majority is made up of gay men and women. We both clearly love beautiful men with gorgeous, resonant low voices. More of that would go a long way! I’m proud that a positive image of healthy, virile men has become the new stereotype for opera, rather than the antiquated idea of an oversized Wagnerian soprano with horns and a spear. 
Justin Hopkins
 Where do your followers come from, mostly?
The United States, Germany, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, with a huge increase coming from Russia and Eastern Europe.
You mentioned that one of your most successful posts was on a red headed singer. Why are red heads such an item?
I follow my analytics closely, as they dictate who I post (or don’t post). Certain types seem to have particularly passionate followers and red-heads fall into that category, as do hairy men, hairless men, Asian singers and men in tuxedos. 
Puerto Rican Xavier Edgardo
Talking of red heads: how much desire for diversity do you see among your followers? Are there any Asian, Arab, black or any other people of color barihunks?
We are very cognizant about diversity and truly try to put as much of it on display as possible. We’ve featured numerous black and Asian singers on the site, but there aren’t many Arab baritones in the world today. If your readers know of some, send them our way at Barihunks@gmail.com.
Do your followers ever discuss vocal aspects, or do they focus only on exterior body elements?
You can’t have an opera blog and not discuss the voice. It’s still first and foremost about the voice.
After 10 years of barihunks: what has changed in the opera world, for you? Has barihunks influenced these changes? What do you wish should happen in the future, what happens in the US that Germany could learn from or vice versa?
The biggest change in opera has been its accessibility. I’m sitting in California as I respond to your questions from Germany while watching Semiramide on my laptop from France. The barihunks phenomenon cannot be separated from the fact that opera is showing up on people’s TV screens, laptops and in movie theatres. It has become as much a remote VISUAL MEDIA artform as a LIVE VOCAL artform.
Your focus on sexy singers is very pop culture orientated, it corresponds to what most teen magazines do with pop stars. Why are traditional opera magazines like Opernwelt completely ignoring the trend you sent and why are most opera magazines so unsexy and stuffy? (While opera companies lament the lack of interest from young audiences.)
I think part of the success of Barihunks is that we’re not stuffy, don’t take ourselves too seriously, yet still respect the artform and remain informative.
I’m fascinated by the marketing of opera in Europe, which often features an 80-year-old conductor, while in the U.S and Canada the focus in on the singers. Even US opera magazines like Opera News are doing Hollywood-style photoshoots with singers and featuring young, often attractive, rising stars of opera. I open some European music magazine and I feel like I should be blowing dust off of the pages. 
Marco Vassalli sings Clint Borzoni's "Stufen"
What’s the most inappropriate mail you ever received from a barihunk (or singer)?
Oh Lord! I had a British baritone (of some note) who delighted himself by sending me the most inappropriate dick pics. I never knew if he was serious, or not, but he claimed he did it because he was obsessed with getting on the site. We don’t ever post random nudity and only post it if it’s related to a performance.
I also receive “revenge photos,” which really upset me and which I DO NOT TOLERATE. I had a soprano send me a series of nude photos of her barihunk ex-boyfriend, begging me to post them. I finally threatened legal action against her with the help of an attorney, as this is both illegal and inappropriate.
Would it bother you if a barihunk did porn? Does porn stop you from having a serious opera career, as it did years ago in Hollywood? Has the opera business become more tolerant about sex videos, too? Has opera embraced porn as a topic in the same way Hollywood has? Or is this the next cross-over frontier?
Well, there has been Gordon Beeferman’s The Enchanted Organ: A Porn Opera featuring a character named Avery Dick that was done in New York and Pornographi, which was done in the Netherlands. I suspect that if there is an audience, it will get performed.
I know of a singer who seriously considered doing porn to supplement his income, but wisely decided against it. I suspect that it would adversely effect one’s career. I knew of an amateur video of a barihunk that made the rounds and it created some serious problems for his agent and almost cost him a major debut.
Will you ever publish a book about your time as “Mr. Barihunks”? And did you ever think you ever think your blog would become such an era defining thing?
I’m not sure that a book would be of much interest, but I have seriously explored shutting down the site and turning it into a foundation to support young artists and new compositions. 
Sam Ramey and Giorgio Zancanaro in the Attila duet:
(What’s your favorite baritone aria? Sung by whom, historically?)
I love two low voices together, so two duets stand out for me:
·       The Attila-Ezio duet “Tardo per gli anni" by Verdi with Sam Ramey as Attila!
·       The King Philip and Grand Inquisitor duet from Verdi’s Don Carlo with Ferruccio Furlanetto and Sam Ramey.
As for a solo aria, there are far too many to chose from, but I’m a sucker for Don Giovanni’s “Deh, vieni alla finestra” sung by Mariusz Kwiecien or Dmitry Hvorostovksy, Wotan's Farewell “Leb' wohl” and Hamlet’s drinking song “O vin, dissipe le tristesse” sung by Stépane Degout or Simon Keenlyside.
My personal contemporary favorite is Marco Vassalli singing Clint Borzoni’s song “Stufen,” with text by Hermann Hesse, which is viewable on YouTube.
 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Paull-Anthony Keightley named finalist at Australian Singing Competition

Paull-Anthony Keightley
Barihunk Paull-Anthony Keightley has been named one of five finalists at the 2017 IFAC Handa Australian Singing Competition. He'll be joined by Damian Arnold, Daniel Carison, Filipe Manu, and Shikara Ringdahl.

The finalists will compete for over $200,000 in prizes at the July 15th Finals Concert.

Paull-Anthony Keightley made his principal debut with West Australian Opera in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi while he was the 2016 Wesfarmers Young Artist. He recently appeared as Sciarrone in company’s production of Puccini's Tosca while continuing as a member of the Young Artist Programme.

Upcoming engagements include the baritone soloist in Faure’s Requiem with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, bass soloist in Bach’s Cantata BWV. 147 with the Perth Symphonic Chorus, Colline in Puccini's La bohème with Freeze Frame Opera and Zuniga in Bizet's Carmen with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

Bryn Terfel replaces Dmitri Hvorostovsky at Tanglewood

 
Dmitri Hvorostovsky
The Tanglewood Festival press office sent out the following notice today:

"Bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel will replace baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Saturday, August 26, opera gala program at Tanglewood. Led by BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons, the program will feature Sir Bryn, soprano Kristine Opolais, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in an evening of opera and song. Further program details will be announced at a later date. Mr. Hvorostovsky withdrew from the concert in May for reasons of health."
Hvorostovsky was diagnosed with a brain tumor in the summer of 2015 and subsequently cancelled concerts in Kaliningrad, Minsk and Vienna, as well as performances in the Met's  production of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, where he was replaced by fellow barihunks Peter Mattei and Mariusz Kwiecien. In April, he did make an appearance in Toronto with Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov.

His website lists two concerts at the Grafenegg Festival on June 22 and 23 titled "Hvorostovsky and Friends." 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Hunky trio to reprise Three Way at Brooklyn Academy of Music

Wes Mason (photo: Jason Lee Denton)
Barihunks Wes Mason, Matt Treviño and hunkentenor Samuel Levine will reprise their performances of Robert Paterson's new opera Three Way with the American Opera Projects at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Performances will run from June 15-18 and readers can get a 10% discount on tickets by clicking HERE and entering the code 71023.

The opera explores Android lovers, dominatrix culture, and the final frontier: multiple partners. The piece  is a playful three-act performance that explores the future of love, sex, and need with a clever balance of humor and drama. Each aptly named act (The Companion, Safe Word, and Masquerade) introduces the audience to a collision of contemporary characters who meet at the intersection of power and desire to reveal the true longings of the human heart.

The work was originally premiered at the Nashville Opera with the same hunky trio.

You can still donate to their Kickstarter campaign to fund a recording of the opera.

Barihunk quartet and hunkentenor featured at Grange Festival's Carmen

A quartet of barihunks are appearing in the Grange Festival's production of Carmen, which is currently running through July 8th. Two of them, Grigory Soloviov and Toby Girling, have appeared on the site, while Phillip Rhodes and Tiago Matos are new to the site. Joining this sexy quartet of low voices is hunkentenor Leonardo Capalbo. Tickets and additional cast information is available online.

Tiago Matos (left) and Phillip Rhodes (right)
Portuguese barihunk Tiago Matos, who is singing Le Dancäire,  was a member of the Atelier Lyrique at the Opéra national de Paris, where he performed Fiorello in Rossini's Il barbiere di Sivigila, Un Chevalier in Chaussson's Le Roi Arthus, and Ceprano in Verdi's Rigoletto. He will return to the Opéra national de Paris to perform a number of roles over the next few seasons.

New Zealand native Phillip Rhodes, who is singing Escamillo, was briefly mentioned on our site when he sang Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd with barihunk Teddy Tahu Rhodes in the title role. He recently peformed Scarpia in Puccini's Tosca and Pere Germont in Verdi's La traviata with Opera New Zealand. This Fall, he will sing the roles of Alfio in Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana and Silvio and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci with Opera North.

Renee Fleming and Grigory Soloviov (left) and Toby Girling in Trouble in Tahiti (right)
Bass-Barihunk Grigory Soloviov is a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory and a former member of the Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist’s Program. He has already performed with a number of major opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Gran Teatro La Fenice, Dallas Opera, Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Opéra National de Lyon, Opéra de Tours and the Opéra De Montréal.

British barihunk Toby Girling is a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and former member of the Glyndebourne Opera Festival Chorus. His most current and future engagements include Nicomedes in Zemlinsky's Der König Kandaules and Pallante in Handel's Agrippina with De Vlaamse Opera, Belcore in Donizetti's L’elisir d’amore  at the Scottish Opera and Sam in Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti with the Oper Leipzig tour in Bolzano, Italy.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Barihunk trio in NY premiere of operatic Angels in America

Wayne Tigges, Aaron Blake, Andrew Garland and Michael Weyandt (l-r)
The new New York City Opera closes its season with the New York Premiere of Péter Eötvös's Angels in America, distilling the two-night, seven-hour play into a single, powerful evening of opera. The cast includes the barihunk trio of Andrew Garland as Prior Walter, Michael Weyandt as Joe, Wayne Tigges as Roy Cohn and hunkentenor Aaron Blake as Louis. The opera comes with a warning of "strong sexual content, nudity, mature themes and language."

The opera was originally written for the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris where it premiered in 2004. The cast included barihunks Daniel Belcher and Omar Ebrahim, as well as Barbara Hendricks, Roberta Alexander, Derek Lee Ragin and and Topi Lehtipuu.  

Angels in America received its West Coast premiere in 2013 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall with barihunk David Adam Moore and Nikolas Nackley as Joe. Moore has also sung the role at the Fort Worth Opera Festival and the Opera Wrocławsa in Poland.

The opera is based on Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name and will be sung in English with supertitles. There will be four performances running from June 10-16 and additional cast information and tickets are available online.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Barihunk Jérôme Varnier makes role debut as Méphistophélès

Jérôme Varnier
Barihunk Jérôme Varnier made his role debut as Méphistophélès tonight in Gounod's Faust at Opéra Grand Avignon. There will be one additional performance on June 11th.

The cast in this new production includes Nathalie Manfrino as Marguerite, Florian Laconi as Faust and Lionel Lhote as Valentin. Tickets are available online. Varnier will repeat the role of Méphistophélès with Opera Massy on November 10 and 12, with Ludivine Gombert as Marguerite, Thomas Bettinger as Faust and fellow barihunk Régis Mengus as Valentin.

Varnier has also performed the role of Brander in the Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust, based on the same German legend.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Simon Keenlyside to kick off Opéra de Paris recital series

Simon Keenlyside
Simon Keenlyside will kick of the 2017/2018 Opéra de Paris recital series this year along with acompanist Malcolm Martineau. The British barihunk will perform music by Sibelius, Schubert, Vaughan Williams, Somervell, Warlock, Warlock and Poulenc. The recital is on September 17th, but tickets go on sale on June 8th and are available online.

The series will continue with Sophie Koch on October 15, Mattias Goerne on April 22, Angela Gheorghiu on June 17 and Pietr Beczala on July 8.

Simon Keenlyside sings Francis Poulenc's "Hôtel":

Keenlyside can next be seen as Golaud in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande at the Vienna State Opera from June 18-30. The cast includes Adrian Eröd as Pelléas, Olga Berzsmertna as Mélisande, Bernarda Fink as Geneviève and Franz-Josef Selig as Arkel. Tickets and additional information is available online.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Barihunks performing in quincentenary of Reformation

Marco Vassalli (left) and Malte Roesner (right)
Germany will have musical celebrations of Martin Luther's Reformation, which occurred 600 years ago this year. 

One of our favorites will have its world premiere at an open air concert in Tecklenburg in September with additional performances at the Stadtkirche Westerkappeln on October 14th and 15th, and then in Seligenstadt and Aschaffenburg. The concerts will feature barihunks Marco Vassalli and Malte Roesner in a new piece written by composer Thomas Gabriel and librettist Eugen Eckert called "Bruder Martin" (Brother Martin). The two singers will be part of a four soloists backed by orchestra and a massive chorus, which will tell the life story of Martin Luther in an oratorio-style piece. 

Leipzig is in the midst of a month long celebration of the Reformation featuring a number of barihunks. On June 12, Felix Schwandtke will perform music by Johann Rosenmüller at the Nicolaikirsche,  Jochen Kupfer will perform Mendelssohn's Paulus at the Thomaskirsche on June 15th,  and on June 18th, Luca Pisaroni will perform Bach's Mass in B-minor at the Thomaskirsche. The entire program is available here.

Felix Schwandtke
On June 17th, barihunk Roman Trekel will perform the debut of composer Daniel Pacitti and librettist Christian Meißner's new work "Luther Oratorio" under the baton of Helmuth Rilling at the Berliner Dom. 

The Reformation happened when Martin Luther rejected several teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. He strongly disputed the Catholic view on indulgences as he understood it to be, that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. Luther proposed an academic discussion of the practice and efficacy of indulgences in his 95 Theses of 1517. Luther taught that salvation and, consequently, eternal life are not earned by good deeds but are received only as the free gift of God's grace through the believer's faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin. His theology challenged the authority and office of the Pope by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge from God.

His translation of the Bible into the vernacular (instead of Latin) made it more accessible to the laity, an event that had a tremendous impact on both the church and German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the writing of an English translation, the Tyndale Bible. His hymns influenced the development of singing in Protestant churches. His marriage to Katharina von Bora, a former nun, set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant clergy to marry.  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

John Chest simultaneously singing two English language operas in Germany

John Chest as Billy Budd in Berlin
American barihunk John Chest, who just finished a successful run as Count Almaviva in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro with Opera Philadelphia, is back in his home base of Germany where he's pulling off an amazing feat of operatic stamina: He'll be singing two English language operas in Germany simultaneously!

Chest opened on May 26th in the title character of Britten's Billy Budd at the Deutsche Oper Berlin before heading off to the Semperoper Dresden to sing the role of the wealthy stockbroker Nick Carraway in John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby tonight, tomorrow and on June 1st. Hunkentenor Peter Lodahl is singing jay Gatsby and tickets are available online. He then heads back to Berlin for Billy Budd (where the Barihunks team will be in attendance!). To top it off, he also became a father for the first time this year along with his wife soprano Layla Claire.

Chest originally started working on Billy Budd back in 2008 as an apprentice artist and chorus member at the Santa Fe Opera. He made his role debut in 2014 in Berlin in a highly-acclaimed performance, which was the first performance of the piece at the Deutsche Oper. The current production features Gidon Saks as John Claggert, Richard Croft as Edward Vere, Simon Pauly as Donald and fellow barihunk Seth Carico as Mr. Redburn. Tickets are available online.

John Chest at Billy Budd and Gidon Saks as the evil John Claggert
After he wraps us Billy Budd, the jet-setting baritone heads off to the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. Chest, where he'll represent the U.S. along with baritone Anthony Clark Evans. He'll be singing more American music, as he plans on performing Aaron Copland’s “Old America Songs.”

Other barihunks in the competition include bass Dominic Barberi representing England, bass Roberto Lorenzi representing Italy and calendar model Iurii Samoilov reprenting the Ukraine.

The Song Prize rounds will be broadcast in the BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert (June13 -16) with the song prize final live on Radio 3 In Concert (Friday, June 16) and on BBC Four presented by Petroc Trelawny and American soprano Angel Blue (Saturday, June 17).The four concerts at St David’s Hall, Cardiff will be broadcast on BBC Four (June13 - 16). The Grand Final will be broadcast live on both BBC Four and BBC Radio 3 on Sunday, June 18. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Dominic Barberi to represent U.K. at Cardiff Competition

Dominic Barberi
28-year-old, German-born, Scottish bass-barihunk Dominic Barberi, who just wrapped up a run as Baron Douphol in Verdi's La traviata at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden opposite Ailyn Pérez, will represent the U.K. at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition on June 18th.

Barberi is currently a member of the ensemble at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, where he has also sung Colline in Puccini's La bohème, Sarastro in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, as well as roles in Wagner's Parsifal , Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, Puccini's Manon Lescaut and Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea.

Barberi went to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where he graduated with Distinction in his Performance Masters in 2014. He then moved on to the Berlin Staatsoper International Opera Studio. His big breakthrough came with Opera North where he performed in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea.

Upcoming performances include the premiere of Daniel Pacitti's Luther Oratorio with the Berlin Philharmonic and Alvise Badoero in Ponchielli's La Gioconda at the Tiroler Landestheater Innsbruck.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Barihunk Eddie Nelson to perform at historic Maybeck Studio

Maybeck Studio in Berkeley and Eddie Nelson
Barihunk Eddie Nelson will perform at the historic Bernard Maybeck Studio in a special fundraiser for the West Edge Opera. He'll be joined by accompanist Ronny Michael Greenberg, both of whom have close associations with the San Francisco, having participated in the Merola Opera Program and the San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow Program.

The performance will be Sunday, May 21st at 3 p.m. with light refreshments, champagne and wine being served. The concert will include music by Duparc mélodies and excerpts from Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet, in which Nelson will sing the title role at West Edge Opera's Summer Festival. 

The historic Maybeck Studio for the Performing Arts was built in 1914 by Bernard Maybeck, the architect of San Francisco's iconic Palace of Fine Arts. Joseph R. Nixon commissioned the building as a live-in studio for his daughter Milda’s piano teacher, Alma Schmidt Kennedy. The studio boasts beautiful acoustics and a long history of hosting world-class performances and recordings. Performances have been hosted there for over 100 years. The house includes two of Maybeck's favorite architectual devices, the Gothic tracery "S" patterns along the balcony and the Japanese-like split eaves on the gables.

Admission to this event is available with a donation of $175 per person, of which $145 is tax deductible. Click HERE to reserve a seat.

Malte Roesner, who appears with the West Edge Summer Festival
In addition to Edward Nelson's Hamlet, the West Edge Opera Summer season will also include the U.S. debut of German bass-barihunk Malte Roesner in Soler's The Chastity Tree.
This is Spanish composer Vicente Martín y Soler's most famous work and is also known by its original title L'arbore di Diana.

Librettist Lorenzo da Ponte created a story from a legend that tells the tale of how Diana, the Greek god of chastity, falls in love with the shepherd Endymion. The plot —halfway between pastoral literature and erotic comedy also praises the political openness of the Archduke Joseph II of Austria.


Tickets and additional information on the West Edge Opera Summer Festival are available online. Roesner is also scheduled to sing a concert of music by Soler and his contemporaries featuring soprano Aurora Perry and tenor Samuel Levine. Details will be announced shortly.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Germán Olvera goes full frontal in Ginastera's Bomarzo

Germán Olvera in Bomarzo
Mexican baritone Germán Olvera goes full frontal in Alberto Ginastera's opera Bomarzo, which is available for viewing on The Opera Platform until June 4, 2017. The performance was recorded at the Teatro Real in Madrid, which was the first European staging of the 12-tone opera since 1976.

The piece had its premier in Washington DC in 1967 and was famously banned in Ginastera's native Argentine, where it was not performed until 1972. The current production celebrates the centenary of Ginastera's birth, who was born in Buenos Aires on April 11. 1916.   

The libretto by Manuel Mujica Lainez deals with the life of the hunchbacked Duke of Bomarzo in Sicily, who sculpted a "garden of monsters" in the 16th century. In the opera, Pier Francesco Orsini, the Duke of Bomarzo, drinks what his astrologer Silvio de Narni claims to be a magic potion that will grant the Duke immortality. However, the drink turns out to be poisoned. After the poison starts to work, Bomarzo begins to recall his life in a series of flashbacks.

Germán Olvera in Bomarzo
Olvera performs the role of Girolamo, who is a stark contrast to his brother and is seen a more  perfect human form. Girolamo goes out for a swim naked, which eventually leads to his death. 

Born in Michoacán, Mexico, Olvera has sung in a number of productions staged by the Palau de les Arts of Valencia. He made his debut in 2013 in the Palacio de Bellas Artes of Mexico City as Escamillo in Bizet's Carmen.

Upcoming performances include Ping in Puccini's Turandot with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (a role that he's recorded on DVD), Grégorio in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette at the Gran Teatre del Liceu and Eisenhardt in Zimmermann's Die Soldaten at the Teatro Real.

Dean Murphy joins ensemble at Deutsche Oper Berlin

Dean Murphy (photo: Jiyang Chen)
We first introduced American barihunk Dean Murphy to readers back in 2015 when he was singing Top in Aaron Copland's Tender Land at Opera North in Lebanon, New Hampshire. His career has clearly taken off since then, as he has now joined the Deutsche Oper Berlin, where he'll start performing as part of the ensemble in January 2018.

He'll be performing Dancairo in Bizet's Carmen, a judge in Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane, Fiorillo in Rossini's The Barber of Seville, a mocker in Prokovfiev's The Love for Three Oranges, a Flemish Deputy in Verdi's Don Carlo, Wagner in Gounod's Faust, the sargeant in Puccini's La bohème, a singer in Ponchielli's La Gioconda, a delivery boy in Verdi's La traviata, an officer in Meyerbeer's Le Prophète and the bailiff in Verdi's Rigoletto.

Murphy holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the Hartt School of Music. He will graduate from Yale’s School of Music with a Master of Music degree in the spring of 2017. He was a resident artist with Opera Connecticut from 2013-2014 where he performed a number of roles. He has been a regular at a number of other New England companies including Salt Marsh Opera, Opera Connecticut, Connecticut Lyric Opera and Yale Opera.

Murphy can next be heard on May 20th as Mercutio in excerpts from Gounod's Roméo et Juliette with the Opera Theater of Connecticut in Clinton. Tickets are available online.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Introducing Polish Barihunk Paweł Konik in DNO's Monteverdi

Paweł Konik in Monteverdi's Madrigals (right)
Polish barihunk Pawel Konik is taking on double duty in the Dutch National Opera's produciton of Madrigals,  an amalgam of works by Monteverdi. He performs as Tancredi in the section taken from Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and on of the Infernal Spirits taken from Il ballo delle ingrate. As Tancredi he is suite in 77 pounds (35 kilos) of armor.

Only three full-length works from Monteverdi’s opera oeuvre have survived. From Arianna, only the Lamento has survived, in which the Cretan princess sings of her desire for death, as her lover Theseus has left her. Il ballo delle Ingrate and Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda are both part of Madrigals, Book 8. In these works, too, death is the central theme. In a dance, women who have died show what the living can expect if they resist the arts of Cupid. Il combattimento shows the futility of every war or battle. In a duel, Tancredi kills a supposed enemy, who turns out to be his lover Clorinda.

The show also includes hunkentenor Nicólas Maraziótis, bass-barihunk Nathanaël Tavernier as Plutone and is conducted by Christophe Rousset with his orchestra Les Talens Lyriques. You can watch the trailer for the show on YouTube.

Paweł Konik and Nicólas Maraziótis
The performances will take place in the Scenery Atelier of Dutch National Opera & Ballet in Amsterdam-Zuidoost.  The set is dominated by a steel artwork by Jannis Kounellis.There are three remaining performances on May 16, 17 and 19, and then it travels to the U.K.s Brighton Festival for a single performance on May 21.

Konik was born in Cieszyn, Poland and studied at the at the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music. He made his debut in January 2013 as Shvochniev in Shostakovich's  The Gamblers, for which won "The Best Singer's Debut Award" from the Jan Kiepura’s Drama Music Awards. He is a member of the Young Artists Program at the Polish National Opera's Opera Academy at the Teatr Wielki in Warsaw.

His operatic experience includes performances of title roles in Mozart's  Le nozze di Figaro, Massenets Don Quichotte,, Bottom in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Betto in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, Leporello in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Nikitich Pristav in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, Henri Perrin in Madame Curie by Elżbieta Sikora and Zbigniew in Moniuszko’s Haunted Manor.

On May 28th, Paweł Konik returns to his hometown of Cieszyn to sing Bach’s Ich habe genug BWV 82 in a concert in memory of Polish conductor Karol Stryja.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Barihunk duo announced in San Francisco Opera cast change

Erwin Schrott & Erik Anstine
San Francisco Opera’s summer production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni just doubled its "sexiness factor" with the announcement that two barihunks will step in for Marco Vinco as Leporello. The Italian bass withdrew from the production due to health issues.

American bass-barihunk Erik Anstine will sing two performances and Uruguayan bass-barihunk Erwin Schrott will take over for the other six, which run from June 4 through June 30. Both singers are making their house debuts with the San Francisco Opera. Schrott's performances will be has last scheduled appearances in the United States for 2017.

The duo will join bass-barihunk Ildebrando D'Arcangelo, who is singing the title role, along with soprano Erin Wall as Donna Anna, soprano Ana María Martínez as Donna Elvira, tenor Stanislas de Barbeyrac as Don Ottavio, soprano Sarah Shafer as Zerlina, Michael Sumuel  as Masetto and Andrea Silvestrelli. Tickets are available online.

The June 30th performance will be part of the company's' annual Opera at the Ballpark, a free live simulcast of the opera at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. The simulcast is free, but you must register online.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Vittorio Prato as sexy Guglielmo in Geneva

Alexandra Kadurina and Vittorio Prato
Italian barihunk Vittorio Prato shows off some skin as Guglielmo in German director David Bösch's new production of Mozart's Così fan tutte at the Grand Théâtre de Genève. The cast also includes Veronika Dzhioeva as Fiordiligi, Alexandra Kadurina as Dorabella, Steve Davislim as Ferrando, Monica Bacelli as Despina and Laurent Naouri as Don Alfonso.

Bösch's vision in this production is to bring out both the dark cynicism of Da Ponte’s cruel game of lime and Mozart’s luminous music of love. He figures that if "all women are like that," then "all men are too."  The moral of this production is that if love’s a game, the it’s worth learning how to play it.

There are performances remaining on May 10 12 and 14. Tickets are available online.  

Next up for Prato is Puccini's five-part Messa a Quattro voci con orchestra, or Messa di Gloria at La Monnaie with tenor Sergey Romanovsky. There is a single performance on June 14th. Tickets are available online.