Tuesday, December 25, 2012


We want to thank all of our readers for a successful year and to all of you who bought our 2012 Barihunks Charity Calendar. Our goal on this site is to support young artists and to support the art form of opera. We sell tee shirts, CDs and calendars on this site and give every penny of profit to support baritones, who we feel have wrongfully lived in the shadow of tenors and sopranos for too long. We love that this site has brought baritones to the forefront of numerous discussions about opera. Our favorite comment of the year came from a composer who told us, "Thanks to your site, I'm now writing leading roles for baritones."

It's time to celebrate our our "Top 25 of 2012."



When we asked readers to email us with suggestions for our "Top 25" feature our inbox was filled with messages titled "Duncan Rock." The star of "Don Giovanni: The Opera" at London's Heaven nightclub, proved that he's not just a hot body by winning the £10,000 Chilcott Award given to a “major young artist with the potential to make an international impact.” He gets an outrageous number of hits on our site and we look forward to following his career in years to come.


Vasil Garvanliev
There are few singers who photograph better than Canadian Vasil Garvanliev, who we discovered while he was singing at Opera Atelier. Of course, Opera Atelier has become famous for their sexy, provocative marketing campaigns that often features models in various states of undress. We've always maintained that with Garvanliev on the roster, they don't need to hire models. He made the role of Caspar in Weber's Der Freischütz sexy, which is an accomplishment in itself.

Aubrey Allicock
There are few premieres in 2013 that we're anticipating more than the world premiere of Champion
at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Aubrey Allicock will star as bisexual boxer Emile Griffith in an opera written by jazz great Tereence Blanchard with a libretto by playwright Michael Cristofer and co-starring mezzo Denyce Graves. Allicock became an instant fan favorite at the Opera Theatre where he played Mamoud in The Death of Klinghoffer in 2011 and the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland in 2012. We're pretty sure that Allicock is going to look pretty hot in any shirtless scenes playing Griffith.

Gordon Bintner
Canada seems to churn out hot, young talent at an almost incomprehensible rate. Gordon Bintner just finished his first year at the esteemed Merola Opera Program in San Francisco and charmed audiences with his Golden Voice and Golden Boy looks. He recently won $5,000 as the winner of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio Competition and another $1,500 for taking home the coveted People’s Choice Award. Bintner performed Non più andrai from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and Sibilar gli angui d’Aletto from Handel's Rinaldo.

Andrè Schuen  (Foto © Werner Kmetitsch/Oper Graz)
Graz's Elixir was co-produced with Valencia and Madrid and the sets look like a beach party on a Mediterranean beach resort, with giant cans of beer, bars, beach balls, lifeguards, cheerleaders,  shirtless boys, women in bikinis and a foam party. Best of all, it featured the Tyrolean barihunk Andrè Schuen who frolicked around shirtless much of the time. The innovative Graz production featured sets by Paolo Fantin and costumes by Silvia Aymonino, with energetic directing from Damiano Michieletto.

Vasil Garvanliev backstage
As with any Opera Atelier production, they managed to create a sensuous production that brought Weber's often stodgily performed piece to life. Robert Harris of the Toronto Globe & Mail wrote, "The point of the Wolf’s Glen scene is to shock and amaze, and the sight of a dozen seemingly naked bodies, rushing across the stage, waving banners, writhing in torment, haunting Max (and us) certainly did the trick. But did so in a way that never overwhelmed the production, instead heightening its spooky, frightening ambiance."


Schrott, Hvorostovsky, Castronovo and Abdrazakov (Photo Credit: Charles Martin)
This year's barihunk feast occurred offstage when Erwin Schrott, Dmitry Hvorostovsky and a newly toned and buff Ildar Abdrazakov showed up to tenor Charles Castronovo's CD release party at 54 Below. Castronovo's CD "Dolci Napoli" is available online

Beltran Iraburu
We keep saying that our best posts come from readers and 2012 was a record year for submissions, but few could top the smoking hot 37-year-old Spanish baritone Beltrán Iraburu. He earned his Master's degree in Musicology from the University of Valladolid in Spain before studyng in Milan. He's performed throughout Spain with a number of opera companies, as well as singing the complete set of Monteverdi's madrigals with La Capilla Real de Madrid. He is currently living and working in Paris.


Zachary Gordin
Few singers caused quite the sensation that Californian Zachary Gordin created sporting his BARIHUNK tee shirt. In fact, the photo landed him an offer to sing in Australia next year. The gym buff was probably the hottest Monterone in Rigoletto and Silvio in Pagliacci ever when he took on those roles at the Sacramento Opera this year. He'll be singing at San Francisco's Old First Church Concert Series in "Season of Love" on January 19th along with soprano Cathleen Candia.

Dan Kempson's chose to model his BARIHUNK tee shirt with his chest showing and he ended up making men and women swoon across the globe. Other than Duncan Rock, Kempson received the most gushing praise from readers for our "Top 25" feature. Kempson, another former Merola graduate, has the brains to match his voice and is destined for a long, successful career in this business.  [Pictured at top of this post].


We continue to receive a generous amount of press, but nothing outdid the photo-filled spread in Germany's largest gay periodical, MÄNNER magazine. We weren't nuts about being called a fetish site, but who could argue with the intelligent article about sex and opera, as well as all those delicious photos? By the way, every photo is also featured in our calendar


Chris Carr: before and after Sparticus
Any singer who has ever encountered barichunk to barihunk Michael Mayes has probably been dragged into a gym against their will and came out a few weeks later ripped to the nines. Chris Carr shared his before and after photos and became an inspiration to other singers. We received this email from a soprano,"Just saw the Chris Carr photos. I'm skipping the bagel shop, hitting the gym and committing to losing 35 pounds." Chris also performed in a master class this year with our favorite diva Joyce DiDonato. 


Michael Mayes (L) and Seth Carico (R)
Michael Mayes doesn't just look good in muscle shirt and gym shorts, he wears a dress well, too. We couldn't stop laughing when we saw barihunks Michael Mayes and Seth Mease Carico show up to a promotional event for Mark Adamo's "Lysistrata" at the Fort Worth Opera Festival looking like a cross between a Ukranian mezzo-soprano and a Wal-Mart shopper from Nacogdoches, Texas. Mayes and Carico are two of the greatest guys in the business and stunts like this is why they are beloved by their colleagues. 


Simon Keenlyside in The Tempest and his new CD "Songs of War"
We can't say it better than review Stephen Pritchard from The Observer, "Despite the title, most of the songs in this admirable collection are anything but warlike. There is no place for patriotic bombast here; instead, these polished miniatures yearn for a vanished pastoral England and express nobly romantic notions of love, fidelity and the human spirit. Vaughan Williams, Butterworth, Gurney, Ireland, Warlock and Somervell are all represented, but Simon Keenlyside and Malcolm Martineau do not limit themselves to England's whimsical finest, finding room for astringent examples from Ned Rorem and Kurt Weill as well. It's a beautifully judged recording, exquisitely sung; poignant but never sentimental."


Let's face it, without Mozart's Don Giovanni, we would have a lot more spare time on our hands at Barihunks. How often do we find three gorgeous barihunks cast together in this opera as Don Giovanni, Leporello and Masetto? This recording featured the rich bass-baritone of Luca Pisaroni as Leporello, with his crystal clear diction, warm tone and perfect comic timing. Ildebrando D’Arcangelo brings a darker sound that we often hear as Don Giovanni along with rhythmic precision and an Italianate sensuality AND sexuality that is lacking in many performances. The addition of Konstantin Wolff as Masetto is luxury casting in an already delightful recording that belong in any music collection.


Christopher Maltman in JUAN
If you live in the U.K., you're in luck because Kasper Holten's truncated and updated version of Don Giovanni, Juan, was FINALLY released on DVD. Unfortunately, if you live in the U.S. the DVD has Region 2 encoding and won't play on most equipment. However, we figured out how to make it play on a Mac and we can now enjoy Christopher Maltman's bum along with everyone across The Pond.


Another Canadian who we're unabashedly crazy about is our calendar's Mr. July Jonathan Estabrooks. He's one of the most creative and interesting performers around. He travels with his video camera and hosts "A Singer's Life" on YouTube (you really should subscribe). His video of "The Most Wonderful Memes" went quasi-viral, garnering over 14,000 views in its first eight days. We tried to start an online movement to get him on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which was one of his goals. It hasn't happened yet, but we're not giving up. If anyone can make opera appealing to the next generation, it's Estabrooks. ELLEN, IF YOU'RE READING THIS, PLEASE BOOK HIM!


Christopher Herbert: all-around good guy
Christopher Herbert just can't seem to pass up helping out a noble cause. He played a huge role with "Sing for Hope," which was "founded by opera singers with a desire to lift their voices for social change, Sing for Hope mobilizes world-class artists – from classical musicians to photographers to Broadway performers – who donate time and talent in volunteer service programs that benefit schools, hospitals and communities."

On November 10th, he pitched in again singing "Quoniam" from Bach's B Minor Mass with the "Music at Trinity Wall Street" series. The Hurricane Sandy relief concert benefited the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, which is gathering donations to provide essential living supplies to New Yorkers in need – including food, water, blankets, baby supplies and other emergency items. You can still donate by visiting www.nyc.gov/fund.


We were mesmerized by this 15-minute documentary about the making of Philippe Sly's first studio album with renowned pianist Michael McMahon. The film was lovingly produced by his brother Mathieu Sly, who appears to be as gifted a filmmaker as his brother is a singer.

Another Canadian and another singer from the Merola Opera Program, Sly becomes a member of the prestigious Adler Fellowship Program at the San Francisco Opera where he will make his mainstage debut as Guglielmo in 'Così fan tutte' under music director Nicola Luisotti. He also will tour Canada in recital with the Debut Atlantic Series.


Greer Grimsley as Wotan
Fans of the late, great Wagnerian soprano Birgit Nilsson used to say, "You just HAD to hear her live to believe that voice!" Well, the same can be said of the world's reigning Wotan, Greer Grimsley. An imposing man with an imposing voice, he will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on your eyes and your ears. People on both coasts are excited about Grimsley's 2013 schedule as he showcases his heralded portrayal of Wotan in Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle.  On May 4th, he'll open in the Ring Cycle at the Metropolitan Opera before returning to Seattle on August 4th to reprise the role. Seattle Opera's award-winning production is inspired by the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest and has been a sold-out success in 2001, 2005 and 2009. Order you tickets online. By the way, we're going to be there!


Samuel Ramey as Attila
In March 2012, Samuel Ramey turned 70 and he's still singing! One of the most beloved singers in the business, he shows no sign of letting up. Although he's traded in barihunk roles like Attila and Don Giovanni for age appropriate roles like Pope Leo I in Attila, Basilio, Sarastro and Timur, he's still a hot ticket for opera lovers. He'll be singing Timur in Puccini's Turandot at the Met in January and the title character in Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle in Omaha in April. Many of our readers consider him the original barihunk for his portrayal of Mefistofeles in Boito's opera, as well as his Attila.


Timothy McDevitt: Will Calvin Klein be calling?

Timothy McDevitt recently took some gorgeous photos with professional photographer Charles Quiles whose work is definitely worth checking out. We love it when professional photographers see opera singers as underwear models, because if THAT doesn't change the image of opera being a bunch of fat ladies with horns, nothing will. The increasingly buff singer has had a busy year since graduating. He just wrapped up performing in Jonathan Dawe’s COSÌ FARAN TUTTI (They’ll All Do It!) a prequel to Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. Highlights for McDevitt from earlier this year include Philip Glass' Les Enfants Terribles with the North Carolina Opera, Virgil Thomson's Four Saints in Three Acts with the Mark Morris Dance Group at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and appearances at the Swiss Ball and Lotus Club in New York.


Joyce DiDonato
We get asked all to often if we only like baritones. The short answer is "NO." However, we do feel that baritones have been historically overlooked and under-appreciated. After decades of attending the opera, it dawned on us that the best eye candy on stage was almost always the baritone. With that said, there are three female singers who we practically worship for both their amazing voices and incredible presence on stage. 

Joyce DiDonato is our "Honorary Barihunk" and her quote from Twitter graces our homepage. Nothing she does is anything short of spectacular. On her latest disc "Drama Queens," she sings Semiramide who conquers Asia and parts of Africa after her husband dies, Mary Stuart who in a Catholic fervor plots to kill the English monarch, Fredegund who strangled her rival and succeeded her as queen and Cleopatra who reigned over Egypt for 21 years. She imbues every character with her luscious mezzo and great dramatic purpose. What's not to love?

Gorgeous, statuesque and blessed with unbelievable dramatic instincts, Susan Graham can dominate a stage regardless of who is singing opposite to her. Her Dido's in both the Berlioz and Purcell operas are unmatched in our time and arguably of any other time. One could also make a claim that her Iphigénie in Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride is probably unsurpassed in the history of opera. For an American, her French lieder has more luster and shine than any French singer we can think of.

Anna Catarina Antonacci
You only have to see her once on stage and you'll never forget Anna Catarina Antonacci. Undefinable as a mezzo or a soprano, she inhabits roles the way Maria Callas and Leonie Rysanek did a generation or two before her. Remarkably, she's earned this reputation while singing a heavy dose of baroque and bel canto operas, which are often not known for featuring great singing actresses.


Noah Stewart
If there's one question that we admittedly get tired of it's, "Why don't you feature tenors." Somehow the whole "bari" part of barihunks gets lost on some people. We also frequently get emails from tenors who say, "Somehow I'm going to get on your site." And occasionally we sneak one onto the site.

So who are our favorites?

Let's start with Noah Stewart, one of the nicest guys in the business and a MAJOR talent to be reckoned with. His debut recording NOAH made him the first black musician to top the U.K. classical charts. Another Merola graduate, he's gone on to become a fan favorite at the Michigan Opera Theater. He's prompted a few opera glasses to be raised with shirtless portrayals of Nadir in Bizet's Les Pecheurs de Perles and Radames in Verdi's Aida.

English tenor Ed Lyon
Let's face it Ed Lyon almost single-handedly tempted us to start blogging about Hunkentenors. We love him for being an out gay man and unafraid to pose without his shirt on. The British singer got his first big break when baroque specialist William Christie cast him in Handel's 'Hercules' at the Barbican. We particularly love him because he shares our view about where opera needs to go. He told Time Out magazine, "Telly and cinema have made a big impact on the way we view other forms. The idea that opera is just fat people getting up to sing is a complete fallacy. The days of park and bark are over - we don't just waddle up and sing from where we're standing, we also have to act convincingly."

Glenn Seven Allen
OK, we confess! Glenn Seven Allen is one of those tenors who we were dying to find an excuse to post. We snuck him in our post about the aforementioned Tim McDevitt's performance in COSÌ FARAN TUTTI. Equally at home in opera or a Broadway stage, Allen originated the role of Giuseppe in Adam Guettel's The Light in the Piazza, a role for which he was responsible during the initial year of the show's Tony-winning Broadway run.


Michael Grandage and his dull Don Giovanni

One of our tenets at Barihunks is to keep everything positive. We feel that singers work too hard and spend too much money and time training only to get torn apart on blogs. However, we admit that every so often we want to be bitchy and pithy like our respected counterparts at Parterre Box. We've decided to hold our tongues until our year end list, but we have some doozies to get off of our chests. 

Our first gripe is so bad that we're not only combining two into one, but we're repeating a criticism from last year. Our biggest disappointment in 2011 was director Michael Grandage sucking the life and sexual tension out of Billy Budd at Glyndebourne. We respect his work as a director of straight theater like his work on Frost/Nixon, but we were hoping that he would stay away from opera

Fear struck us when we learned that he was directing Don Giovanni at the Met this year.  We hoped that Billy Budd was an anomaly, but the reviews quickly confirmed our worst fears. NY Times critic Anthony Tommasini wrote, "There is nothing particularly gripping about Mr Grandage's work here." The New York Observer called it "disastrously dull, a non-event," The Financial Times panned it as "essentially unimaginative," and the Associated Press summed it up as "disappointing, dull." With bright young talents like John De Los Santos and Damiano Michieletto, we're baffled why opera companies seem so tempted by Grandage and his habit of making opera an interminable experience.

Placido Domingo as Rigoletto

We know that we're treading on sacred ground here, but we have a message for Placido Domingo. Can you PLEASE leave the baritone roles to baritones? Mr. Domingo, you will go down in history as one of the ten greatest tenors of all time. And that's the point, you'll you down in history as a tenor. We're sure it's a bit of ego, as you're already the most recorded singer in history and we're sure that you'd like to have the largest list of roles when you retire. However, other than I Due Foscari in Los Angeles, your baritone portrayals have brought nothing revelatory to any role. Singers have a tough enough time getting work without you poaching the baritone repertory. Admittedly, we're a bit bitter because we cancelled a trip to the Washington Opera because it is heresy to us to hear a tenor sing Orest in Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride. We love you, but stick to what you do best.


Opera obviously wouldn't exist without devoted fans like you. We encourage you to keep attending the opera and to give to the arts, even if it's only a few dollars or euros. We love our readers more than you can imagine. Your clever emails and "Reader Submissions" make it a pleasure to keep this blog going.  We've thought about retiring this site more than once, but inevitably a new singer or a great performance comes along that inspires us to keep posting. (Sometimes it's a really hot photo!).

A special THANK YOU to all of you who bought a Barihunks calendar. This is a fun way for us to raise money, engage singers, show off some skin and support the arts. Many of you have begged us to do a "full monty" calendar. Although we easily know of a dozen singers who would participate, the calendar is bought by everyone from grandmothers and mothers, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, artistic administrators, music schools and fans of sexy men. We can't tell you how many times we've seen one hanging up in an office and even the elderly saleslady at the Santa Fe Opera gift shop mentioned it to us.

You can show your appreciation to us by buying a calendar today and we'll keep the site alive AND continue to support your favorite singers

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Michael Todd Simpson's TV Interview

Michael Todd Simpson

Barihunk Michael Todd Simpson was featured on Dallas television station KXTD to promote his holiday concert with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Unfortunately, the performances are over, but enjoy the interview.

You can next see Michael Todd Simpson live at the Seattle Opera in Puccini's La boheme with fellow barihunk Andrew Garland. Performances are on February 23 and 27, and March 2, 6 and 9. Visit the Seattle Opera website for additional information and tickets.


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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Book Reveals that "Rape of Lucretia" was Censored

Christopher Maltman (L) and Nathan Gunn (R) in Rape of Lucretia
Censorship in opera is not a 20th century phenomenon, as masters like Giuseppe Verdi saw some of their greatest operas altered by the moralists and political watchdogs of the day. Verdi ran afoul of both the religious and political entities of his time, perhaps most famously in Un Ballo in Maschera, with the offense being the assassination of a king.

Rigoletto would never have been produced had Verdi not changed the prostitute-loving King Francis I of Victor Hugo’s Le roi s’amuse to the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto. Rather than the Duke being killed, Verdi ends up killing Gilda.

La Forza del Destino, Luisa Miller and La Traviata were all famously altered after the censors weighed in.

Michael Krzankowski in Seattle
It should come as no surprise that Benjamin Britten was also the victim of the censors. He not only dealt with issues like the injustices of war, but dealt with homosexuality and even pedophilia, topics that were taboo in England at the time. Don't forget that it wasn't much earlier that Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for "gross indecency" and for being a sodomite.

A new book on Benjamin Britten by Paul Kildea, a conductor and expert on the composer, has now revealed that his opera "The Rape of Lucretia" was altered by the censors. The most notable line was the changing of the following lines:

Male Chorus: “He takes her hand/And places it upon his unsheathed sword.”
Female Chorus: “Thus wounding her with an equal lust/A wound only his sword can heal”.
These lines were changed to the far less poetic:
“Tarquinius – 'Poised like a dart’/Lucretia – 'At the heart of woman’/Male Chorus – 'Man climbs towards his God’/ Female Chorus: 'Then falls to his lonely hell’.” 
Amazingly, Britten's "Peter Grimes," which deals with the mysterious disappearance of young boys at the hands of a sailor, made it past the censors. However, the censors did make this comment:
“It is all very wafty and nebulous and I don’t pretend I can make sense of the plot from the verses, but there is no offence in them or in the production. Perhaps Benjamin Britten’s music will carry it through.” 
You can read more at the the Telegraph. You can also check out our photo tribute to Rape of Lucretia, which has provided us with some of our favorite pictures over the years.

Don't forget that there are only eight days left to purchase your 2013 Barihunks Charity Calendar:

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

NY Times: Best Classical Recordings of 2012

Konstantin Wolff's Masetto makes the NY Times list
We're suckers for "Best of..." lists, so seeing the New York Times' list of best classical music recordings of 2012 made for some pleasant reading. We're also suckers for any opera that has three baritone roles, so seeing Don Giovanni and La Bohème on the list made us particularly happy. The list also included one of our favorite non-vocal recordings of the year, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's recording of the Brahms Serenades. This music is so fresh and vibrant on period instruments that you'll think that you're hearing Brahms for the first time. Also making the list is Christian Gerhaher's brilliant recording of lieder by Beethoven, Berg, Haydn and Schoenberg.

You can read the entire list on the New York Times website, but here are our highlights:

MOZART: ‘DON GIOVANNI’ Vocal soloists; Mahler Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Deutsche Grammophon 477 9878; three CDs). The impressive cast for this “Don Giovanni” includes Ildebrando D’Arcangelo in the title role, with Luca Pisaroni (Leporello), Joyce DiDonato (Donna Elvira), Diana Damrau (Donna Anna) and other fine artists, brought together in a wondrously fresh performance conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. ANTHONY TOMMASINI

PUCCINI: ‘LA BOHÈME’ Vocal soloists; Norwegian National Opera Orchestra, conducted by Eivind Gullberg Jensen (Electric Picture EPC01; DVD). The intellectually charged but dazzlingly theatrical director Stefan Herheim deconstructed the traditional sets of the Norwegian National Opera’s previous production of “La Bohème,” creating a mixture of old and new with a sober twist: Mimi dies of cancer at the start, and the opera is reconfigured as Rodolfo’s surreal, moving refusal to admit it. ZACHARY WOOLFE

BRAHMS: SERENADES Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas McGegan (Philharmonia Baroque Productions PBP-05; CD). These are the first period-instrument accounts of the two serenades that I’ve encountered, though that is the least of their charms. More to the point, they rank among the finest recorded performances of these underrated works, perhaps second only to Istvan Kertesz’s classic versions with the London Symphony Orchestra, on Decca. JAMES R. OESTREICH

‘FERNE GELIEBTE’ Christian Gerhaher, baritone; Gerold Huber, pianist (Sony Classical 8869935432; CD). The German baritone Christian Gerhaher, who took master classes with the great Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, would make his mentor proud with this recording of lieder by Beethoven, Schoenberg, Haydn and Berg. Mr. Gerhaher’s mellifluous voice is aptly complemented by the supple touch and deeply expressive playing of Gerold Huber, his superb pianist. VIVIEN SCHWEITZER

We're getting ready to publish the Barihunks "Best of 2012" list, so email us your favorites to Barihunks@gmail.com. Also, there are only nine days left to order your Barihunks Charity calendar. We are only 12 calendars short of our goal, so order today. Please remember that every penny of profit goes to benefit young artists. 

Support independent publishing: Buy this calendar on Lulu.