Monday, December 2, 2019

Hadleigh Adams globetrotting with Handel's Messiah

Hadleigh Adams
Bass-barihunk Hadleigh Adams is going to rack up some frequent flyer miles singing Handel's Messiah this holiday season. Fresh off a huge success as Schaunard in Puccini's La boheme at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, he heads across the globe to his native New Zealand.

He will sing his first Messiah with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra on December 7th in Wellington. He then hops back on a plane to his home base of San Francisco for three performances of Handel's holiday classic with the American Bach Soloists on December 11, 12 and 13. He then heads south to the Lone Star State for three more Messiah's with the Houston Symphony Orchestra on December 20. 21 and 22.

Composed in just 24 days in 1741, the Messiah received a lukewarm reception at its first London performance. However, over the years it has grown in popularity. Although Messiah is structured like an opera, it features no characters or dialogue.

He'll wrap up the year back in San Francisco for the American Bach Soloists New Years Eve concert. He'll be joined by mezzo-soprano Sarah Coit for arias and duets from Handel, Rameau, Vivaldi and Monteverdi.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

William Berger joins Philharmonia Baroque for Judas Maccabaeus

William Berger
The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra will perform Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus, a loose telling of the story of Hanukkah. Despite telling the story of the Maccabees, it has never quite evolved into a Jewish alternative to the composer's far more popular Messiah.

The oratorio was written five years after Messiah in 1746 and was premiered at the Covent Garden Theatre in London the following year.

Philharmonia Baroque's performance will feature barihunk William Berger as Simon, who sings the aria “Arm, arm, ye brave!” He'll be joined by the sensational tenor Nicholas Phan, soprano Robin Johannsen, mezzo-soprano Sara Couden and baroque specialist Nicholas McGegan conducting. 

Gerald Finley sings “Arm, arm, ye brave!”:

Handel's oratorio had a far more secular inspiration than the biblical text might suggest, as it was composed in commemoration of the British defeat of Charles Stuart’s Jacobite forces at the battle of Culloden in April 1746.

The events depicted in the oratorio are from the period 170–160 BC when Judea was ruled by the Seleucid Empire which undertook to destroy the Jewish religion. Being ordered to worship Zeus, many Jews obeyed under the threat of persecution; however, some did not. One who defied was the elderly priest Mattathias who killed a fellow Jew who was about to offer a pagan sacrifice. After tearing down a pagan altar, Mattathias retreated to the hills and gathered others who were willing to fight for their faith.

The oratorio will be performed on December 5 in San Francisco, December 6 in Palo Alot and on December 7 and 8 in Berkeley. Tickets are available online.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Barihunk trio touring Lully's rarely performed Isis

Edwin Crossley-Mercer, Philippe Estèphe and Aimery Lefèvre
Lully’s rarely performed Isis will be performed in Paris, Versailles and Vienna with a barihunk trio under the baton of French baroque specialist Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques. The cast includes Edwin Crossley-Mercer as Jupiter, Aimery Lefèvre as Hierax and Philippe Estèphe as Neptune. They'll be joined by Eve-Maud Hubeaux as Isis, Bénédicte Tauran as Juno, Ambroisine Bré as Iris, Cyril Auvity as Apollo and Fabien Hyon as Mercury.

The opera is best remembered today for the "Peoples from Frozen Climes" music, whose  tremolos inspired the ‘Frost Scene’ in Purcell’s more widely performed King Arthur. Isis has been neglected because the five-act opera gets off to a slow start in the first two acts with lengthy dialogue before it kicks into gear for the final three acts.

Christophe Rousset talks about Isis:

The opera deals with the jealously and conflict between Jupiter, Juno and Isis. The two women love the same man, wth Juno opting for e a violent course of revenge and Io lamenting her loss. 

The opera was written for Louis XIV in order to celebrate the Sun King’s reign. However, the libretto's tale of Jupiter pursuing the nymph Io, only reminded audiences of the king's affairs with his mistresses, Madame de Montespan and Mademoiselle de Ludres. The French immediately associated Juno with Madame de Montespan and Io with Madame de Ludres.

The opera will be performed at the Theatre des Champs-Elysées on December 6, at the Opéra Royal in Versailles on December 10 and the Théâter an der Wien on February 22.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Philippe Sly and Le Chimera Project in klezmer inspired Winterreise

Philippe Sly and Le Chimera Project in Winterreise
Philippe Sly and the Le Chimera Project will reprise their version of Schubert's epic song cycle Winterreise, which they performed to great acclaim in Montreal in April. There will be four performances between January 17-26 in Toronto, Québec, Ottawa and Alma.

Sly and Le Chimera Project have created a fascinating new take on the piece with a fully staged song cycle arranged for violin, clarinet, trombone, and accordion. This Klezmer take on the piece blurs the line between concert and theater.

[Synopsis of "Rast," performed in video: "He reaches a charcoal-burner's hut and, worn out by his long trek through the snowstorm with a heavy backpack, he lies down to rest. In the quiet his cuts and bruises sting sorely."]

When Schubert's Winterreise premiered in 1827, the public was perplexed by the piece, finding it too raw, too dark, too hard to digest. Only the famous song Der Lindenbaum found favor. But Schubert was completely sure that he had created a work of importance; no composition seems to have been as important to him as the musical realization of these 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller.  Of course, today one can't have a serious discussion about great lieder without mentioning Winterreise. The piece's influence on other composers can not be overstated and few baritones having included all or portions of the cycle in their repertoire. 

If you can't wait until next year, you can hear Philippe Sly in Bach's Christmas Oratorio with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal on December 3 and with the Gulbenkian Orchestra on December 13, as well as in Handel's Messiah with the University of Michigan Musical Society on December 7. He returns to the opera stage at the Opera Garnier in Mozart's Don Giovanni in March and Cosi fan tutte in June. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

Barihunk switcharoo continues in Chicago's Don Giovanni

Ryan McKinny (Photo: Robert Millard)
Bass-barihunk Ryan McKinny is replacing Davide Luciano in the final three performances of Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, who was scheduled to sing in performances between December 3-8. The company previously announced that barihunk Lucas Meachem would replace Ildar Abdrazakov in the November 14-30 performances.

Meachem has previously sung the role at the Semperoper Dresden, Cincinnati Opera and Santa Fe Opera, while McKinny recently debuted the role at the Houston Grand Opera. He will reprise the role with the Washington National Opera in February and March 2020. 

McKinny joins a cast that includes Matthew Rose, Rachel Willis-Sørensen, Amanda Majeski, Ying Fang, Brandon Cedel, Mika Kares, and Ben Bliss.

The Lyric Opera of Chicago production was recently featured on this site and you can read about it HERE.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Opera returns to historic Philly opera house with André Courville

Ezio Pinza and André Courville (photo: Dario Acosta)

Opera will return to the Metropolitan Opera House in Philadelphia for what is believed to be the first time since 1934 when the Academy of Vocal Arts presents the BrAVA Philadelphia! concert on March 28, 2020.

The partial list of singers includes bass-barihunk André Courville along with sopranos Angela Meade, Latonia Moore, and Vanessa Vasquez; tenors Michael Fabiano, Bryan Hymel, and Taylor Stayton; and mezzo-soprano Hannah Ludwig.

The recently restored 3,100 seat theater opened in 1908 with a production of Carmen and was the site for the U.S. premiere of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck in 1931with Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra.

New York's Metropolitan Opera used to perform regularly in Philadelphia and many of the most famous baritones and basses of the early 20th century performed there, including Fyodor Chaliapin, Edouard de Reszke, Antonio Scotti, Pasquale Amato, Giuseppe De Luca, Lawrence Tibbett, George Cehanovsky and Ezio Pinza.

The building has been used as a movie house, ballroom, sports venue, and church. After decades of neglect and deferred maintenance, it reopened in December 2018 with a special appearance by Bob Dylan following a reported $56 million renovation. Now called Met Philadelphia, it hosts more than a dozen shows a month as a Live Nation venue.

Tickets to the concert are available online.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Barihunk bliss in Seattle's Eugene Onegin

Michael Adams, John Moore and David Leigh
If you want to start off the new year with some barihunk bliss then you might want to head to the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle Opera will be rotating barihunks as the title character in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin running from January 11-25 with John Moore and Michael Adams both taking on the charming, but jaded character.

Also in the cast will be bass-barihunk David Leigh as Prince Gremin, who sings the beautiful aria "Lyubvi vse vozrasty pokorny," where he tells Onegin how love can change a life at any age, and how he is madly in love with Tatiana.

The remainder of the cast includes Colin Ainsworth as Lenski, Marjukka Tepponen and Marina Costa-Jackson as Tatyana, Melody WIlson as Olga, Meredit Arwady as Filipievna, Margaret Gawrysiak as Larina and Martin Bakari and Triquet. Tickets are available online.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Eugene Onegin at The Met:

Tchaikovsky based his opera on Alexander Pushkin's s novel, which was written in verse and is considered a classic of Russian literature. The idea of setting the story to music was suggested to the composer by the great Russian mezzo-soprano Yelizaveta Lavrovskaya. Tchaikovsky arranged much of the verse himself into the libretto with help from his friend Konstantin Shilovsky.

The opera was first performed in Moscow in 1879 and has remained popular since its premiere.

A number of barihunks have sung Onegin to great acclaim, including Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Mariusz Kwiecien, Nathan Gunn, Simon Keenlyside, Artur Rucinski, Peter Mattei, Paulo Szot, Tobias Greenhalgh, Christopher Maltman, Günter Papendell and Franco Pomponi.   

Other companies performing the opera in 2020 include the Norwegian Opera, Rome Opera, Finnish National Opera, Israeli Opera, Semperoper Dresden, Munich Opera Festival and Opera Australia.