Thursday, March 31, 2016

Nathan Gunn and Anna Netrebko to debut in Ring Cycle

Nathan Gunn to take on shirtless Wotan
Metropolitan Opera diva and reigning empress of the singing world, Anna Netrebko, announced yesterday that she will debut as the iconic Valkyrie, Brünnhilde, closing the latter half of the Met’s 2018-19 season. Other cast members will include James Valenti as Siegfried and Kristine Opolais as Sieglinde. Nathan Gunn, will make his role debut as operas most famous patriarch, portraying a very chiseled Wotan. 

While the general design for Die Walküre has not yet been released, sources close to Peter Gelb have leaked that Nathan Gunn will be shirtless for the majority of the production, regardless if his character is on stage. Die Walküre will be directed by Rolando Villazon.

Her debut as Brünnhilde will come just three years after her maiden voyage into the Wagnerian repertoire, as Elsa in Lohengrin (coming this May in Dresden), Netrebko says that she will be ready to tackle this mogul of the rep. "Elsa is much lighter, but it is still Wagner. She and Brünnhilde are sisters in a just have to know how to use your voice and feel comfortable with the production."

Anna Netrebko to debut as Brünnhilde
Walküre co-star Nathan Gunn has attested to Netrebko's Germanic prowess, having been viewing rehearsals over Skype. He reportedly wants to give himself enough time to become familiar with Netrebko's approach to Wagner so that he may scale down his execution to match. Dresden has teased that it will stage Lohengrin to the backdrop of Disney's Frozen in order to attract younger audiences.
 With role debuts of Norma and Aida on the way, sources close to the soprano say that after her acclaimed, if not successful Lady Macbeth, she feels confident that audiences will love her in almost anything. Of course, accompanying the buzz that followed yesterday’s announcement came speculation as to what could possibly follow such a mammoth undertaking in her catapulting career. 

YouTube comments under various repostings of her Act I aria from Macbeth mused at everything from a return to ingénue roles, to rumors of her role debut as Isolde opening the 2019-20 season at the Royal Opera.  Covent Garden has declined to comment, but friends of the soprano have, for now, attempted to dispel the rumor, hinting that after her 11 performance run as Brunnhilde, the soprano plans to step away from the Wagnerian rep for at least 7 months to preserve her voice.

[HAPPY APRIL FOOLS' DAY...and kudos to barihunk Zachary Luchetti for the text]

Simon Keenlyside to "cross over" to sing Fagin

Simon Keenlyside as Fagin
The ageless barihunk Simon Keenlyside is crossing over from opera to musical theater this summer as he takes on the master thief Fagin in Lionel Bart's Oliver!.

Performances will run from June 2-July 2 at the Grange Park Festival. Other than his 2014 CD Something’s Gotta Give, Keenlyside has rarely waded into musical theater. The CD includes "Reviewing the Situation" from Oliver! The musical premiered in 1960 and became and instant hit, almost eclipsing Charles Dickens' original story of the workhouse orphan who falls into bad company.

The Festival will also present Verdi's Don Carlo with Clive Bayley, Stefano Secco, Virginia Tola, David Stout, Ruxandra Donose, Alastair Miles and Jihoon Kim; Puccini's La Fanciulla del West with Claire Rutter, Lorenzo Decaro, Stephen Gadd, Alberto Sousa and Michael de Souza; and, Wagner's Tristan & Isolde with Bryan Register, Anja Kampe, Clive Bayley, Sara Fulgoni and Stephen Gadd.

On June 10th, they'll present a recital with the amazing tenor Javier Camarena. Tickets and additional information is available online.

After his run in Oliver!, Keenlyside heads to the Munich Opera Festival to perform Giorgio Germont in Verdi's La traviata and Renato in the composer's Un Ballo in Maschera

You can also catch him in theaters in the MET Live in HD simulcasts on October 22nd when he sings the title role in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni. He'll be joined by Rolando Villazon as Don Ottavio, Adam Plachetka as Leporello, Malin Byström as Donna Elvira, Serena Malfi as Zerlina and Kwangchul Youn as The Commendatore.

Barihunk couple Brandon Cedel & Jonathan Beyer team up for three operas

Brandon Cedel and Jonathan Beyer
Barihunk Jonathan Beyer and Brandon Cedel, who appeared together in our 2011 Charity Calendar, will be together onstage again from April 2-10 at the Pittsburgh Opera in Rossini's The Barber of Seville. The cast includes Emily Fons as Rosina and Michele Angelini as Almaviva. Tickets are available online.

They'll join forces again on June 3rd, when the Detroit Symphony presents Richard Strauss' Salome with and all-star cast that includes Lise Lindstrom as Salome, Chris Merritt  as Herod and Jane Henschel as Herodias. Tickets are available online.

They'll also join forces in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Castleton Festival with Cedel as Figaro and Beyer as the Count.

Upcoming performances for Cedel include Figaro in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at Opera Philadelphia, Masetto in Don Giovanni at the Münchner Opernfestspiele, and Leporello at Glyndebourne.

Another barihunk couple, Dan Kempson and Zachary Altman, have also appeared together onstage, including in a recent performance of Puccini's Turandot with the Pacific Symphony. They also performed a Valentine's Day concert with the West Edge Opera in Berkeley.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Mike Nyby in world premiere of Isis and Osiris

Mike Nyby
Canadian barihunk Mike Nyby will be singing Seth in the world premiere of award-winning composer Peter-Anthony Togni's "Isis and Osiris." The new Canadian opera, concludes the 2016 season of Toronto's Opera in Concert program with performances on April 1st and 3rd. 

Isis and Osiris, Gods of Egypt is based on the major myth of ancient Egypt, telling their love story in a larger-than-life tale of sibling jealousy, lust for power, fratricide and the quest for immortality. Togni collaborated with Toronto poet Sharon Singer on the piece.

The remainder of the cast includes Lucia Cesaroni as Isis, Michael Barrett as Osiris, Julie Nesrallah as Nepthys, Stuart Graham as Grand Vizier Khamet, Leigh-Ann Allen as Sennefer and Christopher Wattam as Imhotep.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy 74th Birthday to the great Samuel Ramey

Samuel Ramey (Photo:Christian Steiner)
He has been referred to as the original barihunk by some, for leading the way in sexy portrayals of the low voice repertory. His video of Boito's Mefistofele from the San Francisco Opera has become a cult classic with opera aficionados. He continued his sexy shirtless portrayals as Attila that were not only sexy, but set the vocal standard to this day.

His amazing vocal flexibility and range has allowed his to sing roles ranging from Argante in Handel’s Rinaldo to the title role in Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle. His repertoire includes the florid passages of Handel, the bel canto roles of Bellini and Donizetti, the great baritone roles of Verdi and Puccini, great American operas and even many of the great Russian and French bass roles.

Samuel Ramey sings "Ecco il mondo" from Boito's Mefistofele:

He is still actively performing, although in less demanding roles. On May 6 and 8, he'll be singing the role of the Old Hebrew with Tulsa Opera in Saint Saens' Samson et Dalila with Frank Porretta and Dana Beth Miller in the title roles.  In recent years he's performed the title role of Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle at Opera Omaha, Basilio in The Barber of Seville at New Orleans Opera, Timur in Puccini's Turandot at the Met and Leone in Verdi's Attila at the San Francisco Opera.

If he sang nothing else, he would be famous for his interpretation of Boito’s Mefistofele,which has included  seventy performances in the Robert Carsen production of the opera specifically created for  him. In fact, devilish roles have dominated his stage performances, including Berlioz's devil in La damnation de Faust; the sinister Nick Shadow in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress; and the tour de force of all four villains in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann. In 1992 Mr. Ramey sang all of Offenbach’s villains for the Metropolitan Opera’s opening night, prompting one critic to write, “[It was] the best interpretation of the four villains I can remember in the last 25 years. This is the stuff of which operatic legends are made.” In 1996, Ramey presented a sold-out concert at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall titled A Date with the Devil in which he sang fourteen arias representing the core of this repertoire, and he continues to tour this program throughout the world.

Samuel Ramey sings "Mentre gonfiarsi l'anima parea" from Attila:

Samuel Ramey holds the distinction of being the most recorded bass in history. His more than eighty recordings include complete operas, recordings of arias, symphonic works, solo recital programs, and popular crossover albums on every major label. His recordings have garnered nearly every major award including three Grammy Awards, Gran Prix du Disc Awards, and “Best of the Year” citations from journals including Stereo Review and Opera News. His exposure on television and video is no less impressive, with video recordings of the Metropolitan Opera’s Carmen, Bluebeard’s Castle, Semiramide, Nabucco, and the compilation “The Met Celebrates Verdi;” San Francisco Opera’s Mefistofele; The Rake’s Progress from the Glyndebourne Festival; Attila from La Scala; and the Salzburg Festival’s Don Giovanni. Ramey is seen frequently on television in appearances with “Live from the Met” and “Live from Lincoln Center” as well as other productions taped for PBS.

Following his phenomenal success in opera, concert, and recordings, Samuel Ramey’s sold-out Carnegie Hall recital in 1987 added a fourth dimension to his spectacular career. His returns to New York’s Carnegie Hall for solo recitals in February 1995 and November 1998 were the culmination of extensive, critically-acclaimed North American tours which had taken Mr. Ramey from Alaska to Alabama, with appearances on America's finest vocal series. His European recital career is equally notable, with sold-out appearances in all the music capitals.

A native of Colby, Kansas, Samuel Ramey was active in music throughout high school and college. In 1995 he was named “Kansan of the Year,” and in 1998 the French Ministry of Culture awarded him the rank of Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters.

Paulo Szot to sing Broadway hits at Feinstein’s/54 Below

Paulo Szot
Barihunk Paulo Szot is returning to Feinstein’s/54 Below for six performances from April 5-9 at 7pm and April 9 at 9:30pm. The Tony-winning star of South Pacific will perform romantic songs of the American Songbook, including Lerner and Loewe, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Burton Lane, the Gershwins and Leonard Bernstein.

Tickets are available online

Paulo Szot talking about his Feinstein's/54 Below debut in 2013:

Szot just finished a run as Sharpless in Puccini's Madama Butterfly at Opéra de Marseille and returns to the opera stage after his run at Feinstein’s/54 in Gounod's Romeo et Juliette at the Palacio das Artes in May. He returns to the Opéra National de Paris next season as Don Alfonso in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte.

Reader Submission: Aussie Paull-Anthony Keightley

Paull-Anthony Keightley
Our favorite thing about posting Reader Submissions, is that it inevitably prompts more submissions. When we posted Aussie barihunk Adrian Tamburini a reader quickly alerted us to Paull-Anthony Keightley who also has eluded our notice.

Keightley is a recent graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, which he attended after completing his undergraduate studies at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. He was a finalist in the Fremantle Eisteddfod Open Aria competition and won first place at the North of Perth Eisteddfod. He was awarded the Royal Schools of Music Club Anniversary scholarship and won the Royal Over-Seas League Singing Competition. He is the recipient of awards from the Dame Joan Sutherland Fund and the Australian Music Foundation.

In February, he made his solo debut with the Western Australian Opera as Pinenello in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi. On May 28th, he'll join soprano Claire Condipodero and mezzo-soprano Chelsea Burns at the Fremantle Heritage Festival for a concert of music from composers from Western Australia.

In Australia and America Paull-Anthony’s operatic credits include Frank in Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus, Leporello in Mozart's Don Giovanni, Papageno in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, Baptista in the Australian Premier of Goetz’s The Taming of the Shrew, Fiorello in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia and Gloster Heming in Virgil Thomson's The Mother of us All.

Since returning to Australia, Mr. Keightley participated in the WAAPA International Art Song Festival and appeared in productions of Faust, L’elisir d’amore and Les pêcheurs de perles

Reader Submission: Aussie Adrian Tamburini

Adrian Tamburini
Our latest reader submission comes from down under, where someone pointed out that we've somehow missed Adrian Tamburini in our posting of Aussie barihunks. He's been singing the roles of Alcindoro and Benoit in Opera Australia's production of Puccini's La bohème, which will be reprised in Melbourne from May 3-28. Tickets and additional cast information is available online

From October 28 to November 5, he'll perform The Maestro in Alan Jones' new opera The Eighth Wonder, a piece written ABOUT the Sydney Opera House. The story revolves around the dramatic story of the creation of one of the world’s most famous buildings and the coming of age of Australia. The opera will be performed outside of the opera house, with a giants stage built across the 100 metre (328') steps, with giant screens, huge glowing balls of paper, projections and spectacular lighting effects.

Adrian Tamburini
Other recent engagements for Opera Australia have included Leporello in Mozart's Don Giovanni, Zuniga in Bizet's Carmen, Antonio in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, Sciarrone in Puccini's Tosca and The Speaker in Mozart's The Magic Flute. He sang Colline in La bohème for West Australian Opera and also joined an all-star cast in Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 for the Zelman Memorial Symphony Orchestra. He has also performed with the Melbourne Opera, has appeared on the TV Christmas special Woolworths Carols in the Domain, and has been a musical director and producer.

Tamburini started his singing career as a chorister with the Victorian Boys Choir at age five and was awarded a scholarship to sing with the St Patrick's Cathedral Choir at age 10. He went on to receive many awards, prizes and scholarships including the Robert Salzer Vocal Scholarship, the Lygon Street Festa Aria Competition, the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Aria Competition, the Lythgo Trust Operatic Aria Award, the Melbourne Welsh Male Voice Choir Singer of the Year Competition, the Acclaim Awards Scholarship and was twice a finalist in the German Australian Opera Grant

On September 3rd, he will join the Penrith Symphony Orchestra as a soloist Verdi’s Requiem. Tickets are available online.

Friday, March 25, 2016

NO JOKE: Barihunk Trio in Festive April Fool's Day Concert

Hadleigh Adams (Photo: Scott Wall/San Francisco Opera)
The innovative SF Opera Lab will be presenting their next Pop-Up concert on April Fool's Day with performances by barihunks Hadleigh Adams, Anthony Reed and Brad Walker. All three are alums of the prestigious Merola Opera Program who went on to become Adler Fellows with the San Francisco Opera.

The SF Opera Lab explores innovative programming that celebrates the power of the human voice theatrically in intimate spaces beyond the War Memorial Opera House. They are also intended to be informal and drinks are allowed at the performance. The concert will be performed at The Chapel, a converted mortuary that was built in 1914 and has been renovated into a live music venue. 
Bass-barihunks Anthony Reed and Brad Walker
The concert is on Friday, April 1st (doors at 8:15pm/show at 9pm) and there will be an after-party with a live DJ. Adams will perform and emcee the concert.  Tickets are $20 advance and $25 at the door. Seating is limited, so order tickets in advance.

Hadleigh Adams will be performing Falke in Die Fledermaus with the Cincinnati Opera in June. Anthony Reed can be seen this season at the San Francisco Opera in Jenufa, Andrea Chenier, Aida and Madama Butterfly. Brad Walker will be appearing with the San Francisco Opera this season in Carmen, Andrea Chenier and The Makropulos Case.

Sexy Agrippina with Damian Pass to be live streamed from Vienna

Damian Pass as Pallante in Agrippina
If you love sexy men (and women), then add the live stream of Handel’s Agrippina from the Theater an der Wien to your list of "must see" performances.  The new production from director Robert Carsen casts a satirical eye on Ancient Rome, with political and sexual machination as Agrippina schemes to place her son, Nerone (Nero), on the throne and the seductive Poppea juggles with three lovers.

The cast includes barihunk Damian Pass as Pallante, hunken-countertenor Jake Arditti as Nerone, the stunning Danielle de Niese as Poppea, Patricia Bardon in the title role, Fillippo Mineccia as Ottone, Mika Kares as Claudio, Tom Verney as Narciso and Christoph Seidl as Lesbo. Thomas Hengelbrock conducts his Balthasar Neumann Ensemble.

Jake Arditti in Agrippina
The performance will live streamed on on March 29th at 7 PM CEST (2 PM EST, 11 AM PST). There is an additional performance remaining on March 31 and tickets are available online.

In 1707-1708, Agrippina gave the young Handel his big chance to establish his reputation as an opera composer in Italy. The commission came from the famous Teatro San Giovanni Crisostomo in Venice, which was funded by the influential Grimani family. The Venetians were extremely demanding when it came to music, but Handel succeeded in creating a wise, gripping and entertaining opera on the basis of the humorous libretto about lust for power and sexual desires in Ancient Rome. The success was overwhelming.

A scene from Robert Carsen's Agrippina in Vienna
The story takes place in Rome, 54 A.D. where Agrippina is married to the Roman Emperor Claudio, who is currently away on a crusade. When the rumor surfaces that he has been killed in battle, she tries to make her son Nerone, the result of an earlier liaison with another man, emperor. It turns out, however, that Claudio is not dead, but was saved by Ottone, one of his generals. Out of gratitude, Claudio has made him his heir. Consequently, there are now two heirs. The situation is made even more complicated by the fact that Claudio, Nerone and Ottone are all in love with the same woman: Poppea. Who will win the woman and the throne? Agrippina schemes, sometimes successfully, sometimes less so. In the end, Ottone wins Poppea – for the time being – and Nerone is heir to the throne. But as we know from history and Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea things are not going to remain this way for long.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Barihunk André Courville featured in Opera News

André Courville (photo by Dario Acosta)

André Courville (photo by Dario Acosta)
Barihunk André Courville is featured in Opera News accompanied by two gorgeous photos from New York photographer Dario Acosta. Here is the feature from Sound Bites in Opera News:

ANDRÉ COURVILLE began to sing the “Air du tambour-major,” from Thomas’s Caïdat Los Angeles’s Loren L. Zachary Society Competition last May, and suddenly there was no doubt who was going to take home the $12,500 top prize. It was one of those jaw-dropping moments when you sense a singer stepping into his own brilliant future. Courville’s basso cantante has both smooth richness and bite, and the Thomas aria was an inspired choice. “It has a fun melody, fast runs at the end, high notes and legato line,” says the twenty-nine-year-old Courville. “It has everything. I didn’t see it as a competition, though. I always have the same objective—to reach the audience and make them feel something. It’s a performance for me, whether or not I’m competing for a prize or a job.” This May, he is bass soloist in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, with the Cecilia Chorus of New York at Carnegie Hall.

[Continue reading at OPERA NEWS. They do not allow for full article reprints]

Davone Tines premieres new Kaija Saariaho double-bill

Davon Tines in Only the Sound Remains (right)
Bass-barihunk Davone Tines is starring in Kaija Saariaho’s new double bill Only the Sound Remains, which includes Tsunemasa (Always Strong) and Hagoromo (Feather Mantle). The pieces are based n 14th-century Japanese Noh theatre works brought to the US by American art historian and Buddhist convert Ernest Fenollosa in the early 20th century and later pieced together by poet Ezra Pound. They are being directed by Peter Sellars.

The operas are scored for small ensemble of live electronics with acoustic sound and two singers — baritone and countertenor, who is famed countertenor Philippe Jaroussky. Both characters narrate encounters with the supernatural. Tines and Jaroussky perform the earth/spirit counterparts of the two pieces, the ghost and priest for Tsunemasa, and the fisherman and angel for Hagoromo.

Davon Tines sings Ol' Man River:

The Japanese Nôh theatre was born from the Buddhist idea that light is concealed largely in darkness, so as not to blind mere mortals. There is little action in Only the Sound Remains, which is meant to heighten the tension, concentration and symbolism.

There are performances remaining on March 27 and 29 and then it heads to the Finnish National Opera Helsinki, Opéra national de Paris, Teatro Real in Madrid and the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto. Tickets are available online

Tines is building an international career commanding a broad spectrum of opera and concert performances. Recent performances include programs of Bach and Rameau at Alice Tully Hall, the U.S. premiere of Meanachem Zur's Cartoons at Lincoln Center and Matthew Aucoin's new opera Crossing, which we featured on the site. He is a 2009 graduate of Harvard College and received a Masters degree in voice from The Juilliard School in 2013.

Monday, March 21, 2016

David Castillo and ¡Figaro! (90210) comes to New York City

David Castillo as Atzuko in ¡Figaro! (90210) (Photo by Ben Gibbs, courtesy of LA Opera)
After a successful run at the Los Angeles Opera, ¡Figaro! (90210) is now being performed in New York's Times Square from March 19-April 3. The opera is an updated and rewritten version of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro about class and power. The piece is set in present-day Los Angeles and filled with pop references,  contemporary slang and includes current topics like immigration reform and income inequality.

David Castillo, who we recently featured in his successful run as Anthony Hope in Townsend Opera's Sweeney Todd, will reprise the role of the stoner Atzuko. (Don't miss our interview with him). He's joined by barihunk Luke Scott as Paul Conti, José Adán Pérez as Figaro and Ethan Herschenfeld as Babayan. Other cast members include Samarie Alicea as Susana, Raquel Suarez Groen, Dwayne A. Washington as teenage troublemaker Li'l B-Man, Emma Grimsley, Sahoko Sato Timpone, Lori Mirabal and Michael Kuhn. Sets are designed by Steven C. Kemp, costumes designed by Lux Haac and lighting designed by Gina Scheer.

Luke Scott who plays Paul Conti
The libretto is in English and "Spanglish" and is about the undocumented workers Figaro and Susana who can't wait to get married. On their way to the altar they have to navigate a world of lecherous bosses, Botoxed starlets, bumbling human traffickers, ambitious hip-hoppers, and pothead gardeners in a wild adventure that recasts the classic opera as a madcap comedy about citizenship in today's America.

Performances are at The Duke on 42nd Street and tickets are available online.

On April 16 and 17, Castillo will be a soloist in the Los Angeles Master Chorale's staged production of Handel's Alexander's Feast at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Gianluca Margheri's sexy Don Giovanni

Gianluca Margheri as a very believable Don Giovanni
Barihunk Gianluca Margheri just finished performing the title role in Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Théâtre de la Colonne in Miramas, France, where these photos were taken. We can certainly understand how thousands of women would fall under the seductive spell of someone who looked like this!

He now takes the red-themed production by Pierre Thirion-Vallet to Théâtre des Sablons in Neuilly sur Seine, France for performances on March 19 and 20.

Other upcoming shows for the Italian singer include Rossini's Petite Messe Solennele in Palermo on April 11, Rossini's La Cenerentola in Palermo on April 21 and 26, Purcell's The Fairy Queen at the Hungarian State Opera from June 17-23 and Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro in St. Gallen beginning on September 17 and running through November 25. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Pianist Peter Dugan and barihunk John Brancy launch Indiegogo campaing

Pianist Peter Dugan with barihunk John Brancy (l-r)
Barihunk John Brancy and pianist Peter Dugan have launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund a recording based on their amazing live show A Silent Night: A WWI Centenary Tribute in Song, which premiered at the Kennedy Center in 2014. The took the show on tour to the University of Chicago, the Montreal Conservatory of Music in collaboration with Société d'art vocal, Opera Saratoga, the Joye at the Aiken Festival and St. John's College.

The two have been collaborative musical partners and friends since they met as students at the Juilliard School in 2007.

The program is a collection of classical and popular art songs written mostly by composers who lived through, fought, and died in the Great War. A Silent Night organizes these songs by the major countries involved in the war, beginning with British composers Gerald Finzi, George Butterworth, and Ivor Gurney, rarely heard lieder of German composer Carl Orff, songs by the great French composers Ravel, Poulenc, and Debussy, and the iconic American composer Charles Ives.

The recording will be available for sale on all online platforms including Amazon and iTunes, as well as on CD. Perks to support the campaign start as low as $5.00. You can support the campaign HERE.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

An interview with Sam Roberts-Smith

Sam Roberts-Smith
We've been following Sam Robert-Smith's career since he was a finalist in the 2009 Mathy Awards. In 2011, he broke our hearts with the news that he was now singing tenor and healed the wounds with the news that he was back in the barihunk realm. We asked him a few questions about his interesting career path in his young career.

1. What drew you to a career in opera?

For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to sing. However, It wasn’t until a knee injury sidelined me from playing school sport that I subsequently had the available time to start singing lessons. I went to an all boy school in Western Australia and was the only voice student in my entire year group. Classical singing wasn’t the ‘coolest’ subject to take at that age but luckily I was also a School Prefect, Swim Captain and Water-polo Captain, which definitely helped me avoid any unwanted attention. Three weeks after lessons began I came second in the school music competition singing Non piu andrai from Le Nozze di Figaro. I was so nervous but after finishing felt a huge sense of achievement. This was a way of connecting and communicating with an audience like I had never experienced before. It took me completely by surprise and made me consider the possibilities of what it would be like singing and performing as a job. The more I researched the great singers and learned about the incredible world of Opera the more I wanted to be involved. Being an Opera singer was never part of my original plan but I think opera chose me. It has been a wonderful journey so far and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

2. What's with the baritone to tenor to baritone switches? Do you prefer one over the other?

I began my voice studies at the WA Academy of Performing Arts as a baritone and have always been a baritone. The difficulty came when I was able to develop the top of my range quite easily and initially had a tenorial quality to the upper notes of my register. After graduating and finishing my post-graduate studies I moved to Sydney and became a member of the Opera Australia ensemble, as a baritone. During my first OA year I was singing smaller roles such as Morales in Carmen and Yamadori in Madama Butterfly. A meeting was arranged with the Artistic Director, who had come to observe many of my performances. He had been impressed, especially with the top of my voice and offered me a position in the OA Young Artist Program as a tenor! I had always wanted to be in the program but was unsure about switching voice types. I accepted on the condition that it was a trial, and if I were not comfortable by the end of the contract I would return to the baritone repertoire. Retrospectively I think the Artistic Director was excited at the prospect of having a tall tenor in the company rather than the longevity of my voice. I performed roles such as Don Ottavio, Tamino, and Remendado (not an easy feat after singing Verdi baritone roles up to that point) but felt I was only just managing. Going through a voice transition unassisted and in public was one of the hardest things I have experienced.  In September 2014 I left OA. While I had the ability and notes to sing the majority of tenor repertoire I still, after two years did not feel comfortable maintaining the tessitura or seem to have the mentality that many tenors do. I think I am lucky having the ability to sing both and have done so professionally, but it has been confusing for people. My voice definitely sits towards the baritone repertoire, however it seems to fall between the two. I have now settled on calling myself a Bari-tenor. I will be touring with The TEN Tenors across Australia, New Zealand and America this year but will also be singing the role of Zurga in Les pêcheurs de perles, with baritone recitals in WA and the Sydney Opera House.

Sam Roberts-Smith
3.  Tell us about your participation in The Ten Tenors.

Soon after leaving OA, I travelled to Paris for the finals of the Paris International Opera Awards, as a baritone. While there, I was in contact with The Ten Tenors who were looking to replace an exiting member for the remainder of their Ten Tenors On Broadway tour. I try to make the most of every possible opportunity presented to me and was available during that time. I sent a few audition video clips in (Nessun dorma being one!) and was successful in being offered the position. I decided to give it a go and learn as much as possible from Australia’s premier classical-crossover group. Because there are ten of us, I usually sing the lower harmonies and all of the heavier operatic numbers. Having a Bari-tenor voice has been very useful in the group, especially when we perform everything from Queen and David Bowie to Puccini and Rossini. Brand wise it’s not ideal for me being a Baritone in the TEN Tenors, but they couldn’t really change the name to The NINE Tenors and Sam! Being in the group is completely different from the main stage baritone operatic work I do, but I feel extremely lucky having the opportunity to do both.

4.  What are your thoughts about singers taking care of their bodies as well as their voices? Do you have a routine to stay in shape?

I think it is essential having a healthy mind and body in life generally. As a singer, we should take even greater care of our health. Personally I try to get to the gym or do something physical every day. Not only does it make you physically stronger but helps with stress management. The result is you feel better and look better which is becoming more and more important to casting agents. That being said, I don’t lift weights on performance or coaching days. Resistance training can tighten your muscles, limiting your ability to breath deeply and relax the muscles around the head and neck. It is a difficult balance between maintaining a fit and healthy body while keeping the muscles flexible and relaxed for singing. There are some periods were I have been required to sing every day while on tour and can’t exercise. Performing a highly physical show every night can be enough activity but I still watch what I eat and always get back to the gym when I can. My advice would be it’s never too late to start. It’s going to be difficult but the hardest part is starting. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

5. Anthony Roth Costanzo went the full monty at ENO...Any limits on what you'd do at a stage director’s request?

I guess it depends on the story itself. If it were necessary to help communicate a part of the plot or was a choice my character had to make then I would have to. I don’t think the performing arts are for the shy or faint-hearted. However, I also don’t believe in artists being asked to perform naked for the ‘shock’ factor, or simply to sell tickets. If the nudity has a meaning behind it and is actually part of the story then I would be open to it. While we all want to have an impact on the audience, I think it’s a fine line between making an audience think, and making an audience uncomfortable and upset. It obviously depends on the content and type of show but these ideas need to be thought through and discussed properly by all involved in a production or performance.

Sam Roberts-Smith
6.  Are there any roles in particular that you really hope to get to perform someday?

Now that I am getting older and my voice is changing yet again, I am really enjoying singing some of the heavier baritone repertoire. Because I have had the opportunity to experiment with the extremes of my range, and have focused years on developing my upper register, I am fortunate that some of the more difficult phrases in Verdi, Leoncavallo and Puccini come more easily to me than most. The tenor and Bari-tenor training has not gone to waste! Luckily my voice has darkened naturally without losing the facility for the top. I am currently happy singing the young baritone roles such as Silvio, Guglielmo and Billy Budd while I still can but have the secret desire to sing Rigoletto and Macbeth eventually. Two of my all time favorites! I am aware that they are both vocally huge and challenging parts but I am excited by the prospect of performing them one day.

7.  Do you prefer singing standard operatic repertory or newer pieces?

I am a fan of both the standard repertory and new works. I think for me, it is more about how an opera is written for the voice and if the music touches me in some way. There are very famous works that when performed badly can be extremely boring and unrewarding, however a brand new piece which has been written and cast well can be extraordinary. The standard repertoire has survived for many reasons and is loved by audiences around the world. Opera Australia for example performs La Boheme every year without fail. I have found that some of the newer pieces propagandized as ‘opera’ do not fit within the style and tend to be a mix of genres. This poses the question whether they are even operas at all. The world is constantly changing, as is opera. I am happy singing any work as long as it’s an enriching experience for the audience.

8.  What other passions do you have aside from music?

Aside from music, over the last few years I have become increasingly interested in politics. Politics affects everything. There is no escaping it. I have been looking at ways to make a difference when I’m not travelling around the world and have slowly been getting involved when I can. I have been so extremely lucky to travel and deal with many different cultures and situations. This has given me a unique insight into how the world works and what decisions can be made to help improve people’s lives. It has also been fascinating watching the field of US candidates running for the United States presidential election recently. A quote from Pericles “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics wont take an interest in you”. I’m not sure when or if my interest in politics will lead anywhere, but it has become a passion of mine.

9.  What do you listen to other than opera?

I listen to most music actually. The only genres I’m not a huge fan of are heavy metal rock and rap. I think that’s more because I don’t understand them more than it being bad. In New Orleans last year I went to Preservation Hall and listened to old school, no-frills jazz. It was one of the best performances I’ve seen. The musicians had obviously been playing their entire lives and seemed to of mastered their craft. It was a night I will not forget. I like to train at the gym to dance and up beat pop music. It gives me that extra energy to work harder and is part of the escapism from opera each day for an hour or so.

10. Do you plan on taking your career outside of Australia? 

Australia really is far away from the rest of the world. However, in the last few years I have had the opportunity to perform extensively throughout Australia and internationally including performances in France, The Netherlands, South Korea, China, England, Scotland, and North America. China was very interesting last year. I performed Il Conte in Le Nozze di Figaro with the Australian International Opera Company around the whole country for a month. From Wuhan to Guangzhou to Xining and many other places in between. It was a completely different culture but fascinating none the less. I have been extremely fortunate to work consistently in Australasia and abroad since graduating but would still love to expand that more into Europe eventually.

Dame Joan Sutherland and Sam Roberts-Smith
10. What was it like meeting Joan Sutherland?

I was 20 years old at the time and didn’t realize the gravitas of the situation until a few years later. I obviously knew who she was but did not truly appreciate the moment. I had won the Joan Sutherland Vocal Scholarship earlier that year and was subsequently invited to perform at her birthday celebration for her. Dame Joan Sutherland reached the pinnacle of operatic success in Australia and around the world. Not only was she an amazing artist but an inspiring ambassador for her country. Luckily a few years later I had the opportunity to meet and be conducted by Maestro Richard Bonynge in La Sonnambula at the Sydney Opera House.

11. Tell us something about yourself that has nothing to do with opera.

I am totally addicted to Coke Zero, getting through about 10 cans a day. I know most people think this is bad but at least it doesn’t have any sugar in it. My guilty food of choice would have to be Ferrero Rocher. I can’t have them around me or in the house because I find them irresistibly delicious. Not so great for someone who likes staying in shape. If you do want to get me some as an opening night gift, I wont be upset.

Marco Vassalli sings more Schubert and another World Premiere

Marco Vassalli photographed in Sonoma, California
Marco Vassalli, is back in Germany after his stunning U.S. debut with Musica Marin where he premiered two works for string quartet and baritone by American composer Clint Borzoni, Stufen and Magere Kost. The program also included works by Richard Strauss, Tosti and Schubert.

Schubert continues to play a big part on his current schedule, as he will be singing Winterreise on March 19 in Königslutte Stadtkirsher and on March 20th in Braunschwieg in the Emmauskirche. Schubert's Romantic song cycle of longing and loneliness is the second of composer's two great song cycles based on Wilhelm Müller's poems, the earlier being Die schöne Müllerin

He then returns to performances in Roman Cykowski's Comedian Harmonists at the Theater Osnabruck, which he's frequently performed over the past few years.

In May, he'll sing another world premiere as he performs in David Fennessey's Sweat of the Sun, which is based on Werner Herzog's Conquest of the Useless. The piece was commissioned by the City of Munich for the Munich Biennale and is being co-produced with the Theater Osnabruck and the Munich Kammerorchestra.

Fennessey has been writing a series of pieces inspired by Werner Herzog's 1982 film Fitzcarraldo and the metaphor of a full-size steamboat being dragged over a hill in the swampy jungle by a rubber baron who strives to build an opera house deep in the Peruvian jungle. The first composition was an orchestral prologue fusing chords from Verdi’s Rigoletto with a 10-minute guitar glissando. The second, Caruso (Gold is the sweat of the sun) deals with the initial image, or dream which inspired Herzog to make the film in the first place. Sweat of the Sun is a based on depictions from Herzog's diary, which was published under the name "Conquest of the Useless" and looks inside of the head of a man possessed.

Tickets and additional cast information is available online.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Barihunks Rodolfo Nieto and Andrew Lovato join hunkentenor Leonardo Capalbo for major role debut

Leonardo Capalbo, Andrew Lovato and Rodolfo Nieto (l-r)
When hunkentenor Leonardo makes his role debut on March 12th as Mario Cavaradossi in Puccini's Tosca with the Minnesota Opera, he'll be joined by two barihunks on stage. Andrew Lovato will be singing Angelotti and Rodolfo Nieto will take on Sciarrone. Tosca will be sung by the riveting Kelly Kaduce. Capalbo and Kaduce also perform together on March 17, 19, 24 and 26. The alternate cast will feature Dominick Chenes as Mario and Alexandra LoBianco as Tosca. Lovato and Nieto are featured in all performances.

A shirtless Leonardo Capalbo in La traviata from Geneva:

Lovato made his Minnesota Opera debut as the role of Sonora in La fanciulla del West and subsequently performed Young Raymond in the world premiere of The Manchurian Candidate by Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell and Le Dancaïre in Carmen.

Andrew Lovato sings the Father's Entrance Aria from Hansel und Gretel:

On March 20th, he performs "A Taste of Opera: Tosca" with the company. It's a a pre-show brunch and informal conversation with experts from the world of opera which also includes Leonardo Capalbo an Stephen Powell. On April 2, he joins resident artists from the Minnesota Opera at the Metropolitan Ballroom for a 1930’s Cabaret. You can register online.

Rodolfo Nieto sings Non più andrai from Le nozze di Figaro:

Bass-barihunk Rodolfo Nieto has been featured frequently with the Minnesota Opera in various roles including Castro in La fanciulla del West, Horatio in Hamlet, Johann in Werther, Scottish Soldier #1 in the world premiere of Silent Night, Joseph in Wuthering Heights and Colline in La bohème. Nieto will also be part of both "A Taste of Opera: Tosca"and the 1930s Cabaret.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

John Taylor Ward as Aeneas with Heartbeat Opera

John Ward Taylor (left) and as Aeneas with Carla Jablonski as Dido (right)
John Taylor Ward will be appearing as Aeneas with Heartbeat Opera. The company, along with Cantata Profana, has reimagined productions of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.

Lucia di Lammermoor has been condensed to 90 minutes so that it can be performed as a double-bill with Dido and Aeneas. You can see them individually or together on March 12, 16 and 20 at the Theater at St. Clement’s in New York City. You can see individual performances of Lucia on March 18 and of Dido on March 11 and 19. Tickets and additional information is available online.

John Taylor Ward sings Monteverdi with Voices of Music:

John Taylor Ward was born into a musical family in Boone, North Carolina that featured bluegrass and Broadway tunes. He is also the associate artistic director of the Lakes Area Music Festival.

Ward's Carnegie Hall debut, singing Schütz’s Fili mi Absalon, was listed among Superconductor’s best concerts of 2012, and, in the realm of vocal chamber music, he has made numerous appearances with the eight-voice ensemble Roomful of Teeth, whose debut album recently topped many 2013 album-of-the-year lists, including WNYC’s Soundcheck. As a founding member of the New Haven-based Cantata Profana, Taylor recently performed Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ 8 Songs for a Mad King.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Introducing Barihunk Malcolm Ulbrick

Malcolm Ulbrick
Back in November we posted about Rossini's Barber of Seville at the Boulder Opera Company with barihunks Andrew Potter, Michael Travis Risner and Garrett Smith. Potter and Risner are both returning for their upcoming performance of Mozart's Don Giovanni, with Risner as the stage director and Potter as the Commendatore.

Featured in the title role will be Malcolm Ulbrick, who is new to this site. When Ulbrick is not performing, he works as both a personal trainer/strength coach and a vocal coach. He received his Masters in Music from the University of Colorado, where he performed performed as Billy Bigelow in Carousel, Olin Blitch in Susannah, Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, Nick Shadow in The Rake’s Progress, Gideon March in Little Women and Marcello in La boheme. He recently performed in Handel’s Messiah with the Messiah Choral Society of Grand Junction, Colorado. He also directed the children's performance of The Barber of Seville with Boulder Opera.

Andrew Potter and Michael Travis Risner
Performances of Don Giovanni will be at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder on April 15th, the Broomfield Auditorium: on April 16th and the Dickens Opera House in Longmont on April 22nd. For tickets and more information:

Romain Dayez in "second world premiere" of Cavalli's L'Oristeo

Romain Dayez
Barihunk Romain Dayez will be performing the title role in Cavalli's L’Oristeo, which has been all but forgotten to time. The performance is being dubbed the opera's "second world premiere."

The performances at Opera Marseilles with the members of Concerto Soave will  directed by Olivier Lexa, who has updated the production with video projections while staying true to the period. The musicians of Concerto Soave will be arranged on either side of the stage, strings and winds facing each accompanied by a continuo.

The opera was reconstructed by Lexa from a manuscript that appeared to be hastily scribbled by Cavalli and deemed almost illegible. The opera is notable for containing one of the first examples of a da capo aria, Udite amanti, sung by Corinta (sung by Lucie Roche in this production).

Watch a recital with Romain Dayez: 

The opera was written with a prologue and three acts and was designated as a dramma per musica. Cavalli and Faustini, his favorite librettist, collaborated on eight operas in the 1640s. However, Faustini's untimely death in 1651 ended the collaboration that gave birth in a year and a half to L’Oristeo, La Rosinda, L’Eritrea and La Calisto. It premiered at theTeatro Sant 'Apollinare on February 9, 1651, just four decades after Monteverdi's Orfeo, which is often considered the first opera.

Performances are on March 11 and 13th. 

Other cast members include Aurora Tirotta as Diomeda and Amore, Maïlys de Villoutreys as Ermino and Nemeo, Pascal Bertin as Oresde, Zachary Wilder as Trasimede and Lis Viricel as Euralio.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Interview with Tristan Hambleton

Tristan Hambleton from the Barihunks Calendar
Barihunks Tristan Hambleton and Kevin Greenlaw will both be performing in the University College Opera's production of Donizetti's La Favorite from March 14-19 at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. It will the first French language performance in the UK this century. You visit their website for additional information.

On March 20th, you can also hear Tristan in Bach's St Matthew Passion at Hampstead Garden Suburb Free Church with the UK-Japan Music Society. You can listen to Tristan Hambleton sing Tchaikovsky's None But the Lonely Heart HERE

Hambleton is featured this month in our 2016 Barihunks Charity Calendar, so we figured it was a good time to ask him a few questions about his career.

1. What drew you to a career in opera?

I come from a musical family stretching back to Victorian London, with family among the founding members of the LSO and the Philharmonia, I grew up to tales of the great musicians of the past. My dad played on many of the RCA and Decca recordings with the likes of Pavarotti, Sutherland and Milnes and when it came to child care, it meant me sitting in on rehearsals at ENO where my dad was principle clarinet for many years. There was little escape. When I was a boy, I started singing as a treble and was invited to sing with amazing singers like David Daniels and Bryn Terfel. I remember at 11, being in a singer’s apartment in Paris while working with Les Art Florissant and thinking “WOW, this is the life!” It was then that I got bitten by the bug.

2. How did you first find out that you were on Barihunks and what was the response to you being in the calendar?

I think someone tagged me on facebook. Oh and my website went into overdrive. As for the calendar, my mum loves it, particularly as it’s now March.

3. What are your thoughts about singers taking care of their bodies as well as their voices? Do you have a routine to stay in shape?

It is so crucial. Your body is your instrument. I don’t have a routine as such, but I’m always on the go.
Tristan Hambleton as Leporello in 2014 (left) and rehearsing Ariodante
4.  Any limits on what you'd do at a stage directors request?

Ha ha – none that I know of. Should I be worried? Or maybe they should be.

5. Are there any roles in particular that you really hope to get to perform someday?

Absolutely. Too many to mention, but pretty much all the Mozart roles. And I think every bass-baritone has a dream of one day being a Hans Sachs. I hope this doesn’t mean I’ve jinxed it!

6. Tell us about your character in La Favorite and the production. This is the first time it's being done in the original French in the U.K.

I play the role of Balthazar, a Catholic Superior who is head of the Monastery at Santiago de Compostela. The story is essentially a love triangle set against a power struggle between church and state. There’s a definite flavour of the Grand Inquisitor from Don Carlos (one of my favourite operas) in Balthazar, except I am a lot more mobile and unlike Hytner’s production I can fully see everything that’s going on. This production is set in the 1930’s using the Edward VIII/Wallis Simpson affair as a sounding board. For over 60 years UCO have put on rarely performed works in the capital using young singers. Previous productions have used some really great singers including heroes of mine Felicity Lott and Robert Lloyd.

Tristan Hambleton in Ariodante (right)
 7. Do you prefer singing standard operatic repertory or newer pieces?

What matters for me is the standard of the music, the story and the character. My last project was a World Premier for Glyndebourne by David Bruce. The opera, called ‘Nothing’, had all three elements in spades, as a result it ranks as one of the highlights of my career thus far. For the same reason, I would happily sing Figaro for the rest of my life.

8. What other passions do you have aside from music?

My Bachelors degree was actually in Art History and I love introducing people to Italy. Something I’ve had the great fortune to do as a Tutor for Art History Abroad.

9. What do you listen to other than opera?

All sorts. According to Spotify my recent plays are: Nick Hakim, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Bach, Major Lazer, Schubert, SBTRKT, Gluck. I believe in the Louis Armstrong philosophy of music.

10. The best advice anyone has ever given you?

Don’t be anyone, but yourself.

11. Tell us something about yourself that has nothing to do with opera.

When I’m at home I wear clogs – like right now.