Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hottest cast in opera assembled in Omaha for Handel's Agrippina

Doug Williams (photo:Kevin McDermott)
Perhaps the best looking cast currently assembled for any opera performance worldwide is in Omaha. The Nebraska company is located about seven hours from the nearest major opera company in Chicago, but that hasn't stopped them from creating some major buzz in the opera world. The cast of their upcoming performances of Handel's Agrippina includes not only some of the best young baroque singers in the world today, but some of the best looking singers across the entire range of voices.

Agrippina, written in 1710,  is considered Handel's first operatic masterpiece and a surprising comic gem.  The Opera Omaha production premieres an original edition of the opera prepared by conductor and early music specialist Stephen Stubbs.

Agrippina cast: Hadleigh Adams, Peabody Southwell, Nathan Medley, Jamie-Rose Guarrine, Jennifer Rivera, Zachary Wilder and Douglas Williams (left to right)
There are two bass-baritone roles in the opera, the larger role of Claudio the emperor and Pallante, one of two men that Agrippina pledges to marry. Both roles are being sung by two of the sexiest men in opera.

Claudio is sung by former model and rising superstar Hadleigh Adams. He established himself as a Handel singer to be reckoned with at the 2012 Merola Grand Finale when he performed “Somnus awake! ... Leave me loathsome light … More sweet is that name”  from Handel's Semele with Suzanne Rigden and Erin Johnson. Later that year, Adams wowed critics and audiences in another early music piece when he portrayed Pollux in Rameu's Castor & Pollux with Pinchgut Opera in Australia. He also showed off some seriously gym-toned arms [see below].

The role of Claudio includes the great bass aria "Vieni, oh cara."  

Hadleigh Adams in Castor & Pollux
Since his debut with the Boston Early Music Festival in 2003, Doug Williams has gone on to  establish himself as one of the most compelling low voices in early music. The Omaha production reunites him with conductor Stephen Stubbs, who led him in performances of Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria in Seattle with the Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa.

His list of successful early music performances includes Purcell’s King Arthur with Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques, Handel’s L’Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato with Tafelmusik, Aeneas in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, Polyphemus in Handel's Acis and Galatea and Jesus in the recoring of Bach’s Johannes-Passion with the Yale Schola Cantorum.  He can also be heard on the recording of Lully’s Psyché with the Boston Early Music Festival, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording of 2008.   


The remainder of the cast includes the brilliant and gorgeous young mezzo Jennifer Rivera as Nerone, who is married to the prematurely retired barihunk Michael Rice. She'll be joined by Nathan Medley as Ottone,  Zachary Wilder as Narciso, Jamie-Rose Guarrine as Poppea and Peabody Southwell in the title role of Agrippina.

Performances are February 14 and 16 and tickets are available online.

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