Friday, February 15, 2019

Former opera bass wins RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars

Kevin Bertin aka Monet X Change
RuPaul's Drag Race contestant Monet X Change, who has a degree in opera performance and has appeared professionally as a bass, has won RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars along with Trinity the Tuck. It was the first time in the show's history that two people won the crown.

Monet X Change previously placed sixth and won Miss Congeniality on the tenth season. His offstage name is Kevin Bertin and he was born in Saint Lucia and raised in the Caribbean until the age of eleven. Since then, Bertin has lived in New York City.

Monet X Change sings Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit": 

A graduate of the Westminster Choir College, he made his debut with the Westminster Opera Theater in Mozart's Cosí fan tutte and later performed Sarastro in the composer's Die Zauberflöte. He became a featured soloist with the Westminster Choir on their California and Florida tours, performing in Bach's Magnificat, Brahms' Requiem, and Bruckner's Te Deum.

He also appeared as Sarastro at the Portland Opera for the Education and Outreach Program, and also sang Colline in Puccini's La bohème

As a drag performer, he was mentored by Season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen, who taught him how to sew, as well as some performance tips. Monet's drag mother is Honey Davenport, who appeared on Season 5 of the show.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Karl V: First full-length twelve-tone opera to be broadcast

Actor Janus Torp and Bo Skovhus (Photo: Bayerische Staatsoper)
Ernst Krenek's "Karl V," the first full-length twelve-tone opera will be broadcast from the Bavarian State Opera on February 23rd with barihunk Bo Skovhus in the title role. The opera can be seen live on February 16, 21 and 23. 

The opera revolves around the life the Holy Roman Emperor, Karl V, particularly the end of his life. In his life confession he defends his actions as ruler and his failure to establish a grand Christian empire to the monk, Juan de Regla.


Krenek’s opera Karl V has rarely been performed since its debut on June 22, 1938. The opera created a cause célèbre when the 1934 premiere in Vienna was cancelled after Krenek was blacklisted in Germany by the Nazi government immediately following the German parliamentary elections in March 1933. Krenek revised the opera in 1954. Krenek was wrongly named as a Jewish composer during the Third Reich and ended up fleeing to the United States due to constant threats from the Nazi regime.

Bo Skovhus (Photo: Bayerische Staatsoper)
It was performed at the Bregenzer Festspiele in 2008 and has previously been seen in Munich. Performances at the Bavarian State Opera run through February 23rd, but the opera will also be performed at the Munich Opera Festival on July 19th.

The current modernist staging was produced by Carlus Padrissa, a member and co-founder of the theatre group, La Fura dels Baus, with stage designs and costumes by artist Lita Cabellut.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Introducing Belgian barihunk Fabio Lesuisse

Fabio Lesuisse (photos: Theater Aachen)
Belgian barihunk Fabio Lesuisse, who will turn 27 on February 17th, is our newest addition to Barihunks. He is a graduate of the Cologne University of Music and First Prize winner at the 2015 Bach Competition in Barcelona, Spain. 

He is currently a guest artist at the Theater Aachen in Germany, where he singing Mercutio in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette and Junior in Bernstein's A Quiet Place, which is part of a double-bill with Trouble in Tahiti.

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


Performances of A Quiet Place continue on February 16, 24 and 27, as well as March 10 and April 11. Performances of Roméo et Juliette are on February 17, March 9 and 24, as well as April 4, 13 and 22.

Upcoming performances include Killian in Weber's Der Freischütz, which opens on March 3rd and Aeneas in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, opening this summer.

Monday, February 11, 2019

“The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” wins Grammy for best Opera Recording

Ed Parks as Steve Jobs (Photo courtesy of Santa Fe Opera)
The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” by composer Mason Bates walked away with the Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. The recording featured two barihunks, Edward Parks and Kelly Markgraf, along with Sasha Cooke, Jessica E. Jones, Garrett Sorenson, Wei Wu and conductor Michael Christie with the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra.

Daniel Kushner in his "Critic's Choice" review in Opera News wrote of the opera, that it "may well become a staple in the twenty-first century’s operatic canon...it’s the work’s subtle nuances in structure, text and the musical treatment of the characters that are most impactful—and may point to where the future of opera is headed."

Every nominee for Best Opera Recording this year featured a barihunk. The other nominees were:

  • John Adams, Doctor Atomic, featuring barihunk Aubrey Allicock, Gerald Finley, Julia Bullock and Brindley Sherratt. 
  • Jean-Baptiste Lully, Alceste, featuring barihunks Edwin Crossley-Mercer and Douglas Williams, Emiliano Gonzalez, Toro and Judith Van Wanroij. 
  • Richard Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier, featuring Günther Groissböck, Elīna Garanča and Erin Morley. 
  • Giuseppe Verdi, Rigoletto, featuring the late barihunk Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Nadine Sierra.
There are two performances of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs coming up on the West Coast. The Seattle Opera will perform the piece from February 23 through March 9th with John Moore as Steve Jobs with Nicole Paiement conducting. The San Francisco Opera will present the opera from June 20 through July 3r with Edward Parks as Steve Jobs and Michael Christie conducting.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Simon Keenlyside knighted by Prince Charles

Simon Keenlyside (photos: Clarence House)
British barihunk Simon Keenlyside was knighted by HRH The Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace on February 7, 2019 for his "services to music.'

After the ceremony, he commented,  "I like the fact that the arts in some way are included. It's a wonderful present and I am thrilled to have it."

The 59-year-old singer made his debut as Lescaut in Puccini's Manon Lescaut at the Royal Northern College of Music in 1987.  The following year, he performed Count Almaviva in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro at the Hamburg State Opera. In 1989, he joined the roster of Scottish Opera, where he remained until 1994, performing a wide range of repertory from operetta to Puccini, Britten and Richard Strauss.

He won a Grammy Award for his recording of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and in 2011 was named Musical America's Vocalist of the Year.
 
Also knighted at the ceremony was Nobel Prize-winning author Kazou Ishiguro, who wrote "Remains Of The Day," "Never Let Me Go" and "An Artist Of The Floating World."

Hadleigh Adams to make European opera stage debut in Netherlands

Hadleigh Adams (Photo right: Cory Weaver)
Bass-barihunk Hadleigh Adams will make his long overdue European debut in a staged performance of an opera. The San Francisco-based singer will appear in Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music at the Nederlandse Reisopera from March 16th through April 9th. Tickets and additional cast information is available online.

Adams will be performing the role of the buffoonish, hypocritical, yet charming Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm, who sings the popular piece "In Praise of Women." The most famous piece from the opera is Desiree's "Send in the Clowns," which has been popularized by numerous singers, including Judy Collins, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan.

Adams has previously performed in Europe, but not in a professionally staged operatic production. He attended the Guildhall School of Music in London, where he sang Figaro in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, and also performed Bach's St Matthew Passion at the Royal National Theatre in London, as well as Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex in a concert performance with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.


Since its premiere in 1973, A Little Night Music has become a staple of Broadway musical theaters and opera companies, toeing the lines between a musical, operetta and opera. Numerous writers and critics have argued whether the piece should be categorized as a musical or an operetta/opera. Although the piece is best known for its runs on Broadway and London's West End, a number of opera companies have produced the piece, including the New York City Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Opera Australia and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler were inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night, which involves the romantic lives of several couples. A film of the musical was released in 1977 featuring Elizabeth Taylor, Len Cariou, Lesley-Anne Down, and Diana Rigg.

On June 4th, Adams returns to California to join the San Francisco Symphony on June 4th for Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. He then performs in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette at both the Cincinnati Opera and the San Francisco Opera.

James Wright makes company debut in Shreveport before heading to Sunshine State

Baritone James Wright
We first featured American barihunk James Wright back in 2015, but haven't featured him since. A reader just spotted him making his company debut as Larry in Robert Paterson's Masquerade at Shreveport Opera.

Masquerade is part of a trio of operas from the composer's "Three Way," which also includes The Companion and Safe Word. Three Way premiered at the Nashville Opera in 2017 and was subsequently performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music later that same year.

The plot revolves around four couples at a party at a country mansion who during the course of an evening are forced to face their deepest taboos. The masquerade party is hosted by Pleasure Pilgrims, an online community of sensualists and pleasure seekers, who come from all walks of life to shed the mundaneness of their everyday lives and push the limits of erotic expression.

There is one remaining performance on Saturday, February 9th.

James Wright sings "Largo al factotum":


James Wright can next be seen at Opera Orlando in Florida, where he performs the role of Silvio in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, which is being paired with Stravinsky's Pulcinella. The cast also includes Brian Cheney as Canio, Suzanne Kantorski as Nedda, Daniel Scofield as Tonio and Alex Mansoori as Beppe. Performances run from March 22-26. Tickets are available online.