Thursday, October 17, 2019

Barihunk switch in Lyric Opera of Chicago's Don Giovanni

Lucas Meachem as Don Giovanni
Lucas Meachem will replace Ildar Abdrazakov in the Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni from November 14 - 30. He has previously performed the role with the Semperoper Dresden, Cincinnati Opera and Santa Fe Opera.

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

Meachem will return to Lyric in February to portray Yeletsky in Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades. He is no stranger to Lyric audiences, having perfomed Oreste in Gluck's Iphigenée en Tauride, Valentin in Gounod's Faust, Demetrius in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream , Marcello in Puccini's La bohème and most Chorebus and the Ghost of Chorebus  in Berlioz's Les Troyens.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Hvorostovsky's hometown to honor late singer on his birthday

Statue of Dimitri Hvorostovsky in Krasnoyarsk (Photos: TASS)
On October 16th, the city of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia will hold a celebration of the life of Dmitri Hvorostovsky on what would have been his 57th birthday.  The celebration will occur at the monument which was erected in his honor in the park near the Siberian Institute of Art, where the artist studied.

Hvorostovsky was born and educated in Krasnoyarsk and lived there until the mid-1990s. The 11 1/2 foot (3.5 metres) tall sculpture at the site was designed by Moscow sculptor Vladimir Usov. Hvorostosky sang a farewell concert in his hometown in June 2017. 

According to Hvorostovsky’s last will, his body was cremated and the ashes were placed into two urns. One was buried at Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery (the final resting place of the most outstanding artists, cultural personalities, scientists, politicians, and military heroes), and the other was flown to Krasnoyarsk for burial. The airport in Krasnoyarsk was also named in his honor. 

Dmitri Hvorostovsky performs in Krasnoyarsk:

After being diagnosed with a brain tumor in June 2015, Hvorostovsky died on November 22, 2017 in London.  There were memorial concerts in his honor at The Royal Opera in London and at Zankel Hall in New York City.

He was born on October 16, 1962 and shot to fame in 1989 when he won the Cardiff Singer of the World competition in a legendary showdown with Bryn Terfel. Hvorostovsky sang two arias from Verdi, Rodrigo's aria "O Carlo, ascolta" from Don Carlo and "Eri tu che macchiavi" from Un ballo in maschera, as well as "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 music world was instantly abuzz with stories about a baritone who looked as beautiful as he sounded.

After his brain cancer diagnosis, he cancelled concerts in Kaliningrad, Minsk, the Georges Enesco Festival, Tanglewood and Vienna, as well as the Met's performance of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, but made a brief return for a concert in Toronto and appeared at the Met Gala to a rousing ovation.

His extensive discography includes 30 recitals, numerous complete operas on CD and DVD, and the award-winning film "Don Giovanni Unmasked" where he performed the dual roles of Don Giovanni and Leporello. On November 10, 2017, five days before his death, his first recording of Verdi's Rigoletto was released, on which he sings the title role.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Barihunk duo in Spontini's rarely perfomed "Fernand Cortez"

Gianluca Margheri as Moralez in Fernand Cortez
Spontini's rarely performed opera Fernand Cortez is being performed at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino with barihunks Gianluca Margheri as Moralez and André Courville as the Mexican High Priest.

Following on from the triumph of Gaspare Spontini's opera Vestale, he was asked to compose a new opera for the Paris Opèra. The request came from Napoleon, whose favorite composer was Spontini.

André Courville as the Mexican High Priest in Fernand Cortez
The choice was for the story of Fernand Cortez, a legendary 16th-century Spanish captain involved in the conquering of Mexico. Well aware of the power of art as a vehicle for propaganda, Napoleon aimed to obtain public support for his military campaign in Spain. The protagonist of the opera, a wise and magnanimous man, whose only desire was to free the Mexican people from the slavery imposed by the superstitious indigenous religion, in fact represented the perfect match for Napoleon, who - like Cortez - wanted to appear as a representative of civil and liberal values.

Fernand Cortez made its debut at the Opèra on November 28, 1809. The sumptuous staging, grandiloquent orchestra, spectacular special effects - such as the charging of real horses on the stage - war-like choirs, barbarous dances and even a sentimental touch provided by the love between Cortez and the young indigenous Amazingly, guaranteed the opera its hoped-for success.

Gianluca Margheri rehearsing Moralez in Fernand Cortez
The glory of Napoleon was greatly exalted, and Fernand Cortez became the symbolic opera of his empire. The popularity of the piece declined with the waning of the French army's fortunes in Spain and Portugal.

The opera was last performed at the Theater Erfurt in 2006. It had its premiere in the United States during the 1887-88 season at the Metropolitan opera with the Wagnerian tenor Albert Niemann and Swedish bass Johannes Elmblad. Remaining performances at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino are on October 16, 20 and 23. Tickets are available online.

A new production of the opera will be performed at the Theater Dortmund from May 21 through June 12, 2020.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Barihunk Quartet making Lyric Opera of Chicago debuts in Don Giovanni

Ildar Abdrazakov, Brendon Cedel and Davide Luciano
Four barihunks will be making their Lyric Opera of Chicago debuts in the upcoming production of Mozart's Don Giovanni, which opens on November 14. Russian bass-barihunk Ildar Abdrazakov will alternate the title role along with Davide Luciano, while Brandon Cedel sings Masetto. Finnish basso Mika Kares also makes his debut with the company as the Commendatore after an impressive performance in Mozart's Requiem earlier this year with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

They will be joined by Rachel Willis-Sørensen as Donna Anna, Ben Bliss as Don Ottavio, Amanda Majeski as Donna Elvira, Matthew Rose as Leporello and Ying Fang as Zerlina.

Mika Kares
Don Giovanni was the first opera that the company produced in early 1954 in an effort to gauge Chicago's support for a new opera company. Needless to say, it was quite a success, considering the cast included Nicola Rossi–Lemeni as Don Giovanni, John Brownlee as Leporello, Eleanor Steber as Donna Anna, Léopold Simoneau as Don Ottavio and Bidú Sayão as Zerlina. The debut season also included Maria Callas performing her signature role of Norma.

The current production will be the company's eleventh performance of the season. There will be nine performances from November 14 through 8. Tickets are available online. David Luciano will perform on December 3 and 8, while Ildar Abdrazakov sings on all other dates.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Craig Verm stars in "film noir" version of Don Giovanni

Craig Verm and Rachelle Durkin (Photo: David Bachman)
The Pittsburgh Opera is kicking off its new season on October 12 with barihunk Craig Verm in the title role of Mozart's Don Giovanni.

Director Kristine McIntyre has reinvisioned the opera in the style of film noir. Film noir was popular in the 1940s and 1950s and explored dark stories of crime, sexual motives and deceit. What could be darker and more deceitful than the noted Lothario Don Giovanni, the charming sexual predator who preys on women of all social classes, including the vengeful Donna Anna, leading to a fight that results in her father’s death?

Some of the greatest film noir movies included Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity, Otto Preminger's Laura, Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep, Charles Vidor's Gilda and Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. Film noir was a response to World War II and at the dawn of the Cold War, which generated stories of espionage and betrayals.

Verm will be joined by Musa Ngqungwana as Leporello, Tyler Zimmerman as Masetto, Brian Kontes as the Commendatore, Rachelle Durkin as Donna Anna, Corrie Stallings as Donna Elvira, Kang Wang as Don Ottavio and Antonia Botti-Lodovico as Zerlina. Performances are on October 12, 15, 18 and 20. Tickets are available online.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Zachary James prepares for Met debut with a little Cabaret

Zachary James (Photos courtesy of the artist)
Barihunk Zachary James made quite a splash with his super sexy, scantily clad performance of Sally Bowles' "Maybe this time" from Cabaret at the Bearded Ladies’ Late Night Snacks Cabaret, part of Opera Philadelphia’s O19 festival and FringeArts. The lineup also includes the legendary gender bending performer Justin Vivian Bond, as well as opera legends Stephanie Blythe and Anthony Roth Costanzo. There a couple of remaining shows before the festival closes on September 29 and tickets are available online.

The festival came with the following disclaimer; "Late Night Snacks ingredients may include artistic experimentation, adult content, consensual touch, ear worms, nudity, jubilation, great selfie material, rampant queerness, and many repeat visits."

You can see Zachary James' performance HERE.

He said this of the festival. "Several of the singers from Opera Philadelphia’s O19 festival were invited to participate in Late Night Snacks Cabaret in South Philly produced by The Bearded Ladies, a month long nightly event included in this year’s Opera Philly O19 festival and Philly FringeArts festival. We love what we do as opera singers but also all have cravings to step outside of the box and explore our versatility. Late Night Snacks hosted Stephanie Blythe screlting rock and busting out Carmen with ukulele, Anthony Roth Costanzo singing jazz in a smooth baritone, Alissa Anderson belting You Don’t Own Me, Will Liverman singing gospel accompanying himself on piano like a beast, and many more stunning turns. This was a time and space to let our hearts out and explore our hidden desires as artists."

Zachary James in Akhnaten (Photo: Jane Hobson)
James will also be making his Met debut alongside his Late Night Snacks co-stars Anthony Roth Costanzo and Will Liverman, when he reprises his performance as Amenhotep III in Philip Glass' Akhnaten, which runs from Noevember 8-December 7. Tickets are available online.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Marco Vassalli swashbuckling in Germany before making only U.S. appearance in 2019

Marco Vassalli and Vikrant Subramanian
German barihunk Marco Vassalli is performing Count Mondego (Graf von Mercerf) in Frank Wildhorn's The Count of Monte Cristo at the Stadtheater Bremerhaven with Vikrant Subramanian taking on the title role. Performances run from September 29 through June 10 and some shows are already sold out, so get your tickets online.

Lyricist and librettist Jack Murphy took his influences from the Alexandre Dumas père book of the same name, as well as the popular movie starring Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Richard Harris and Henry Cavill.

The musical was first work-shopped in New York City in 2008 with many of the cast members of Broadway's A Tale of Two Cities. The American professional premiere was produced by the Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City in May 2016. The German language version (Der Graf von Monte Christo) premiered at the Theater St. Gallen in Switzerland on March 14, 2009.

Vassalli will take advantage of a break in the schedule between his October 13 and 26 performances to make his only U.S. appearance. He will be reprising Clint Borzoni's Stufen with the Festival String Quartet, which was written for him and has proved to be immensely popular with audiences and on YouTube. He will also perform works by Leonard Bernstein and Franz Schubert along with the Piano Quintet in Eb major by Robert Schumann. Tickets are available online.