Sunday, October 28, 2018

Jérôme Varnier and Edwin Crossley-Mercer in updated William Tell

Edwin Crossley-Mercer (Photo: Herwig Prammer)
Rossini's opera Guillaume Tell (William Tell) has regrettably become best known for its overture, parts of which became the Lone Ranger theme, but it is also a highly entertaining opera with great music for all the key characters.

The Theater an der Wien just wrapped up an updated version of the opera with barihunks Jérôme Varnier as Melchtal and Edwin Crossley-Mercer as Walter Fürst.

Torsten Fischer’s production about the Swiss marksman who shot his people to freedom keeps the story relevant to today by making us think about the universal abuses of power. Melcthal stands on a massive steel floor that descends on the masses, while Walter Fürst dons the robe of the dictator portending an endless cycle of oppression. 

Jérôme Varnier (Photo: Herwig Prammer)
The run of Guillaume Tell wrapped up on October 27th, but the Theater an der Wien continues with Handel's Teseo and Weber's Euryanthe with Andrew Foster-Williams.

Edwin Crossley-Mercer can next be heard in Mozart's Requiem at the Opéra de Toulon on November 9th and then singing Schubert's Winterreise at the Nantes Festival on November 28th.

Jérôme Varnier will appear in Thomas' Hamlet at the Opéra Comique in Paris opening on December 17th.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Duncan Rock takes on Don Giovanni Down Under before heading to The Met

Duncan Rock rehearsing with Opera Queensland
British/Australian barihunk Duncan Rock will make his principal role debut with Opera Queensland in the title role of Mozar'ts Don Giovanni, which runs through November 2nd. He'll be joined in the cast by Shaun Brown as Leporello, Eva Kong as Donna Anna, Virgilio Marino as Don Ottavio, Hayley Sugars as Donna Elvira, Samuel Piper as Masetto, Katie Stenzel as Zerlina and Andrew Collins as The Commendatore.

After his run of Don Giovanni, he heads to The Metropolitan Opera to sing Schaunard in Puccini's La bohème from November 29-Deccember 13 and Papageno in Mozart's The Magic Flute on January 3rd. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Davoné Tines to star in new Terence Blanchard opera

Davoné Tines
Davóne Tines will star in the world premiere of five-time Grammy winner Terence Blanchard and filmmaker Kasi Lemmons’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” at the Opera Theater of St. Louis this summer. The opera is based on the memoir of New York Times columnist and political commentator Charles Blow. This is the composer's second work for the company, following his highly successful "Champion," which premiered in 2013 and was subsequently performed at Opera Parallèle and the Washington National Opera.

The libretto for Fire Shut Up in My Bones is a soul-baring story of Blow's experiences growing up in Gibsland, Louisiana, including violence and the sexual abuse he endured from a relative.

The opera will also feature rising stars Julia Bullock in three roles and Karen Slack as Blow's mother. All three artists are making their Opera Theater of St. Louis mainstage debuts.

Fire Shut Up in My Bones” will premiere on June 15, 2019 at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and run for six performances. Additional information is available online.

Davóne Tines also recently premiered The Black Clown, with text that the singer adapted from Langston Hughes. The piece deals a Black man’s resilience against a legacy of oppression.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Remembering Dmitri Hvorostovsky on his birthday

Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who was broadly viewed as one of the greatest opera baritones of our times, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in the summer of 2015 and died at the age of 55 on November 22, 2017 in London where he lived with his family.

There were few baritones as compelling on stage as Dmitri Hvorostovsky and only a few in history who matched his box office draw. His name will forever be associated with "legato" and perhaps only Montserrat Caballe or Zinka Milanov could sing with such glorious breath control and float silken sounds into the theater.

Along with Mariusz Kwiecien, he was one of the original inspirations for the Barihunks blog.

Half of Dmitri Hvorostovsky's ashes were laid to rest at Novodevichy Cemetery
He was born on October 16, 1962 and shot to fame in 1989 when he won the Cardiff Singer of the World competition in a legendary showdown with Bryn Terfel. Hvorostovsky sang two arias from Verdi, Rodrigo's aria "O Carlo, ascolta" from Don Carlo and "Eri tu che macchiavi" from Un ballo in maschera, as well as "Ja vas lyublyu" from Tchikovsky's Queen of Spades. The late, great soprano Elizabeth Soderström, who was one of the judges in 1989, famously marked a series of exclamation marks on her scorecard as she listened to Hvorostovsky sing. The music world was instantly abuzz with stories about a baritone who looked as beautiful as he sounded.

University of Oregon/KWAX radio's tribute to Dmitri Hvorostovsky:

After his brain cancer diagnosis, he cancelled concerts in Kaliningrad, Minsk, the Georges Enesco Festival, Tanglewood and Vienna, as well as the Met's performance of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, but made a brief return for a concert in Toronto and appeared at the Met Gala.

His career took him to all the world’s major opera houses and renowned international festivals, including Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, San Francisco Opera, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Paris Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper Munich, Salzburg Festival, La Scala Milan, Vienna State Opera and Chicago Lyric Opera.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky sings "Il balen" from Il trovatore:

His extensive discography includes 30 recitals, numerous complete operas on CD and DVD, and the award-winning film "Don Giovanni Unmasked" where he performed the dual roles of Don Giovanni and Leporello. On November 10, 2017, he released his first recording of Verdi's Rigoletto, on which he sings the title role.

There were memorial concerts in his honor at The Royal Opera in London and at Zankel Hall in New York City.

Luis Alejandro Orozco stars in Santa Barbara Opera's 25th Anniversary season opener

Luis Alejandro Orozco (Photos: C. Stanley & Tim Trumble)
Mexican-American barihunk Luis Alejandro Orozco will sing the role of Marcello in Puccini's La bohème, which will launch the 25th anniversary season of the Opera Santa Barbara on November 9 and 11. Tickets are available online.

He'll be joined in the cast by Vincent Grana as Colline, Eleni Calenos as Mimi, Elle Valera as Musetta, Nathan Granner as Rodolfo and Yazid Gray as Schaunard.

The rest of the Opera Santa Barbara season includes Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin with barihunk Lee Poulis in the title role and Robert Ward's The Crucible with bass-barihunk Colin Ramsey as Reverend John Hale. 

 Luis Alejandro sings "Where is the life that late I led" from Kiss Me, Kate:

Orozco made his Opera Santa Barbara debut in 2014 as Assan in Menotti's The Consul, and returned as Taddeo in Rossini's L’italiana in Algeri in 2015 and as Belcore in Donizetti's The Elixir of Love in 2016.

He will return to the role of Marcello in April with the Anchorage Opera. In the meantime, one can hear him as Watty Watkins in Lady Be Good at the Teatro di San Carlo and Riolobo in Florencia en el Amazonas with Pensacola Opera.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Iurii Samoilov makes US debut in Detroit

Iurii Samoilov (Photo by Maria Shkoda)
Iurii Samoilov made his long overdue American debut on October 13th singing the title role in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin at Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit. The cast also includes Corinne Winters as Tatyana, Jamez McCorkle as Lensky and Carolyn Sproule as Olga.

There will be additional performances on October 17, 19 and 21 and tickets are available online.

Samoilov first sang the role of Onegin at age 19 in his native Ukraine. 

He will return to his home base at the Oper Franfurt to sing Riccardo in Bellini's I Puritani on December 2.  According to his website, he is also slated to make his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in the near future.

Ernesto Petti to sing Lord Enrico Ashton in Basel

Ernesto Petti (Photos courtesy of singer and Theater Basel)
Italian barihunk Ernesto Petti will take on the role of Lord Enrico Ashton at the Theater Basel beginning on October 19th. The staging will be led by the noted French director, actor and writer Olivier Py. Tickets and additional information is available online.

Make sure to follow him on Facebook

Petti answered a few questions about the performance for Theater Basel:

🎵 What is the best part of the stage setting/best part of costume/best prop?

Petti: In my personal opinion the most beautiful scene is the beginning of the opera: The director re-enacts a famous painting from the late 19th century that depicts a medical examination of a woman, who is ill with hysteria, by Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot in front of a medical audience. And I’d like to compliment the costume department for the wonderful costumes. 

🎵 Why shouldn’t one miss this show?

Petti: This show is absolutely not to be missed. The reading of each character is quite profound and the initial point of the director’s interpretation is very interesting: He compares Lucia’s madness to Augustine’s hysteria - one of Charcot’s famous hysteria patients. The staging perfectly follows the magnificent musical interpretation of the conductor. 

That’s why this will be a great show and the audience will love it! 

🎵 What do you do in your free time?

Petti: During my free time I love walking around the city, visiting open spaces like parks or rivers and I also like to do workouts in the gym. Until a few days ago I loved to relax by swimming in the Rhine!

Steven LaBrie making Tulsa Opera debut as Figaro

Steven LaBrie as Figaro (courtesy Opera Hong Kong)
Barihunk Steven LaBrie will make his Tulsa Opera debut as the title character in Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” which opens the company’s 2018-2019 season on October 19th.

LaBrie is familiar with the opera, having first sung Fiorello at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and then making his professional debut as Figaro with the Lyric Opera Baltimore in 2015. He has also performed the role with Opera Hong Kong.

Steven LaBrie sings "A tanto amor" from Donizetti's La favorita:

He'll be joined in the cast by hunkentenor Aaron Blake as Almaviva, Sarah Coburn as Rosina and Peter Strummer as Dr. Bartolo.

Tickets are available online.

Upcoming performances for LaBrie include Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore with Opera Omaha on February 15 and 17 and Jake Heggie's Three Decembers with the San Diego Opera on March 8, 9 and 10 with Frederica von Stade.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Jesse Blumberg featured in Polish Independence Day concert in NY

Jesse Blumberg
The Oratorio Society of New York will celebrate Polish Independence with a November 11th concert featuring barihunk Jesse Blumberg, soprano Susanna Phillips and Polish mezzo-soprano Ewa Płonka. The concert will feature Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater and Górecki’s Euntes Ibant et Flebant.

November 11th commemorates the anniversary of the restoration of Poland's sovereignty as the Second Polish Republic in 1918 from the German, Austrian and Russian Empires. Following the partitions in the late 18th century, Poland ceased to exist for 123 years until the end of World War I, when the destruction of the neighbouring powers allowed the country to reemerge.

The concert is part of “100 for 100,” a worldwide musical commemoration of the Polish centenary in conjunction with the Polish Cultural Institute New York, and Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne Edition (a music publishing house).

 Górecki’s Euntes Ibant et Flebant:

Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater was written during his late Nationalist period and is characterized by his use of Polish melodies and rhythms. Circumstances in the composer's personal life inspired the work. Upon the death of his niece, Alusia Bartoszewiczówna, in January 1925, the composer spent time consoling his sister in her loss, subsequently choosing to set the Stabat Mater text, with its profound reflection on the grieving mother.

Górecki’s Euntes Ibant et Flebant has text from the Book of Psalms and is written for unaccompanied choir. The composition is extremely interesting from the harmonic point of view, as it constitutes a sublimated synthesis of the major-minor system with the folk music modality. This procedure provides the work with an ''extraterrestrial'', meditative character, emphasized in addition by the strict psalmody appearing more or less in the middle of the piece. 

The concert also includes Vaughan Williams’s Dona nobis pacem, which looks back at recent wars and makes a plea for peace even as a new war threatens.

The concert will be held at Carnegie Hall at 8 p.m. and tickets are available online.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Mathias Hausmann in provocative Dantons Tod

Mathias Hausmann (center) Photo: Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz
The Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz is presenting Gottfried von Einem's Dantons Tod with barihunk Mathias Hausmann as Georges Danton along with an array of hunky, shirtless men. The production is directed by Günter Krämer. The opera is being performed in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the composer's birth.

Dantons Tod Photo: Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz
Georg Büchner's pitiless drama offered the Austrian composer Gottfried von Einem an ideal opportunity to examine Fascist structures of domination. Premiered at the Salzburg Festival two years after the Second World War, the work has lost nothing of its topicality today. 

Dantons Tod Photo: Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz
In the opera, the French Revolution has disposed of the absolutist rulers, but the people continue to live in fear and trepidation. While the erstwhile revolutionary Georges Danton seeks pleasure in gambling and love, Robespierre intends to bring about the equality of all people with violence and terror. It is only when he himself comes to the attention of the tyrannical regime that Danton is persuaded to become politically active again. But doubts about his own motives and the possibility of achieving liberty and fraternity through violence stand in the way of his power to act.

Additional performances are on October 13, 15, 19 and November 1, 4, and 15. Tickets and additional cast information is available online.

Brandon Cedel in Verdi rarity Il corsaro in Franfurt

Brandon Cedel
Brandon Cedel will sing the bass role of Giovanni in Oper Frankfurt's concert performances of Verdi's Il corsaro. He'll be joined by an all-star cast that includes Dorothea Röschmann as Medora, Željko Lučić as Seid and Mario Chang as Corrado.

The performance is part of the company's series of early and middle period operas by Giuseppe Verdi. The libretto is based on Lord Byron's 1814 poem The Corsair, which many believe was based on the life of the 19th century French pirate Jean Lafitte. The composer expressed interest in Byron's poem The Corsair as early as 1844 when he was planning an opera for Venice, but a suitable baritone was not available. Therefore, he completed I masnadieri for London before completing Il corsaro, which premiered in Trieste on October 25, 1848. With the exception of two other productions, the opera all but vanished from the repertory after just three performances in Trieste. It didn't appear in the U.K. until 1966 and in the U.S. until 1981. The San Diego Opera produced it in 1982 with a cast that included June Anderson, Rosalind Plowright, Alfonso Navarrete and J. Patrick Raftery.

Thomas Hampson sings "Alfin questo corsaro...Cento leggiadre vergini" from Il corsaro:

The opera is about a noble pirate who battles the Muslims, is loved by a harem maid but in turn loves another, and who finally kills himself after his true love poisons herself when she thinks he is dead.

Performances are on November 7th and 9th and tickets and additional information is available online. Cedel is currently performing Angelotti in Puccini Tosca and the Messenger in Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex with Oper Frankfurt.

Monday, October 8, 2018

David Adam Moore stars in West Coast premiere of Soldier Songs

David Adam Moore
Barihunk David Adam Moore will reprise the role of the Soldier in David T. Little's "Soldier Songs," which he created at the 2008 premiere at Le Poisson Rouge in New York. The Ford Theatres and LA Opera Off Grand, in collaboration with Beth Morrison Projects, will present the West Coast premiere of the piece on October 13th.

The monodrama for baritone and chamber orchestra is a groundbreaking multimedia piece that combines elements of theatre, opera, rock-infused concert music and film. The piece contrasts the perceptions and realities of war from the soldier's perspective.

David Adam Moore
The score for Soldier Songs was commissioned by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, which premiered a concert version of the work in 2006. Soldier Songs received a fully staged workshop production sold to standing room capacity by Beth Morrison Projects in New York in 2008 at Le Poisson Rouge. Beth Morrison Projects produced the premiere of the full production at The International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven, Connecticut in June 2011 and was remounted during the inaugural PROTOTYPE Festival.

Tickets are priced at $35, 55 and 75. Tickets and information about parking are available by visiting or by calling (323) 461-3673.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Rufus Wainwright's "Hadrian" to premiere with adult warning

Thomas Hampson and David Leigh (costume sketch courtesy of Canadian Opera)
Rufus Wainwright's second opera, "Hadrian," will open on October 13th at the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto. The opera is about a gay relationship in ancient Rome between the Roman emperor Hadrian and his lover Antinous. Daniel MacIvor's libretto was inspired by Marguerite Yourcenar's novel "Memoirs of Hadrian," which Wainwright read twenty years ago.

"Antinous and Hadrian," an opera based on the same story, was recently completed by composer Clint Borzoni and librettist Edward Ficklin, and was presented in New York in 2017 in concert form. You can hear the beautiful love scene HERE.

This is pop singer Rufus Wainwright's second attempt at opera, after "Prima Donna," which premiered at the New York City Opera in 2009, featuring barihunk Randal Turner.

Wainwright's "Hadrian" comes with an adult warning and features a musical interlude where Hadrian and Antinous make love. The cast includes the ageless barihunk Thomas Hampson as Hadrian, tenor Isaiah Bell as his lover Antinous, Karita Mattila as Plotina, bass-barihunk David Leigh as Turbo, Ambur Braid as Sabina and Ben Heppner as Dinarchus. The piece is sung in English and Latin.

The story is about Emperor Hadrian, who is devastated after his lover Antinous drowns in the Nile River. While matters of state encroach on his grief and advisers clamor for war against a radical new threat to the Empire, Hadrian slips out of time to re-encounter the vision and reality of Antinous—and learn the truth about what happened on the Nile.

There are seven performances between October 13-27 and tickets are available online.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Brian James Myer to sing Mercutio with Hawaii Opera Theatre

Brian James Myer
Barihunk Brian James Myer will take on the role of Mercutio in the Hawaii Opera Theatre's new production of Gounod's Romeo & Juliet. Soprano Amanda Woodbury, who sang the role at The Met will sing Juliet, in a cast that also includes Derek Taylor as Romeo, Alyssa Martin as Stephano, Jamie Offenbach as Frère Laurent, Carlos Enrique Santell as Tybalt and Blythe Kelsey as Gertrude.

The opera was first performed at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris on April 27, 1867 and is most notable for the series of four duets for the main characters and the Juliet's oft-performed waltz song "Je veux vivre."

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet has inspired all kinds of music, including songs, operas, symphonic poems, Broadway musicals and film scores. Perhaps the most famous musical example is Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's West Side Story. Remarkably, there are dozens of operas based on the story, but only Gounod's has consistently remained in the repertory. In fact, Brian James Myer just performed in est Side Story at the Grand Teton Music Festival.

Performances are on October 12, 14 and 16 and tickets are available HERE.