Saturday, October 29, 2016

Richard Rittelmann in Golden Gate Opera's 20th Anniversary Concert

Richard Rittelmann, another hot barihunk in bed
The Golden Gate Opera, which is based just north of San Francisco in Marin County, will be celebrating the Diwali Festival of Light with a concert on Sunday, October 30. It will feature barihunk Richard Rittelmann, soprano Shawnette Sulker and mezzo-soprano Alexandra Jerinic. The concert celebrates the 20th anniversary of the company. The trio will sing music from Léo Delibes' Lakmé.

The reception begins at 3 PM and the concert an hour later. Tickets and information is available online

The company will also be presenting the West Coast Premiere of Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Boy Who Grew Too Fast, which was canceled last year due to a staff emergency. Keep an eye on our site for times and dates. Proceeds from  the opera will used to bring the anti-bullying message to the Marin County Schools. Rittelmann will perform the role of Dr. Schrink, who helps the boy. 

Our new 10th Anniversary Barihunks in Bed calendar is now on sale and it's our hottest one ever. Click on the Lulu button now to secure your copy.

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Łukasz Karauda in Wexford's Riders to the Sea

Łukasz Karauda
Polish barihunk Łukasz Karauda is performing the role of Bartley in Ralph Vaughan Williams Riders to the Sea at the Wexford Festival. The opera opens today and is sold out. There are additional performances on October 31st, November 3th and 6th. 

Riders to the Sea is one of Ralph Vaughan Williams' greatest masterpieces, but it has often struggled to find a home in the repertory because of its brevity

Composed in 1927 but not premiered until December 1937, Riders to the Sea is based almost verbatim on J.M. Synge’s early twentieth­century drama of the same name. Music of eerie, elegiac beauty illuminates the theme of elemental and watery death as experienced by the Aran Islanders, west of Galway.

The central role is that of Maurya, who by the end loses her husband and six sons to the sea, experiencing a kind of cathartic release when her last son’s death leaves her with nothing more to fear. Realising that the sea can hurt her no longer, Maurya concludes, ‘No man at all can be living for ever, and we must be satisfied’. All this is evoked by Vaughan Williams in music that captures the flinty harshness of the islands and fierce marine brutality. But the theme of mankind against nature –taken to extremes in his Sinfonia Antarctica – always brought out the best in the composer.

Karauda sings the role of Bartley, the youngest of Maurya's six sons, who becomes the sole support of the household after her other sons are lost at sea. He earns income by riding horses into the sea to the steamer anchored far offshore, so that they can be sold at the mainland fair. Preoccupied with practical exigencies, he ignores his mother’s request that he not go to sea. He nevertheless asks God’s blessing on the family and rides off on the red mare, leading the pony.

His mother foretells his death and omits the giving of a blessing to him, an omission considered bad luck. When his mother subsequently stands on the path trying in vain to say the blessing, he gives her his blessing. Bartley is knocked into the sea by his pony, becoming the sixth and final son of Maurya's to die at sea.

Łukasz Karauda is new to this site. He graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and is a recipient of a Bryn Terfel Foundation award. He was also tutored by fellow Polish barihunk Mariusz Kwiecien.

He won the first prize in the 5th Kurpinski Polish National Voice Competition in Wloszakowice, Poland and the ‘Most Promising Singer’ at the 2015 London Welsh ‘Young Welsh Singer of the Year’ competition.

At the Royal Welsh College of Music he sang the title role in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi and the title role in their production of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, as well as Steward in Dove's Flight, Junius in The Rape of Lucretia, Dancaïre and Morales, Zuniga in Bizet's Carmen at the St Magnus Festival in Scotland.

Three Barihunks regroup for holiday concert and CD

Nate Stark, Brian James Myer and Gabriel Preisser
Back in August, we featured barihunks Nathan Stark, Gabriel Preisser and Brian James Myer who were performing "The Three Baritones" concert for Opera Orlando's annual "Opera in the Park" concert. Now they're back for a "Three Baritone Christmas" concert and a new CD of holiday favorites. The CD will be out by Nov 21st and available for purchase on CD Baby, iTunes and Amazon.

They will be performing on the other side of the country in Bellevue, Washington at Resonance in the SOMA Towers on December 1st and 3rd. Tickets are available HERE for the first show and HERE for the second performance. They will also be performing music from opera and Broadway.

Brian James Myer will be appearing with Opera San José as Figaro in Rossini's Barber of Seville from November 12-22 and Ponchel in Kevin Puts' Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Silent Night from February 11-24. Fellow barihunk Colin Ramsey will be singing Basilio in the Barber of Seville, while the cast of Silent Night includes a veritable feast of barihunks and hunkentenors, including Kirk Dougherty as Nikolaus Sprink, Ricardo Rivera as Lt. Audebert, Matthew Hanscom as Lt. Gordon, Kyle Albertson as Lt. Horstmayer, Colin Ramsey as Father Palmer, John Lindsey as Jonathan Dale, Nathan Stark as General Audebert, Christopher Bengochea as Kronprinz, Branch Fields as William Dale and Vitali Rozynko as the British Major.

The Barihunks in Bed calendar, which celebrates our 10th Anniversary is now on sale. Get your copy before the holiday rush by clicking on the lulu button.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Brad Walker returning to SF Opera Lab (with drag diva Heklina)

Brad Walker
Bass-barihunk Brad Walker will return to the San Francisco Opera's successful SF Opera Lab pop-up on Halloween eve. The last pop-up was held at a mortuary turned night club and the latest will be hosted by legendary drag diva Heklina at the OASIS night club.

Walker will be joined by soprano Julie Adams and tenor Brenton Ryan, who he is appearing with at the San Francisco Opera in Janacek's Makropulos Case. Also performing will be mezzo-soprano Renée Rapier and pianist Jennifer Szeto.

Walker is a first-year San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow and graduate of the 2015 Merola Opera Program, where he appeared as Betto in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi. He has been an apprentice with Des Moines Metro Opera, Chautauqua Opera Company and Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and received an award in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Attendees to the SF Opera Lab are encouraged to come in costume or visit the costume booth provided by the San Francisco Opera Costume Shop for a chance to win SF Opera Lab swag and tickets. The performance begins at 8pm (doors open at 7pm) and the party continues after the show with a live DJ. This event is 21+ only with valid photo ID.

Tickets are $25 advance at and you must be older than 21 years of age.

André Courville to perform at Fairleigh Dickinson University

André Courville (Photo: Opera News/Dario Acosta)
Bass-barihunk André Courville will perform as part of Opera at Florham's "A Cornucopia of Opera and Song" on November 6th at Lenfell Hall on the campus of the College at Florham of Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Courville will perform Gounod's “Vous, qui faites l'endormie” from Faust. He performed the role of Méphistophélès in Faust while at the cademy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, where he is a resident artist. He'll be joined by soprano Mia Pafumi and tenor Piotr Buszewski.

Tickets can be ordered by calling (973) 443-8620 or on the website at

André Courville
Last season Courville debuted at Carnegie Hall in the Opera Orchestra of New York's acclaimed production of Donizetti's Roberto Devereux and as Monterone in Verdi's Rigoletto with the Caramoor Summer Music Festival. Courville also recently won first prize at Opera at Florham’s 2016 Violetta DuPont Competition.

He'll also be performing at the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation 42nd Anniversary Gala Concert on October 23 at Rose Hall at Lincoln Center and will reprise Monterone with the Academy of Vocal Arts from November 5-15.

Don't forget to order you 2017 Barihunks in Bed calendar. Our 10th anniversary edition is the HOTTEST ever. Click HERE to order your copy now and enjoy 12 months of the hottest men in opera.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Bass-Barihunk Cody Quattlebaum advances to Met Regional Finals

Barihunks Cody Quattlebaum and Derrell Acon
Bass-Barihunk Cody Quattlebaum was one of 12 singers who advanced at this week's Metropolitan Opera National Council Eastern Region District competition. In June, he took home $5,000 for winning the James Toland Vocal Arts Competition in Oakland, California. He finished his summer as a participant in the prestigious Merola Opera Program across the Bay in San Francisco.

Cody Quattlebaum sings Wolfram's Aria:

He'll be joined by two other baritones, as both Lawson Anderson and Michael Gracco advanced. Others who made the cut includes sopranos Heather Bobeck, Mary Claire Curran, Betsy Diaz, Anna Dugan, Emily Misch and Julia Wolcott, mezzo soprano Samantha Hankey, tenor Jonathan Tetelman and countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen. (BTW, don't miss any chance to hear Cohen, who possesses one of the most beautiful and thrilling countertenor voices to emerge in a decade).

Encouragement awards went to bass-baritone Derrell Acon, soprano Alaysha Fox, mezzo-soprano Kirsten Scott and soprano Yesul Yeon. We'll be keeping our eye on Acon!

The dozen winners will move on to the Region Finals on January 18th at Merkin Hall in New York City.

The 2017 Barihunks in Bed Calendar is on sale and is available HERE.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Tareq Nazmi to make Carnegie Hall debut

Tareq Nazmi
Kuwaiti born barihunk Tareq Nazmi will make his Carnegie Hall debut on October 24th performing in Mozart's Requiem in D Minor,” K. 626 and Bach’s Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243 in a 1733 revision of the original, in E-flat Major, BWV 243a, which was written ten years earlier. He'll be backed by the KlangVerwaltung Orchestra and Chorgemeinschaft Neubeuern Chorus and soloists soprano Susanne Bernhard, mezzo-soprano Anke Vondung and tenor Daniel Johannsen. Tickets are available online.

He also had two role debuts this year, Zaccaria in Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco in St. Gallen in April 2017 and Basilio in Gioachino Rossini’s Barber of Seville at Berlin’s Komische Oper in July 2017.

You can hear samples of his singing on his website, including Tuba mirum from Mozart's Requiem. Click HERE.

Tareq Nazmi has been a permanent member of the Bavarian State Opera since the 2012-13 season where he's performed the Minister in Beethoven's Fidelio, Masetto in Mozart's Don Giovanni, the Speaker in Mozart's The Magic Flute, Colline in Puccini's La bohème, Silvano in Cavalli's La Calisto, Mitjucha in Mussogsky's Boris Godunov, First Nazarene in Richard Strauss' Salome, Zuniga in Bizet's Carmen, Truffaldin in Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, Obrist in Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Die Soldaten, and Astolfo in Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia.

Don't forget to order you 2017 Barihunks in Bed calendar, which is now on sale by clicking HERE

Malte Roesner

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Barihunk Michael Hewitt raising money and awareness for cancer

Michael Hewitt training for The Decath10n
Barihunk Michael Hewitt is raising money for an event called The Decath10n , which raises money for pediatric cancer research. Hewitt is specifically raising money for the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

He has to raise $2,500 to compete in the Decathlon, although the ever-competitive singer has set his goal at $7,000. If he doesn't reach his goal, he can't compete in the challenge, which includes ten events that he's been training for over the last few months.

The Barihunks family would like to help him reach his goal and is hoping that our readers will chip in. Go to his Decath10n page and support him in this noble effort.

Michael is also featured in July in our 2017 "Barihunks in Bed" calendar. We will donate any money from calendar sales in the next 48 hours to his Decath10n effort, so donate now. Click HERE to order your calendar.

Michael Hewitt, Gianluca Margheri and Jared Bybee

Monday, October 17, 2016

Calendar model Aaron Sørensen reprises Sarastro

Aaron Sørensen
Aaron Sørensen, who is featured in our new 2017 Barihunks in Bed calendar, will be returing to his signature role of Sarastro in Mozart's The Magic Flute, which opens the new Fargo-Moorhead Opera season. Performances are on October 28 and 30 and cast information and tickets are available online.

The production is updated to a STEAMPUNK theme, a subgenre of science fiction that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. In this production, Tamino is an intrepid Victorian-area explorer who stumbles into the frozen realm of the Queen of the Night.

Upcoming roles for Sorensen include the title role in Donizetti's Don Pasquale with Brava! Opera in Medford, Oregon, and Leporello in Mozart's Don Giovanni with Kalamazoo Symphony.

Edward Miskie, Aaron Sørensen and Glenn Ayars
Sørensen appears in October in our new calendar along with Edward Miskie and Glenn Ayars. The calendar is available for purchase HERE.

Andrea Mastroni sings bass lead in new opera Aquagranda

Andrea Mastroni (photo: Nicodemo Luca Lucà)
Italian bass Andrea Mastroni will open the new season at La Fenice on November 4th  with the world premiere of Filippo Perocco's new opera Aquagranda. The opera recalls the 1966 tragedy when the sea level rose 194 cm (6.4 feet) and flooded Venice.

Librettists Roberto Bianchin and Luigi Cerantola set the opera on the island Pellestrina, which was hit the hardest by the rains and winds. The opera marks the 50th anniversary of the floods that caused 3,000 people to flee the city.

Mastroni sings the lead role of Fortunato in the opera, which was written for a true bass. It includes a madrigal for Fortunato, Acque, atroci acque, which is one of the emotional highlights of the piece. Mastroni's character also has a scene where he tells his son Ernesto that people cannot escape due to the rising tides.

Venice, as city of canals, has regularly been affected by rising sea levels, known as Acqua alta, but the 1966 levels were almost unprecedented and devastated much of the city. The flood left thousands of residents without homes and caused over six million dollars worth of damage to the various art throughout Venice. The city remained isolated for 24 hours with more than 75% of businesses, shops, and artisans' studios either seriously damaged or destroyed completely.

Performance run until November 13 and tickets are available online.

Mastroni returns to the Metropolitcan Opera after his run in Venice, where he will sing Sparafucile in Verdi's Rigoletto. Performances are on January 20, 26, 30 and February 4th and tickets and cast information is available online.

The 2017 Barihunks in Bed calendar is now on sale. Purchase your copy here

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Two barihunks advance in Met Midwest Auditions

Austin Sanders
Barihunks Austin Sanders and Reuben Lillie were two of the four singers to advance in today's Metropolitan Opera Upper Midwest Region National Auditions. The other two singers to advance were soprano Emily Pogorelc and soprano Ariana Douglas. Baritones Nathaniel Hill and Joshua Cook both received Encouragement Awards. 

Austin Sanders, a native from Onalaska, Wisconsin, is a Baritone in his final semester at Viterbo University as a student of Daniel Johnson-Wilmot. Austin just finished performing Acis and Galatea this October and he starred as the role of Polypheme. He’s also been Ko-Ko in The Mikado, Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola, and Don Annibale in Il campenello di note throughout his time at Viterbo. He placed second at the NATS competition last year, a finalist and an honorable mention at the Schubert Club Audition, and received an encouragement award at the MONC Auditions as well.

Reuben Lillie
Reuben Lillie is a singer, composer, and scholar of music and theology. His stage credits include performances with The Santa Fe Opera, Sugar Creek Opera, and Des Moines Metro Opera in addition to concerts throughout Chicago. He is a graduate of Olivet Nazarene University's School of Music and the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Reuben recently completed his Master of Divinity studies at McCormick Theological Seminary with The University of Chicago Divinity School.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

BARIHUNKS featured in Canada's National Post

Malte Roesner and Marco Vassalli as seen in the National Post and the Barihunks Calendar
Canada's National Post has written a feature on the barihunk phenomenon, which includes extensive comments from site co-founder Jack Michaels. Canadian barihunks Philippe Sly and Phillip Addis are mentioned, along with Italian bass-barihunk Luca Pisaroni and Germans Marco Vassalli and Malte Roesner.
"Look at what we watch on television. Police detectives look like supermodels! We live in a culture where aesthetics are important. I don’t want to ever say it’s more important – voice is always the most important – but it’s become an important factor." - Barihunks co-founder Jack Michaels
The article mentions our charity calendar, which has funded numerous projects for low voices, including the West Coast premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon's opera "Green Sneakers" and Marco Vassalli's U.S. debut. 2017 will mark the tenth anniversary of the site, which was originally conceived as a fan site for Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Mariusz Kwiecien.
“It’s about the music first – that’s why I got into this. Any fitness things that are related, I do try to deliver them, but only as much as they serve the actual work. I’m definitely not thinking, ‘How will this pose look on Barihunks?'" -Barihunk Phillip Addis
Author Catherine Kustanczy does a great job of explaining that the "hunks in opera" phenomenon predates the creation of Barihunks almost a decade ago. She cites such historic opera figures as Cesare Siepi, Theodor Uppman, Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Samuel Ramey, who all were operatic "pin up boys" decades ago.

You can read the entire article online.

Glenn Seven Allen and Edwin Crossley-Mercer in the 2017 Barihunks calendar

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Edwin Crossley-Mercer featured in Opera News and new Barihunks Calendar

The Opera News feature on Edwin Crossley-Mercer
We've been following barihunk Edwin Crossley-Mercer since early in his career, mesmerized by his good looks, dark creamy voice and charming stage presence. The singer, who is Northern Irish on his father's side and French Alsatian–Jewish on his mother's side, has rapidly emerged as a major talent in the world of opera.

He is currently featured in the October 2016 issue of Opera News, where he talks about his career, which has focused mostly on lieder and Mozart operas, as well as his desire to sing Handel. Remarkably, he claims that no one has asked him. Opera News also recognized the attention that he's received from fans of Barihunks, where he has an enthusiastic following [see quote below]'
"THOUGH NOT YET A HOUSEHOLD NAME in the opera world, Edwin Crossley-Mercer is certainly well known where it matters. All kinds of connoisseurs—from devotees of some quite recherché song repertoire to barihunk fans—admire this French lyric baritone; more crucially, so do those in charge of casting at several of the best opera house addresses." - OPERA NEWS

He is so popular with our readers that we asked him to appear in our upcoming 2017 "Barihunks in Bed" calendar, which he graciously agreed to do. We hired a photographer in France to take a photo and made him our December feature, since his stunning prematurely gray hair evoked a perfect wintry night. You can purchase a copy online.

Glenn Seven Allen & Edwin Crossley-Mercer in 2017 Barihunks in Bed calendar
He next appears as Polydorus with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in Berlioz's L'enfance du Christ on October 20 in Edinburgh and October 21 in Glasgow. He'll be joined by bass-barihunk Jérôme Varnier as Herod (who also appears in this year's calendar in April).The performance is conducted by Emmanuel Krivine and tickets are available online.

On November 5th, he'll appear at the Deutsche Oper Berlin's 22nd Grand Opera Gala in support of the AIDS Foundation. The event also features fellow barihunk Andrea Mastroni, Patrizia Ciofi, Gregory Kunde and a host of other operatic luminaries. Tickets are available online.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

LaMarcus Miller to reprise role in "Fallujah" at New York City Opera

LaMarcus Miller
LaMarcus Miller, who back in March sang the the leading baritone role in Tobin Stokes and Heather Raffo's Fallujah at the Long Beach Opera, will now reprise the role with the revamped New York City Opera. Performances run daily between November 17-20 at the Duke Theater in New York City. The opera was a co-commission between the two companies.

Miller also sang in the workshop at the Kennedy Center, which was one of a series over the last four years including at Arena Stage, the Noor Theater in New York City and The Culture Project in New York City.

LaMarcus Miller in Fallujah at Long Beach Opera
The opera's characters were inspired by people United States Marine Christian Ellis encountered, including fallen comrades. In 2004, Christian Ellis was a young US Marine fighting in the Iraq War. He suffered a broken back when his platoon was ambushed, and was one of the few survivors. When eventually he returned home he found himself battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Ellis has attempted suicide four times since returning from Iraq and used developing the opera as a vehicle to deal with the stress. Ellis' mother was a singer who pushed him to play the trumpet and start singing lessons when he was nine years old.

Tickets and additional cast information is available online

Jarrett Ott takes on Dandini in Syracuse before making European debut in Edward II

Jarrett Ott giving us some puppy eyes
Barihunk Jarrett Ott will be singing Dandini in Syracuse Opera's upcoming production of Rossini's La Cenerentola (Cinderella) on October 28 and 30. He first performed the role with the Curtis Opera Theatre while a student. He'll be joined in the cast by hunkentenor Jonathan Blalock as Don Ramiro, Corrie Stallings as Angelina, Peter Strummer as Don Magnifico and Adelaide Boedecker as Clorinda. Tickets are available online.

Last October, Opera News named him one of the 25 rising stars of opera, calling his voice "polished and immaculately produced."

On November 7, Ott will perform excerpts from Jake Heggie's new opera It's a Wonderful Life at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum  in New York City.

In 2017, he will make his major European opera debut at the Deutsche Oper Berlin singing the role of the Angel in the world premiere of Andrea Scartazzini's Edward II, directed by Christoph Loy. The title role will be sung by fellow barihunk Michael Nagy and will also feature hunkentenor Ladislav Elgr singing the role of his alleged lover Piers de Gaveston.

The libretto by Thomas Jonigk focuses entirely on the role of the outsider Edward II and looks at society’s attitude towards homosexuals both then and now. Whether the close bond between Edward and Gaveston in the early 14th century was sexual in nature remains a contested issue, but among art circles Edward II has long been an icon of the gay movement. Gaveston was decapitated for being gay and King Edward II was executed in 1327 by having a red hot roasting spit shoved into his anus.

The subject matter inspired Christopher Marlowe’s bloody 1593 play about the self-assertive strivings of the hapless English king, the 1923 version by Bertolt Brecht of the same name and Derek Jarman’s 1992 famous film adaptation “Edward II.” 
Performances run from February 19-March 9 and tickets are available online.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Barihunk trio in Michigan Opera's Carmen, including calendar model Brent Michael Smith

Harry Greenleaf and Luis Alejandro Orozco
The Michigan Opera has assembled a stunning barihunk trio for their upcoming Carmen, that includes Luis Alejandro Orozco making his role debut as Escamillo, Barihunks calendar model Brent Michael Smith as Zuniga and Harry Greenleaf as Morales. The cast also includes Ginger Costa-Jackson and Sandrea Eddy as Carmen, Marcelo Puente and Alok Kumar as Don Josè and Cecilia Violetta Lopez as Micaela.

The opera will be performed on October 15, 19, 22 and 23. Tickets are available online.

Other engagements for baritone Luis Alejandro Orozco this season include the title role in Mozart's Don Giovanni at Bar Harbor Music Festival, Figaro in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia in his house début with Florentine Opera in May 2017, and a reprisal of his signature role, El Payador, in María de Buenos Aires with the Atlanta Opera.

Brent Michael Smith, Jérôme Varnier & Brad Baron
Bass-barihunk Brent Smith is featured in the month of April in our "2017 Barihunks in Bed" calendar which is on sale now. As a Young Artist at the Michigan Opera, he has sung Colline in Puccini's La bohème, the Second S.S. Officer in Weinberg's The Passenger, the Doctor in Verdi's Macbeth and The Speaker in Mozart's The Magic Flute.

Last year he was an Apprentice Artist with Des Moines Metro Opera, where his performance as Billy Jackrabbit in Puccini's La fanciulla del West received critical acclaim by Opera News as a “standout.”

Baritone Harry Greenleaf was a Studio Aritist with the Wolf Trap Opera Company in 2012 and 2013, where he sang the role of Baron Douphol in Verdi's La traviata and Monsieur Barbu in Poulenc's Les mamelles de Tirésias. He made his debut with Michigan Opera Theatre in 2016, singing the role of Top in Copland's The Tender Land, as well as Jake Wallace in La fanciulla del West, and Le Bret in Dr. David DiChiera’s Cyrano.

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

How a plant-based diet transformed Lucas Meachem

Lucas Meachem (Photo: Natasha Sadikin, 2016)
We recently had the opportunity to see Lucas Meachem as Doctor Malatesta in the San Francisco Opera's hilarious production of Donizetti's Don Pasquale directed by Laurent Pelly. We instantly noticed that Meachem not only sounded the best that we'd heard him in years, but he looked imposing and statuesque with his new physique.  We later learned that he'd lost 45 pounds (20.4 kilos).

Meachem has two more performances of the opera on October 12 and 15 (tonight's performance will be sung by fellow barihunk Edward Nelson). The cast also includes the brilliant Maurizio Muraro in the title role, Lawrence Brownlee as Ernesto, Heidi Stober as his lover Norina and Bojan Knežvić as the Notary. Tickets are available online. 

We decided to ask him about his new physique and here is what he had to say.

Maurizio Muraro and Lucas Meachem in Don Pasquale (Photo: SF Opera)
1. What prompted the weight loss?

This past January, my doctor discovered that I had high cholesterol and he advised me to do something about it. Searching for solutions, my wife introduced me to some documentaries on health and the environment that had a lasting impact on me. It opened my eyes. Alternatively, with the advent of the Met HD and various opera publications, I had to accept that opera has become more visually intensive than in the past. I felt like I was missing out on roles, even losing some roles because of my looks or size. For whatever the reason, I was left out of casting decisions because I didn't look the part. I wanted to make a change and eliminate that factor for any casting director or company. I felt like I deserved more for the voice I had and the body I didn't.

"The fact is it's easier to change yourself than the system. So instead of resisting, I decided to change myself." 
- Lucas Meachem

I don't like any of the discrimination shown towards larger singers, men and women alike. It is a conversation I've had with opera singers around the world and I sympathize with them. I know this can be a disheartening thought but in this competitive industry, body image ends up being a deciding factor sometimes rather than one's true talent. I've been a Barihunk and I've been a Barichunk but the thing that's always been there is my voice.

I used to rail against the system for it's unfairness that weight is even an issue when it came to my voice. For me vocal prowess should be the main determining factor of an opera singer but I realized that I couldn't play by those rules anymore. The fact is it's easier to change yourself than the system. So instead of resisting, I decided to change myself.

2. How did you do it.I became a vegan.

As a vegan, I eat a plant-based diet. I center my meals around vegetables and go from there. I cut out dairy, meat, eggs, sugar, and alcohol. I also cut out carbs after 4pm and try to eat an early dinner. That's tough with a performing schedule where I'm done with a show at 11pm. With how strict I normally eat, it's ok to cheat once in a while when I go out. I know that everything I eat is a choice, not a confinement.

I've tried so many diets through the years. My weight has been up and down like a roller coaster.  Finally, I've found a moral implication in my diet. Living a life of compassion motivates me and inspires me to be a better person for myself and the world.

Lucas Meachem as Dr. Malatesta (Photo: SF Opera)
3. Tell us about singing Dr. Malatesta

Malatesta is more difficult than your average opera role because you have to have many different faces--it's a real "faccia doppia". Those faces seem to change with each production. The acting is a challenge, but vocally it's straightforward bel canto. This role is suited to a lyric baritone with solid coloratura. Although it's not an overwhelmingly gratifying role, I enjoy singing it because it's a real team effort. It's an ensemble piece and you end up becoming very close with your colleagues, out of art and necessity.

4. What does the San Francisco Opera mean to you, having come through the Merola young artist program and the Adler Fellowship Program at the San Francisco Opera?

The San Francisco Opera is my home. I walk in that house and shake hands with 20 people before I hit the rehearsal room. I feel well-respected and well-loved, and it's a two-way street. I couldn't be happier that Matthew Shilvock and Greg Hinkel are working there, since they're both dear friends of mine. One of my most cherished accomplishments in San Francisco was singing "Barber of Seville" as a Merolini in 2003 and then returning ten years later to sing it on the main stage.

The SF Opera is one of those gold standard opera house. It's the kind of opera house you wish other opera houses could be. It's when all of the elements come together to make a truly fulfilling artistic experience. From the general director to the stage management team, from the security guards to the orchestra members, each factor is world-class. Artists leave knowing that they have participated in something truly outstanding.

Our 10th Anniversary "Barihunks in Bed" calendar is now on sale and available by clicking on the Lulu button below. 

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Malte Roesner discusses his fach change and fitness routine

Malte Roesner from his recent Barihunks photo shoot
When we first met Malte Roesner in France last year, he was singing as a baritone and wrapping up a decade long run at the Staatstheater Braunschweig (State Theater of Brunswick). Since that time, he has gone through a fach change to bass and recently came to California for a series of coachings and auditions, hoping to make his U.S. debut in the near future.

He is featured prominently in this year's calendar, "Barihunks in Bed," and it's his gorgeous face that graces the cover. We asked him a few questions about this newest stage of his career.

Malte Roesner from his recent Barihunks photo shoot
1. What prompted the fach change?

I have always had an extension in the bottom of my range that is unusual for a baritone, and I remember that when I was studying, I had to be mindful not to  cover and transition into the passaggio "too early“. But, then again, at  20-something years old my timbre seemed too bright for a lower fach, and, after  all, I had the top notes.  So I started my career as a baritone at the Brunswick National Theater and sang  55 roles there over the course of ten and a half years. 

The older I got, the  harder it became to maintain the high baritone tessitura. Regardless, if you are hired for a certain repertoire in the fest-system you, of course, have to sing  it. After I left Brunswick, I  took some time to refocus on technique and come back to my natural voice. Because a singer's identity is often  tied to his or  her voice-type, it didn't even occur to me to try out bass repertoire at first.  It took my voice teacher telling me to just bring absolutely anything I wanted  and felt comfortable with to my lesson for me to start experimenting with lower  repertoire.  I started with bass-baritone arias, but as my voice started to relax into the  new range, I also added in real bass repertoire.

One of the first low bass arias I worked on was Sarastro, because I remembered a rehearsal for a Magic Flute revival – I was singing Papageno – where I jokingly sang a few of Sarastro's  lines down to the low F in the first finale. Afterwards the Monostatos came up  to me and told me that it sounded as if I was actually more at home down there.

Malte Roesner from his recent Barihunks photo shoot
2. What are you working on for rep?

Six months is not a long time for a fach change and my voice is still settling and my timbre  still darkening. So I am trying to stay open minded about what to sing and just take the cues from my voice, but basso cantante seems to describe  it best at the moment. 

For my first auditions I combined some bass-baritone repertoire, like Figaro and Pizarro, with real bass repertoire, like Don Basilio and Sarastro. This seems  appropriate since even some of the greatest basses of the past, e.g. Ezio Pinza  or Cesare Siepi, (I am honestly just looking at rep and not comparing myself), used to straddle the fence in their youth – youth of course being a very  relative term for a bass. 

Recently a friend of mine and two great coaches that I had the chance to work  with in California gave me a few recommendations.  Some of my next projects are  going to be Kaspar from Weber's Freischütz, Boito's Mephistophele and Floyd's Susanna

I am really looking forward to continuing this journey

Malte Roesner from his recent Barihunks photo shoot
3. You recently came to California. Tell us about your visit.

Except for the the top-tier, the European and the North American opera-worlds  are quite separated. I am in the rare situation that, because I was born in New  York to German parents, I have dual citizenship which allows me to work in both  areas without a visa. This is why ever since I started singing professionally, I  had the plan to one day also sing in the US. 

When a patron and Barihunks invited me to California for an audition tour, I of  course jumped at the chance.  In September, I had the opportunity to prepare my very first auditions in San Francisco and Los  Angeles as a bass. with some of the best coaches I have ever worked with, and then audition for a couple of great companies in the Bay Area. 

Leaving the practice room for the first time after such a transition can be daunting, so I am really happy about the very positive feedback that supports my  decision for the fach change. 

But of course my month in California was not just all work. I fell in love with the Bay Area; exploring San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, and spent more time wine-tasting with a former sommelier as my guide in the wine country than I would like to admit (note to self: it's good to be a bass). I tasted  amazing food from all over the world. Most notably, I had the chance to eat at  one of the restaurants of Dominique Crenn, the highest rated female chef in the  world. I got to hear great opera and a concert that merged Jazz with classical  and northern African influences. I spend time in museums, thrift stores and spas, in nature, on a ferry and on a roller-coaster. I went to a baseball game and a drag show with Latrice Royale. I even got to have lunch with Jake Heggie and talk to him about my translation of one of his operas (For a Look or a Touch) and he turned out to be an extremely nice guy. 

But most importantly I met kind, generous and wonderful people and made new friends.  As one can tell I just had the worst time ...

Malte Roesner from his recent Barihunks photo shoot
4. What is your workout routine?

After an injury a few years ago, I unfortunately had to stop training martial arts for a while. I  started doing a work out method called EMS (Electro Myo Stimulation) instead  that is unfortunately not FDA approved in the States yet. I used the fitness-level I got there to start testing my limits and tried all kinds of things. I built some muscle-mass with squats and barbell complexes and then I  got really lean with HIIT (high intensity interval training). 

At the moment I am more interested in functional fitness.  I do heavy multi-joint barbell lifts for strength, kettlebell and bodyweight  HIIT workouts for conditioning, and some yoga; because yoga is just good for you.  For me, the combination of these methods covers all aspects of fitness I need  for my well-being.  The dynamic full body workout with kettlebells and the  gentle strength and flexibility gained through yoga seem to me especially ideal  for singers, seeing as both work with the breath.

Malte Roesner demonstrating the "baritone claw" in San Francisco
5. Is it really "All about the bass"?

Is there any question about that?

Well, I guess in opera it often seems as if it were all about the soprano and the tenor, but that is OK.  I love the roles that might be coming my way and I love how the new fach feels  in my body. Maybe it has to do with the fact that while I was singing as a  baritone, the tessitura was  high relative to my passaggio and my range. I had  this whole lower part of my voice that I never got to use. Now I am just  discovering the relaxation and opening needed for the extreme low notes. Most  other voice-types have their money-notes in the top. Only a bass is truly  measured by his low notes.  Especially as a recovering baritone, the top is not an issue for me.

So in this  sense, being a bass really is “all about the bass.”

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Daniel Schmutzhard creates sensation in The Sandman

Daniel Schmutzhard
Austrian barihunk Daniel Schmutzhard has been creating a sensation as Nathanael in composer Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini's Der Sandmann at Opera Frankfurt, which has additional performances on October 3, 8, 13 and 23. The psychologically troubled character is a difficult vocal feat, accompanied by virtuoso orchestration and powerful choruses. He also has to sing much of the role clad in his scivvies

Based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's well known story The Sandman (1815), Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini and the librettist Thomas Jonigk combined essential elements from the story with creepy, romantic motifs for their opera. Nathanael's state of being, a psychotic trip in the homelessness of one's own self, is depicted in ten scenes. To him the sinister seems, in a Freudian sense, a chimera which shines light upon the known and surpressed. Jonigk's figures are our contemporaries: they speak our language, know the feelings of self doubt.

Daniel Schmutzhard
The story of E.T.A. Hoffmann and his conflict between artistic dreams and reality is not new to opera goers, with Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann and Hindemith's Cardillac being the best known. Other adaptations include Busoni's Die Brautwahl, Alfred Thompson's The Girl with the Glass Eyes, Adolphe Adam's La poupée de Nuremberg, Walter Braunfels' Prinzessin Brambilla and Jacques Offenbach's Le roi Carotte.

The cast also includes barihunk Daniel Miroslaw, who appears as Lothar. Tickets and additional cast information is available online.

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