Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Pietro Di Bianco sings Mercadante rarity in Innsbruck

Pietro Di Bianco
Italian barihunk Pietro Di Bianco will sing Osmida in Saverio Mercadante's rarely performed "Didone abbandonata" at the Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik.

Encouraged by Rossini, the composer had a number of successful operas early in his career, including Violenza e Constanza, Maria Stuarda: Regina di Scozia and Elisa e Claudio. Rossini invited him to Paris in 1836, where he composed I Briganti for four of the best-known singers of the time, Giulia Grisi, Giovanni Battista Rubini, Antonio Tamburini and Luigi Lablache. While in Paris, he was influenced by the operas of Meyerbeer and Halévy and began to stress greater drama in opera.

Mercandante became part of the "Reform Movement" after the publication of Giuseppe Mazzini's Filosofia della musica. During this time, he composed his greatest works, including Il giuramento, Elena da Feltre and Francesco Florimo. These works made him one of the most popular composers of the time, before being eclipsed by Giovanni Pacini and the early works of Giuseppe Verdi. After his death in 1870, his operas began to fade in popularity, unlike his contemporaries Donizetti and Bellini.

Ettore Bastianini sings Mercadante's Sogno:

Didone abbandonata is part of his early period and is based on a classical libretto by the great poet Metastasio. The opera contains many of the trademarks of early 19th century operas, including scenes with cantabile and cabaletta for all the main characters, rousing ensembles, thrilling duets and grand finales. The suicide of the Carthaginian Queen Dido, abandoned by Aeneas and betrayed by Jarba, is composed as great death scene.

There will be performances on August 8, 12 and 14 at the Tiroler Landestheater. The cast also includes Viktorija Miškūnaité as Didone, Katrin Wundsam as Enea, Carlo Allemano as Jarba, Diego Godoy as Araspe and Emilie Renard as Selene. Tickets are available online.

In October, the Wexford Festival Opera will perform the composer's Il bravo.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Reader Submission: German bass-barihunk Georg Festl

Georg Festl
German bass-barihunk Georg Festl, who is part of the ensemble at the Staatstheater Darmstadt, was suggested to us by one of our readers.

This season he has performed the lead role in Messiaen‘s Saint François d’Assise, Papageno/Speaker in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, Tom in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera, Pietro in Verdi's Simon Boccanegra and Figaro in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. On November 15th, he will begin a run as Frank in Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus, which runs through December 9th.

From 2015-2017, he sang at the Theater Augsburg, where he performed in Zemlinsky's Der König Kandaules, Verdi's Macbeth, Les contes d’Hoffmann, Die Csárdásfürstin, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, Tosca and the children's opera Ritter Odilo und der strenge Herr Winter by Mareike Zimmermann.

Georg Festl was born in Nuremberg, Germany and studied English and American studies at the University of Music Würzburg. After graduating, he was cast as Artie Green in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard at the Mainfrankentheater Würzburg.

He is a recipient of the Richard-Wagner Society scholarship and the Da-Ponte Society scholarship.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Kelly Markgraf and Sasha Cooke to reprise "As One"

Kelly Markgraf and Sasha Cooke (Photo: Brooklyn Academy of Music)

The real-life married couple of mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and barihunk Kelly Markgraf have made Laura Kaminsky's opera "As One" a bit of a calling card since premiering the work at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2014. The couple will perform the work for one night only on August 7th at the Chautauqua Opera. They will be joined by the Fry String Quartet, who premiered the work with them.

Markgraf has performed the work with Opera Colorado and the San Diego Opera, while Sasha Cooke performed it at the Hawaii Opera Theater. 

Kaminsky was inspired to write the opera after reading an article in the New York Times in 2008 about a New Jersey marriage in which one of the parties transitioned from male to female, transforming the couple from heterosexual to homosexual.

As One provides insights into both the personal and philosophical questions at the core of how personhood is defined, as well as into the compromised civil and humans rights of transgender individuals in the broader societal framework.

The opera can also be seen at the Cincinnati Opera with Matthew Worth and Amber Fasquelle on July 30th.    

Thursday, July 26, 2018

R.I.P Glen Roven (1958-2018): Composer, Conductor, Arranger, Producer, Two-time Emmy Award-winner

Glen Roven
The Barihunks family lost one of its favorite people in the music industry this week, Glen Roven, a multi-talented composer, conductor, arranger, producer and two-time Emmy Award-winner. He was a fan of our site from day one and always dreamed of producing a barihunk concert, which he recently accomplished when he joined Steven Labrie, Jarrett Ott and Tobias Greenhalgh at Carnegie Hall.

Roven was a tireless promoter of music across all genres, including for his beloved friend Florence Henderson, as well as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Julie Andrews, Melissa Etheridge, Aretha Franklin, Leon Fleisher, Kenny G., Whitney Houston, Dick Hyman, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Kermit the Frog, Patti LaBelle, Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross, Paul Shaffer, Martin Short, TRAIN and others.

His collection of three-dozen song cycles and art songs are performed all around in the world, including concerts by Daniel Okulitch, who would devote a half-program to his music and Mark Stone who performed an all-Roven set at Carnegie Hall. He loved translating great works into English and wrote a version of Schubert's Winterreise for David Adam Moore and had his English version of Mahler's Kindertodenlieder performed by Christopher Herbert. Randal Turner made his West Coast recital debut singing Roven's "Four Melancholy Songs, Opus 16, No. 1" based on poetry by William Butler Yeats. The list is endless, which is a testament to his prolific abilities.

Daniel Okulitch recorded "Stop all the Clocks" from Roven's "Songs From the Underground," based on Auden's famous poem in 2011. However, Roven could never perform the piece again after his partner Robin died as he got too emotional. You can listen to Okulitch and Roven perform it HERE.

When we met with Roven in New York in 2015, he was about to premiere Songs That Make Grown Men Cry, Opus 41, based on texts from a collection of poetry edited by Anthony Holden and Ben Holden. The concert featured barihunks Jonathan Hare, Kenneth Kellogg and Jarrett Ott along with the NY New Music Collective and tenors Andrew Fuchs, Glen Seven Allen and Myles Mykkanen and a choral quartet. He would tear up whenever talking about the text.

Speaking of text, Roven had an undying love and devotion to poetry, and produced "Poetic License: 100 Poems/100 Performers," which became the best selling poetry album of all time.  The album included readings by Catherine Zeta-Jones, Patti LuPone, Jason Alexander, Cynthia Nixon, Florence Henderson, Christine Baranski, Brent Barrett, Barry Humphries, Daniel Okulitch, Tyne Daly, Doug Carpenter and Glenn Seven Allen.

After the election of Donald Trump, the composer needed a way to channel is anger, so he wrote The Hillary Speeches, based on the announcement of her candidacy on January 7, 2007, and her presidential concession speech on November 9, 2017. The concert was streamed from the National Sawdust and included performances by David Adam Moore, Kyle Ketelsen, Nathan Gunn, Sidney Outlaw, Daniel Sumegi, Lester Lynch, Andrew Garland, Michael Kelly, Isabel Leonard, Patricia Racette, Lawrence Brownlee, Matthew Polenzani, Carin Gilfy, Laquita Mitchell, Glenn Seven Allen, Dominic Armstrong, Jonathan Blalock and others.

Roven also tirelessly devoted his time to penning music for charitable causes, including "An AIDS Quilt Songbook: Sing for Hope," a recording that raised funds for amfAR and featured Joyce DiDonato, Jamie Barton, Isabel Leonard, Matthew Polenzani, Susanne Phillips Yo-Yo Ma, Ansel Elgort, Sharon Stone and others.

One of our favorite compositions by Roven is a setting of wine tasting notes that was written for bass Aaron Sorensen and performed in California's Sonoma County wine region.

Roven was always busy doing something, and at the time of his death, he was at work on a new movie-musical for Dolly Parton for Netflix, had just completed his "Symphony of Songs," penned a new opera called Addressee Unknown, wrote a new Broadway Musical World War Me, and produced an all-Verdi aria CD for Hui He.

A funeral service will be held Friday, July 27th at Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 West 76th Street in New York City at 11 AM, with a memorial tribute being planned for Fall 2018.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Edwin Crossley-Mercer as arrogant king in Haydn's Orlando Paladino

Edwin Crossley-Mercer and Heiko Pinkowski (Photo: Wilfried Hösl)
Barihunk Edwin Crossley-Mercer is singing the role of the boastful and arrogant King Rodomonte in Haydn’s most popular opera, Orlando Paladino. The opera is being performed at the Munich Opera Festival under the baton of Ivor Bolton and also features the rising tenor star David Portillo as Pasquale.

The opera plays into all of the 18th-century stereotypes and conventions of the time, including the title character literally going crazy over love and the tenor having to sing some ridiculously high falsetto notes.

Haydn composed Orlando Paladino in 1782, basing it on Ludovico Ariosto's 16th-century epic, Orlando Furioso, which inspired a few operas by Handel, Vivaldi and other composers of the time. The opera did not receive its first U.S. performance for two centuries, when it was performed in Philadelphia in 1982.

On a side note, Rodomonte's name is the source of the expression rodomontade, meaning "boastful, bragging talk"

Remaining perfomances are on July 25, 27, 29 and tickets and cast information is available online.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Watch Christopher Maltman in Met's updated Cosi fan tutte

Christopher Maltman as Don Alfonso (Marty Sohl/The Metropolitan Opera)
Christopher Maltman will be featured in the upcoming broadcast of Mozart's Così fan tutte from the Metropolitan Opera as part of its Great Performances Series on Sunday, July 29, 2018. The broadcast begins at 12 PM EDT/9 AM PST.

The Met version of Mozart’s comedy about the sexes is set in a carnival-esque, funhouse environment inspired by 1950s Coney Island—complete with bearded ladies, fire eaters, and a Ferris wheel. Maltman stars as Don Alfonso, while Broadway star Kelli O’Hara takes on the role of the scheming maid Despina in a rare appearance on an operatic stage.

Upcoming broadcast's include Verdi's Luisa Miller and Massenet's Cendrillon with Joyce DiDonato.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Celebrating the premiere of Verdi's rarity "I masnadieri"

Roberta Mantegna and Artur Rucinski in I masnadieri in Rome (Photo: Yasuko Kageyama)
Few composers wrote more great baritone and bass parts than Giuseppe Verdi. Many of his operas are named for low male voice leads instead of the usual soprano or tenor leads, including Falstaff, Rigoletto, Nabucco, Attila, Macbeth and Simon Boccanegra.

While it is his middle and late period operas that are both most performed and most popular today, his early period operas include some of the best vocal writing for low male voices. Those operas reflected his sympathy with the Risorgimento movement which sought the unification of Italy and produced the chorus "Va, pensiero" from Nabucco, which became the unofficial anthem of the movement.

His early works echo the dominant style of "aria, duet, ensemble and finale" common with composers of the era, including Rossini and Donizetti. The aria centered on a soloist generally singing three sections, including a cabaletta featuring some bravura singing.  His finales often feature soloists, ensemble and chorus, usually culminating with an exciting stretto section. 

Dmitry Hvorostovsky sings "Vecchio! Spiccai...La sua lampada vitale...Tremate. o miseri!"

July 22nd marks the 1847 premiere of one of his lesser known early operas, I masnadieri, his first opera composed for a foreign theater, London's Her Majesty's Theatre. The opera with its themes of fratricide, patricide, treachery, betrayal and a doomed love interest, was unpopular with London audiences and never truly found its place in the repertory. It basically disappeared from the performance archives until a 1951 revival broadcast on RAI with Sesto Bruscantini and Renato Capecchi.

 Edita Gruberova sings "Tu del mio Carlo":

The opera is probably his most "male dominated" opera, with six of the seven leads being male and the chorus consisting of male bandits. Despite that, the operas most enduring piece is Amalia's aria and cabaletta "Tu del mio Carlo al seno...Carlo vive? O caro accento," a bravura piece that appears with some frequency on soprano recordings.

Nonetheless, the men get some real showstoppers, including Francesco's dramatic finale “Pareami che sorto da lauto convito.” In the aria, Francesco contemplates his judgment day and the terror it will bring, imagining that he will not be allowed into heaven because of his cruel deeds.

Dmitry Hvorostovsky sings "Tradimento! ... Pareami, che sorto da lauto convito":

One of the key characters in the operas is the bass role Count Massimiliano, who is featured in the Act 1 quartet “Sul capo mio colpevole” and sings the Act III aria “Un ignoto, tre lune or saranno.”

Bonaldo Gaiotti sings "Un ignoto, tre lune or saranno":

Upcoming performance of the opera are at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia with Artur Rucinski as Francesco and Michele Pertusi as Massiliano from February 6-17, 2019, and at the Teatro alla Scala with Massimo Cavalletti as Francesco and Michele Pertusi as Massimiliano from June 18-July 7, 2019.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Alternating barihunks in La Favorite at Liceu

Mattia Olivieri as Alphhonse XI (Photo © Bofill)
Barihunks Markus Werba and Mattia Olivieri are alternating the role of Alphonse XI in the original French language version of Donizetti's La Favorite at the Liceu Opera House in Barcelona. The French version differs in various melodic parts than the more commonly performed Italian version La Favorita, and also has a revised finale by the composer.  

Mattia Olivieri, Stephen Costello and Eve-Maud Hubeaux, trio from La Favorite:

Mattia Olivieri performs the revised ending of La Favorite:

 La Favorite, which premiered at the Académie Royale de Musique in Paris on December 2, 1840 is one of the most important works in Donizetti’s French period. The opera is the second work in the genre composed after Les Martyrs and before Dom Sébastien, roi de Portugal, and was a huge success with Paris audiences. 

Markus Werba as Alphhonse XI (Photo © Bofill)
The story revolves around a love triangle involving the King of Castile, Alfonso XI, his mistress ('the favorite') Leonora, and her lover Fernando. The story unfolds against the background of the Moorish invasions of Spain and power struggles between church and state.

You can click HERE to watch Mattia Olivieri performing the same role at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in April of this year on OperaVision.

Werba performs the role on July 22 and Olivieri on July 24. Tickets are available online.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Santa Fe Opera's "Doctor Atomic" is first John Adams opera at company

Ryan McKinny and Daniel Okulitch (Photo: Ken Howard, Santa Fe Opera, 2018)
The Santa Fe Opera is presenting its first John Adams opera ever, which is surprising considering their historic dedication to both new opera and those by American composers. The all-star cast includes barihunks Ryan McKinny as Robert Oppenheimer, Andrew Harris as Edward Teller and Daniel Okulitch as General Groves, as well as Julia Bullock as Kitty Oppenheimer, Ben Bliss as Robert Wilson, Meredith Arwady as Pasqualita and Tim Mix as Jack Hubbard.

Much of the opera actually takes place just 33 miles from Santa Fe in Los Alamos and Alamogordo, where the detonation of the first atomic bomb took place.

Andrew Harris and Ryan McKinny (Photo: Ken Howard, Santa Fe Opera, 2018)
First performed in 2005 at the San Francisco Opera, Doctor Atomic reunited composer John Adams with librettist and stage director Peter Sellars, whose earlier collaborations included Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer. The European premiere took place at De Nederlandse Opera in 2007 and The Metropolitan Opera broadcast the work nationally in 2008.

Much of the text from the opera was adapted from declassified U.S. government documents and communications among scientists, government officials, and military personnel who were involved in the project. Other borrowed texts include poetry by Charles Baudelaire and Muriel Rukeyser, the Holy Sonnets of John Donne, quotes from the Bhagavad Gita, and a traditional Tewa Indian song.

Gerald Finley sings "Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God"

Perhaps the most famous piece from the opera is the baritone aria "Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God" with text by the poet John Donne. The poem actually inspired Oppenheimer to name his test site for the atomic bomb “Trinity.”

Additional performances at the Santa Fe Opera are on July 27, and August 2, 7 and 16. Tickets are available online.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Andrew Potter's shirtless Fafner at Pittsburgh Festival Opera

Andrew Potter as Fafner (Images: Pittsburgh Festival Opera)
The Pittsburgh Opera Festival is kicked off their English language version of Wagner's Ring Cycle on July 13th with the sexy and shirtless Fafner of Andrew Potter in The Rhinegold (Das Rheingold).

The Pittsburgh Ring is based on a version by composer Jonathan Dove, John McMurray, and Graham Vick, which slightly condenses the orchestration and length of the works (none last longer than three hours) while retaining the authenticity of the original. The Rhinegold runs approximately two hours.

Andrew Potter's Fafner, who has already being turned by the power of the Ring, comes out in the final fanfare and begins shirtlessly attacking the walls of Valhalla as the gods aloofly celebrate in their beautiful tower.

There are remaining performances on July 15 and 17, and tickets and additional cast information is available online. The Ring Cycle continues over the next three years.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Watch Mariusz Kwiecien in complete Don Giovanni from London

Mariusz Kwiecien as Don Giovanni (Image: Royal Opera House)
You can watch barihunks Mariusz Kwiecien and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo in a complete broadcast of Don Giovanni from the Royal Opera House in London until August 11, 2018 by clicking HERE.

Marc Minkowski conducts Kasper Holten's 2014 production, which features ink blot splatter across a set by award-winning designer Es Devlin with video designs by Luke Halls.

The cast also includes Rachel Willis-Sørensen, Pavol Breslik and Hrachuhi Bassenz.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Joa Helgessen goes mad while suspended from hooks

Joa Helgessen as the Mad King
Barihunk Joa Helgessen just performed "Eight Songs for a Mad King - A Man Hanged" at the Halland Opera & Vocal Festival. The piece is based on Peter Maxwell Davies' monodrama based on the words of George III.

The fiendishly difficult piece is a disturbing and poignant portrayal of madness, which requires the singer to vocalize oddly as he bemoans his fate and tries to teach his instrumentalist-birds to sing. Helgessen and his creative team made the task even more difficult by suspending the singer on hooks attached to his skin.

The inclusion of body suspension in the piece is intended to show George in all his humanity and reflect on his vulnerability and the actual treatment that he endured. The performance ends with a showcase of the actual sounds made by a body under immense pressure, as microphones are attached to Helgesson’s body taking up the sounds of his muscles contracting during the suspension. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Glimmerglass Festival to present "Silent Night"

Michael Hewitt
Barihunk and fitness guru Michael Hewitt will portray Lt Horstmayer in the Glimmerglass Festival's production of Kevin Puts' Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Silent Night. The cast also includes Conor McDonald as Ponhel, Jonathan Bryan as Lt Gordon, Wm. Clay Thompson as Father Palmer, Brian Wallin as the German General, Michael Miller as Lt Audebert, Mary Hangley as Anna Sørensen, Arnold Livingston Geis as Nikolaus Sprink, Christian Sanders as Jonathan Dale, Kayla Siembieda as Madeleine Audebert, Tim Bruno as General Audebert  and Dale Travis as the British Major. Nicole Paiement will conduct.  

Performances run from July 15 – August 23 and tickets are available online

Silent Night at Glimmerglass (Image: Glimmerglass Festival)
The opera is based on the screenplay Joyeux Noël by Christian Carion and recounts a miraculous moment of peace during one of the bloodiest wars in human history. On WWI’s western front, Scottish, French and German officers defy their superiors and negotiate a Christmas Eve truce. Enemies become brothers as they share Christmas and bury their dead.

The Minnesota Opera presented the world premiere of Silent Night in November 2011 with a cast that included barihunks Craig Irvin as Lieutenant Horstmayer, Gabriel Preisser as Lieutenant Gordon,  Mike Nyby as William Dale, Liam Bonner as Lieutenant Audebert, Troy Cook as Father Palmer, Joseph Beutel as the British Major, Ben Wager as the General and Andrew Wilkowske as Ponchel.

The opera has also been performed at the Washington National Opera, Opera North, Austin Opera, Arizona Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Fort Worth Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Wexford Festival Opera, Calgary Opera, Atlanta Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Piedmont Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Opera de Montreal. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Nicolas Simeha in world premiere of "Seven Stones"

Nicolas Simeha in Seven Stones (Photo: Festival d'Aix-en-Provence)
French barihunk Nicolas Simeha will be one of four singers in the  world premiere of Ondřej Adámek's "Seven Stones." The a capella piece is written for four solo singers and twelve choristers. Including today, the work will have five performances through July 14 at the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence's Jeu de Paume Theatre.

Ondřej Adámek is considered one of the leading representatives of the European new wave of composers. He based the libretto on a work by Icelandic poet Sjón, who is a frequent collaborator with Björk.

The opera’s seven tableaux evoke seven stones, seven scenes that connect the Biblical era to modern times. The condensed, interdisciplinary work proposes a new performance canvas in which the singers are invited to double up as instrumentalists, dancers and actors.

The opera's website description of the story is as follows:
"A mineralogist-collector who has got lost down a snowy lane remembers: many years earlier, he had gone in search of the first stone – the one that was almost used to stone to death the adulterous woman who was saved by Christ. During this seven-year long journey that takes him from Buenos Aires to Paris and from Japan to Iceland, the collector discovered many other stones... And the end of his journey leads to the conclusion of his quest – and to tragedy."
Tickets and additional cast information is available online.

Nicolas Simeha is perfectly suited to this work, as he is a member of the multidisciplinary company Elastic Theatre with whom he premiered Baroque Box and Julius. He collaborated with the Dancer Darren Ellis, appeared as the first bad robber in Judith Weir’s Vanishing Bridegroom,, sang with a computer for Oded Ben Tal, premiered Kate Whitley’s opera In Flagrante, embodied Gurdjieff’s thoughts sculpted by Giorgi Janiashvili, and even modeled for photographer Romain Leblanc.