Monday, February 20, 2017

Francesca Zambello directs five barihunks in Dead Man Walking

Michael Mayes as Joseph de Rocher in Dead Man Walking
We generally credit director Francesca Zambello with coining the term "barihunk," so it should come as no surprise that she's directing five of them in a new production of Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking at the Washington National Opera from February 25-March 11.

The cast will be led by Michael Mayes, who the composer dubbed the definitive Joseph de Rocher, the accused killer at the center of the story. Mayes is making his company debut with this performance, although he's performed the role with the New Orleans Opera, Central City Opera, Tulsa Opera, San Francisco's Opera Parallèle, Madison Opera and Eugene Opera. He'll be joined by barihunks Wayne Tigges as Owen Hart, Timonty J. Bruno as George Benton, Michael Adams as the Motorcycle Cop/Prison Guard and Andrew Bogard as the other Prison Guard. Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham will sing Mrs. de Rocher and Kate Lindsay will sing Sister Helen.

Barihunks Andrew Bogard, Michael Adams and Timothy J. Bruno

Wayne Tigges
The opera is based on Sister Helen Prejean’s acclaimed 1993 memoir, which tells of her time working with death row inmates at Louisiana State Penitentiary and of a particular relationship she developed with one of the inmates. The opera explores the human conflicts posed by society’s demands for vengeance and the Christian imperative for forgiveness and love.

Dead Man Walking is one of the most performed of new American operas. Since its world premiere at San Francisco Opera in 2000, it has been staged internationally in more than 40 productions on five continents; it has also received two live recordings. 

The company will also present Terence Blanchard and Michael Cristofer’s Champion starring barihunk Audrey Allicock from March 4– 18.

Both operas explore the theme of social justice which is often associated with John F. Kennedy and are presented as part of JFKC, the Kennedy Center’s season-long celebration of President Kennedy’s centennial. Using many of the same designers and scenic elements, the directors of each opera have worked collaboratively to create two distinct worlds in each new production to showcase the issues of Justice, Courage, and Freedom at the heart of these two compelling stories.

Terence Blanchard uses jazz as the basis for a cinematic and groundbreaking operatic score filled with bluesy harmonies and Afro-Caribbean beats; Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cristofer’s libretto tells the true story of Emile Griffith, a professional boxer from the U.S. Virgin Islands who threw a fatal punch in the boxing ring in 1962 after being taunted for his sexuality by his rival.

Aubrey Allicock, who created the role of the Young Emile at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis in 2010, will be making his Washington National Opera debut with this performance. Singing the role of Emile’s mother, Emelda Griffith, is mezzo- soprano Denyce Graves, while tenor Victor Ryan Robertson is Emile’s rival Benny Paret, baritone Wayne Tigges is Howie Albert and contralto Meredith Arwady peforms Kathy Hagan.

Discounted ticket information for both shows is available online.

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