Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Johnny Herford in U.K. premiere of Denis & Katya

Johnny Herford
Johnny Herford, who shared the lead role in composer Philip Venables and librettist Ted Huffman's new opera Denis & Katya with fellow barihunk Theo Hoffman in its world premiere at Opera Philadelphia in September, will now perform the U.K. premiere on February 27. 

The production with the Music Theatre Wales will open in Newport and then head to Mold and Aberystwyth, Wales, and finally too London and Cardiff. Herford will be joined by mezzo-soprano Emily Edmonds as Katya. They'll be accompanied by four cellos from the London Sinfonietta. Tickets and additional information is available online.

The true story follows 15-year-olds Denis Muravyov and Katya Vlasova, who livestreamed their final hours on multiple social media platforms after creating a real-time voyeuristic spectacle and leaving behind a trail of devastating footage of their drinking, smoking, cuddling, and crying as they prepared to die.

The couple had been in an armed standoff with Russian Special Forces when they decided to broadcast themselves live on social media, creating a spectacle of real-time voyeurism. The couple became known as the Romeo and Juliet of internet clickbait. 

After the tour, Herford will perform Starveling in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Grange Festival in a cast that includes Jonathan Lemalu as Bottom, Ben Johnson as Flute and fellow barihunk Dominick Sedgwick as Demetrius.  

Friday, December 27, 2019

George Humphreys sings lead drag role in Donizetti's Viva la Diva

George Humphreys' shirtless curtain call in Glass' The Trial
British barihunk George Humphreys just wrapped up a successful run in Carl Maria von Weber's Oberon at the Salzburger Landestheater, where is a member of the ensemble.

He will next appear with the company in Donizetti's comedy Viva la Diva, whose original title was the mouthful Le convenienze e le inconvenienze teatrali (Conventions and Inconveniences of the Stage). Performances start on February 8 and run through April 2.

Donizetti wrote the lead role of La Diva (aka Agata) for a baritone, which opens up another level of comedy as the singer performs in drag. As the drama unfolds and the jealousies come to a head, it is up to La Diva  to rescue an evening at a theater company trying to mount an opera. Donizetti chose a subject that allowed him to compose both virtuosic and parodistic music.

The opera became a great success after its 1827 world premiere in Naples and 1831 performances in Milan, but was soon forgotten. Regular performances did not resume until 1963. Recent performance include a 2015 production at the Volksoper Wien and one at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in 2017. The National Theatre Prague is currently staging the opera with Roman Hoza in the title role.

The Salzburger Landestheater produces its own version of the opera with a new translation by Andreas Fladvad-Geier, which revives the tradition of transferring the opera’s plot into a local setting to make the parody of the opera world even easier to recognize and appreciate for audiences.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Steven LaBrie to make European debut in Rusalka

Steven LaBrie (Center photo: Matt Madison-Clark)

American barihunk Steven LaBrie will make his European stage debut in Dvořák's Rusalka with the Tiroler Festspiele Erl on December 26th.

A rusalka is a water sprite from Slavic mythology, usually inhabiting a lake or river. Rusalka was the ninth opera Dvořák composed and remains his most popular, as well as one of the most frequently performed Czech operas worldwide.

Rusalka is based on the fairy-tale The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen which itself goes back to the Undine and Melusine sagas of the 14th and 12th centuries.  In bewitchingly beautiful melodies, characteristic rhythms and richly nuanced and sensuous sounds, rooted in Slav folk music, the work poses questions which are still relevant: questions as to one’s own identity, the limitation of space to live and be free, the relationship between human beings and nature.

Steven LaBrie sings "Cruda fuensta smania" from Donizetti's Lucia di Lamermoor:

LaBrie will sing the roles of Game Keeper and the Hunter. He'll be joined in the cast by Karen Vuong as Rusalka, Gerard Schneider as the Prince, Thomas Faulkner as the Water Man and Judita Nagyová as Ježibaba. There are additional performances on December 28 and 30. Tickets are available online.

In the Spring, LaBrie will make his role debut as Mr. Maguire  in Tobias Picker's Emmeline at the Tulsa Opera. The cast includes a number of singers who have appeared on this site, including  Jarrett Porter as Simon Fenton,  Andrew Potter as Pastor Avery and  Nathan Stark as Henry Mosher. Soprano Madison Leonard will sing the title role.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Huw Montague Rendall to make role debut as Count Almaviva

Huw Montague Rendall
British barihunk Huw Montague Rendall will be making his role debut as Count Almaviva in Mozart's the Marriage of Figaro at the Opéra national de Lorraine in Nancy, France.

Performing Figaro will be 25-year-old Russian bass-barihunk Mikhail Timoshenko, who won the Wigmore Hall International Song Competition in September. The cast also includes Adriana Gonzalez as the Countess, Lilian Farahani as Susanna, Giuseppina Bridelli as Cherubino and Ugo Guagliardo as Bartolo.

Performances are on January 31 and February 2, 4, 7 and 9. Tickets and additional cast information is available online.

 Huw Montague Rendall performs Mahler:

He will also be performing a recital on February 11th at Salle Poirel à Nancy accompanied by Ensemble Stanislas and Hélio Vida on the piano. The program will feature French and English songs. Tickets are available online.

This summer, Rendall will perform Marcello in Puccini's La bohème at the Komische Oper.

Christopher Bolduc makes house debut at Deutsche Oper am Rhein featuring barihunk trio

Richard Šveda and Christopher Bolduc
American barihunk Christopher Bolduc will make his house debut tonight as Marcello at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein's Theater Duisburg in Puccini's La bohème. Bolduc will be joined by fellow barihunks Richard Šveda as Schaunard and Luke Stoker as Colline in a cast that also includes as Luiza Fatyol as Mimi, Luis Gomes as Rodolfo and Lavinia Dames as Musetta.

Director Philipp Westerbarkei has updated the production to contemporary times, with the male foursome wearing muscle shirts and even dancing in pink tutus. Performances with Bolduc are on December 21, 25, March 28 and May 2 and 13.  

After the first two performances of La bohème, Bolduc returns to his home base at the Hessiscches Staatstheater Wiesbaden to perform Lescaut in Massenet's Manon, Stern in Mark-Anthony Turnage's Anna Nicole and Belcore in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore.

Luke Stoker and Richard Šveda in La bohème
Bass-barihunk Luke Stoker is new to this site. He hails from Australia, where he received his Bachelor of Music from the University of Queensland and a Master of Music Studies from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music/Griffith University. In 2013, he was awarded the German Opera Scholarship and subsequently became part of the ensembles at Oper Köln and Oper Dortmund. In January 2020, he will make his role and house debut at the Volksoper Wien as Escamillo in Bizet's Carmen.

Richard Šveda is also new to this site. He has been a member of the ensemble at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein since the 2010-11 season. He has performed most of the leading Mozart baritone roles, including Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, Papageno in The Magic Flute, Count Almaviva in the Marriage of Figaro and  the title role in Don Giovanni. The famous soprano Edita Gruberová regularly included him in her concerts with young artists. Mozart continues to fill his calendar, as he performs Don Giovanni at the Slovak National Theater Bratislava and the Count in The Marriage of Figaro at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in January and May.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Ryan McKinny in world premiere of Rilke Songs with SF Symphony

Ryan McKinny
Bass-barihunk Ryan McKinny will be featured along with mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke in the world premiere of Michael Tilson Thomas' composition, "Rilke Songs," a musical setting of lyric poems by German modernist poet Rainer Maria Rilke. A number of composers have set Rilke texts to music, including Alban Berg, Paul Hindemith, Anton Webern, Arnold Schoenberg and Peter Lieberson.

Tilson Thomas has been an active composer throughout his career  In addition to Rilke, he has set the texts of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Anne Frank. Other compositions include Street Song for brass instruments and Agnegram, an overture for orchestra. This will mark Michael Tilson Thomas' 25th and final season as the San Francisco Symphony’s music.

Performances run from January 9-12 and tickets and additional concert information is available online.

McKinny returns to the operatic stage on February 29 for eight performances as the title character in Mozart's Don Giovanni with the Washington National Opera. He'll be joined by fellow barihunk Kyle Ketelsen as Leporello, along with Vannessa Vasquez as Donna Anna, Keri Alkema as Donna Elvira and Alek Shrader as Don Ottavio. In April, he takes on Jokanaan in Richard Strauss' Salome at the Houston Grand Opera with Lise Lindstrom in the title role and  Susan Graham as Herodias. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Mariusz Kwiecien cancellations continue

Mariusz Kwiecien in Pearl Fishers and Don Giovanni
Barihunk Mariusz Kwiecien continues to cancel performances, including a third cancellation with the Dallas Opera. The company announced that he has withdrawn as Rodrigo in their upcoming production of Verdi’s Don Carlo. He will be replaced by fellow barihunk Lucas Meachem. Kwiecien withdrew from the title role in their production of Mozart's Don Giovanni in April 2018 and Bizet's Pearl Fishers in January. Kwiecien is scheduled to sing Rodrigo at Covent Garden this summer.

Meachem will join an all-star cast in Dallas that includes Jamie Barton, Leah Crocetto, Robert Watson, Morris Robinson, Andrea Silvestrelli and David Leigh. Performances run from March 20-28 and tickets are available online. Tickets are available online

Kwiecien's notable recent cancellations also include withdrawing from the The Met's Pearl Fishers and as the Count in Le Nozze di Figaro, Dr. Malatesta in Donizetti's Don Pasquale at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden and the Count in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro at the Bavarian State Opera.

Repeated attempts to get a get a comment from his US and European agents have gone unanswered. We wish him a speedy and healthy recovery to the opera stage.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Hadleigh Adams globetrotting with Handel's Messiah

Hadleigh Adams
Bass-barihunk Hadleigh Adams is going to rack up some frequent flyer miles singing Handel's Messiah this holiday season. Fresh off a huge success as Schaunard in Puccini's La boheme at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, he heads across the globe to his native New Zealand.

He will sing his first Messiah with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra on December 7th in Wellington. He then hops back on a plane to his home base of San Francisco for three performances of Handel's holiday classic with the American Bach Soloists on December 11, 12 and 13. He then heads south to the Lone Star State for three more Messiah's with the Houston Symphony Orchestra on December 20. 21 and 22.

Composed in just 24 days in 1741, the Messiah received a lukewarm reception at its first London performance. However, over the years it has grown in popularity. Although Messiah is structured like an opera, it features no characters or dialogue.

He'll wrap up the year back in San Francisco for the American Bach Soloists New Years Eve concert. He'll be joined by mezzo-soprano Sarah Coit for arias and duets from Handel, Rameau, Vivaldi and Monteverdi.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

William Berger joins Philharmonia Baroque for Judas Maccabaeus

William Berger
The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra will perform Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus, a loose telling of the story of Hanukkah. Despite telling the story of the Maccabees, it has never quite evolved into a Jewish alternative to the composer's far more popular Messiah.

The oratorio was written five years after Messiah in 1746 and was premiered at the Covent Garden Theatre in London the following year.

Philharmonia Baroque's performance will feature barihunk William Berger as Simon, who sings the aria “Arm, arm, ye brave!” He'll be joined by the sensational tenor Nicholas Phan, soprano Robin Johannsen, mezzo-soprano Sara Couden and baroque specialist Nicholas McGegan conducting. 

Gerald Finley sings “Arm, arm, ye brave!”:

Handel's oratorio had a far more secular inspiration than the biblical text might suggest, as it was composed in commemoration of the British defeat of Charles Stuart’s Jacobite forces at the battle of Culloden in April 1746.

The events depicted in the oratorio are from the period 170–160 BC when Judea was ruled by the Seleucid Empire which undertook to destroy the Jewish religion. Being ordered to worship Zeus, many Jews obeyed under the threat of persecution; however, some did not. One who defied was the elderly priest Mattathias who killed a fellow Jew who was about to offer a pagan sacrifice. After tearing down a pagan altar, Mattathias retreated to the hills and gathered others who were willing to fight for their faith.

The oratorio will be performed on December 5 in San Francisco, December 6 in Palo Alot and on December 7 and 8 in Berkeley. Tickets are available online.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Barihunk trio touring Lully's rarely performed Isis

Edwin Crossley-Mercer, Philippe Estèphe and Aimery Lefèvre
Lully’s rarely performed Isis will be performed in Paris, Versailles and Vienna with a barihunk trio under the baton of French baroque specialist Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques. The cast includes Edwin Crossley-Mercer as Jupiter, Aimery Lefèvre as Hierax and Philippe Estèphe as Neptune. They'll be joined by Eve-Maud Hubeaux as Isis, Bénédicte Tauran as Juno, Ambroisine Bré as Iris, Cyril Auvity as Apollo and Fabien Hyon as Mercury.

The opera is best remembered today for the "Peoples from Frozen Climes" music, whose  tremolos inspired the ‘Frost Scene’ in Purcell’s more widely performed King Arthur. Isis has been neglected because the five-act opera gets off to a slow start in the first two acts with lengthy dialogue before it kicks into gear for the final three acts.

Christophe Rousset talks about Isis:

The opera deals with the jealously and conflict between Jupiter, Juno and Isis. The two women love the same man, wth Juno opting for e a violent course of revenge and Io lamenting her loss. 

The opera was written for Louis XIV in order to celebrate the Sun King’s reign. However, the libretto's tale of Jupiter pursuing the nymph Io, only reminded audiences of the king's affairs with his mistresses, Madame de Montespan and Mademoiselle de Ludres. The French immediately associated Juno with Madame de Montespan and Io with Madame de Ludres.

The opera will be performed at the Theatre des Champs-Elysées on December 6, at the Opéra Royal in Versailles on December 10 and the Théâter an der Wien on February 22.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Philippe Sly and Le Chimera Project in klezmer inspired Winterreise

Philippe Sly and Le Chimera Project in Winterreise
Philippe Sly and the Le Chimera Project will reprise their version of Schubert's epic song cycle Winterreise, which they performed to great acclaim in Montreal in April. There will be four performances between January 17-26 in Toronto, Québec, Ottawa and Alma.

Sly and Le Chimera Project have created a fascinating new take on the piece with a fully staged song cycle arranged for violin, clarinet, trombone, and accordion. This Klezmer take on the piece blurs the line between concert and theater.

[Synopsis of "Rast," performed in video: "He reaches a charcoal-burner's hut and, worn out by his long trek through the snowstorm with a heavy backpack, he lies down to rest. In the quiet his cuts and bruises sting sorely."]

When Schubert's Winterreise premiered in 1827, the public was perplexed by the piece, finding it too raw, too dark, too hard to digest. Only the famous song Der Lindenbaum found favor. But Schubert was completely sure that he had created a work of importance; no composition seems to have been as important to him as the musical realization of these 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller.  Of course, today one can't have a serious discussion about great lieder without mentioning Winterreise. The piece's influence on other composers can not be overstated and few baritones having included all or portions of the cycle in their repertoire. 

If you can't wait until next year, you can hear Philippe Sly in Bach's Christmas Oratorio with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal on December 3 and with the Gulbenkian Orchestra on December 13, as well as in Handel's Messiah with the University of Michigan Musical Society on December 7. He returns to the opera stage at the Opera Garnier in Mozart's Don Giovanni in March and Cosi fan tutte in June. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

Barihunk switcharoo continues in Chicago's Don Giovanni

Ryan McKinny (Photo: Robert Millard)
Bass-barihunk Ryan McKinny is replacing Davide Luciano in the final three performances of Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, who was scheduled to sing in performances between December 3-8. The company previously announced that barihunk Lucas Meachem would replace Ildar Abdrazakov in the November 14-30 performances.

Meachem has previously sung the role at the Semperoper Dresden, Cincinnati Opera and Santa Fe Opera, while McKinny recently debuted the role at the Houston Grand Opera. He will reprise the role with the Washington National Opera in February and March 2020. 

McKinny joins a cast that includes Matthew Rose, Rachel Willis-Sørensen, Amanda Majeski, Ying Fang, Brandon Cedel, Mika Kares, and Ben Bliss.

The Lyric Opera of Chicago production was recently featured on this site and you can read about it HERE.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Opera returns to historic Philly opera house with André Courville

Ezio Pinza and André Courville (photo: Dario Acosta)

Opera will return to the Metropolitan Opera House in Philadelphia for what is believed to be the first time since 1934 when the Academy of Vocal Arts presents the BrAVA Philadelphia! concert on March 28, 2020.

The partial list of singers includes bass-barihunk André Courville along with sopranos Angela Meade, Latonia Moore, and Vanessa Vasquez; tenors Michael Fabiano, Bryan Hymel, and Taylor Stayton; and mezzo-soprano Hannah Ludwig.

The recently restored 3,100 seat theater opened in 1908 with a production of Carmen and was the site for the U.S. premiere of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck in 1931with Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra.

New York's Metropolitan Opera used to perform regularly in Philadelphia and many of the most famous baritones and basses of the early 20th century performed there, including Fyodor Chaliapin, Edouard de Reszke, Antonio Scotti, Pasquale Amato, Giuseppe De Luca, Lawrence Tibbett, George Cehanovsky and Ezio Pinza.

The building has been used as a movie house, ballroom, sports venue, and church. After decades of neglect and deferred maintenance, it reopened in December 2018 with a special appearance by Bob Dylan following a reported $56 million renovation. Now called Met Philadelphia, it hosts more than a dozen shows a month as a Live Nation venue.

Tickets to the concert are available online.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Barihunk bliss in Seattle's Eugene Onegin

Michael Adams, John Moore and David Leigh
If you want to start off the new year with some barihunk bliss then you might want to head to the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle Opera will be rotating barihunks as the title character in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin running from January 11-25 with John Moore and Michael Adams both taking on the charming, but jaded character.

Also in the cast will be bass-barihunk David Leigh as Prince Gremin, who sings the beautiful aria "Lyubvi vse vozrasty pokorny," where he tells Onegin how love can change a life at any age, and how he is madly in love with Tatiana.

The remainder of the cast includes Colin Ainsworth as Lenski, Marjukka Tepponen and Marina Costa-Jackson as Tatyana, Melody WIlson as Olga, Meredit Arwady as Filipievna, Margaret Gawrysiak as Larina and Martin Bakari and Triquet. Tickets are available online.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Eugene Onegin at The Met:

Tchaikovsky based his opera on Alexander Pushkin's s novel, which was written in verse and is considered a classic of Russian literature. The idea of setting the story to music was suggested to the composer by the great Russian mezzo-soprano Yelizaveta Lavrovskaya. Tchaikovsky arranged much of the verse himself into the libretto with help from his friend Konstantin Shilovsky.

The opera was first performed in Moscow in 1879 and has remained popular since its premiere.

A number of barihunks have sung Onegin to great acclaim, including Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Mariusz Kwiecien, Nathan Gunn, Simon Keenlyside, Artur Rucinski, Peter Mattei, Paulo Szot, Tobias Greenhalgh, Christopher Maltman, Günter Papendell and Franco Pomponi.   

Other companies performing the opera in 2020 include the Norwegian Opera, Rome Opera, Finnish National Opera, Israeli Opera, Semperoper Dresden, Munich Opera Festival and Opera Australia.        

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Barihunk duo in Sibelius' The Tempest

Philip Stoddard and Tobias Greenhalgh
Tobias Greenhalgh will sing Caliban and Philip Stoddard will take on Ferdinand in Sibelius' rarely performed The Tempest with the Oregon Symphony on November 23, 24 and 25. The piece is more often heard in suites that the composer extracted from the complete work.

Caliban is the son of a witch-hag who insists that Prospero stole the island from him, of which he is the only native resident in the play. Ferdinand is the son and heir of Alonso, who.  seems to be as pure and naïve as Miranda. He falls in love with her upon first sight and happily submits to servitude in order to win her father’s approval.

The idea for music for The Tempest was first suggested to Sibelius in 1901 by his friend Axel Carpelan. In 1925, his Danish publisher Wilhelm Hansen again raised the idea, as the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen was going to stage the work the following year. Sibelius composed it from late 1925 through early 1926.  The Tempest and Tapiola were to be his last great works, and he wrote little else for the remaining 32 years of his life, which came to be known as "The Silence of Järvenpää."

The Tempest  was first performed in Copenhagen on March 15, 1926. The first night attracted international attention but Sibelius was not present. Reviews noted that "Shakespeare and Sibelius, these two geniuses, have finally found one another", and praised in particular the part played by the music and stage sets. Only four days later Sibelius set off for an extended trip to work on new commissions in Rome. He did not hear the music for the first time until the autumn of 1927 when the Finnish National Theatre in Helsinki staged the work.

Shakespeare's story has inspired 50 operas including Thomas Adès' and Lee Hoiby's The Tempest, Fromental Halévy's La Tempesta, Zdeněk Fibich's Bouře, Frank Martin's Der Sturm and Michael Tippett's The Knot Garden. Incidental music based on The Tempest has been written by Arthur Sullivan, Ernest Chausson, Malcolm Arnold, Lennox Berkeley, Arthur Bliss, Engelbert Humperdinck, Hector Berlioz, Willem Pijper and Henry Purcell.

Tobias Greenhalgh can next be seen as Valentin in Gounod's Faust, Ottakar in Weber's Der Freischütz and Count Almaviva in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro at the Aalto Theater in Essen, Germany. 

Saturday, November 2, 2019

A history of baritones and basses in Pelléas et Mélisande at the Metropolitan Opera

Kyle Ketelsen as Golaud at the Met
When barihunk Kyle Ketelsen took the stage at the Metropolitan Opera as Golaud in Debussy's Pelléas and Mélisande earlier this year, he stepped into some big shoes. The role had been performed by Pavel Ludikar, John Brownlee, Kim Borg, Thomas Stewart, Gabriel Bacquier, Victor Braun, Willard White (in his Met debut), Gerald Finley and some other very notable singers mentioned below. In fact, the opera has featured some of the greatest singers in Met history in the three main roles for low male voices, Pelléas, Arkel and Golaud (as well as the Shepherd!). The role of Pelléas has been sung by both tenors and baritones at the Met.

The opera premiered at the Met on March 21, 1925 with Lucrezia Bori as Mélisande, future Met General Director Edward Johnson as Pelléas and Clarence Whitehill as Golaud. Bori faced the enviable task of performing the role after the legendary soprano Mary Garden had already performed the role in New York. If it was any consolation, Bori's costumes were designed by the Russian-born French artist and designer Erté. Whitehill, was a prominent Wagnerian bass, who also sang in the Met premiere of Gustave Charpentier's Louise in 1921.

The opera was performed regularly at the Met and on tour, but a legendary figure joined the cast in 1933 when Ezio Pinza  took the stage as Golaud. America go to hear Acts 2 and 3, which were broadcast on the Metropolitan Opera Radio Broadcast. A Wall Street Journal review criticized Pinza's French.

A 1944 cast included three of the most glorious low male voices, as Lawrence Tibbett sang Golaud, Alexander Kipnis took on Arkel and Pelléas was cast with baritone Martial Singher. They were joined by the ravishing Mélisande of Brazilian soprano Bidú Sayao. Olin Downes, the reviewer for the New York Times said, "The performance was a triumph unprecedented for this work in American operatic history."

Jacques Jansen as Pelléas:

A 1949 performance was hailed for the Met debut of French baryton-martin Jacques Jansen, who was particularly associated with the role of Pelléas in Europe. Jansen's recording of the opera with Irène Joachim as Mélisande and Roger Désormière conducting the Opéra-Comique from 1941 is to this day considered the definitive recording by many French opera connoisseurs.

In 1953, one of the era's true barihunks, Theodor Uppman, stepped into the role. Famed composer and critic for the New York Herald Tribune Virgil Thomson wrote, "Theodor Uppman, a high barytone, sang Pelléas with a warmth of feeling and a spontaneity of expression all unusual these days; and his appearance was so charming, his grace so unaffected that one believed him at every moment. He was singing Pelléas and being Pelléas." The great bass Jerome Hines sang Arkel. Uppman reprised his performance in 1959 with a stellar cast that included Victoria de los Angeles as Mélisande, George London as Golaud, Giorgio Tozzi as Arkel and Regina Resnik as Geneviève. A 1962 performance with Uppman is notable for the appearance of Teresa Stratas as Yniold, who 15 years later would sing Mélisande on the Met stage with José Van Dam as Golaud.

A 2010 performance, which was broadcast worldwide, featured a cast headed by Stéphane Degout as Pelléas, Gerald Finley as Golaud, Willard White as Arkel, Magdalena Kozená as Mélisande and barihunk Donovan Singletary as the Shepherd.

Ketelsen is currently performing Leporello in Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Staatsoper Hamburg through November 9. He then heads to the Zurich Opera House to perform Selim in Rossini's Il Turco in Italia from December 10-January 3. He then returns to the U.S. for more Leporellos, this time with the Washington National Opera from February 29-March 22.

Upcoming performances of Pelléas et Mélisande are at Opéra de Dijon with barihunk Laurent Alvaro as Golaud, the Marinsky Theatre, Hamburg State Opera with Simon Keenlyside slated to sing Golaud and at the  Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe with Guillaume Andrieux as Pelléas.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Barihunk Trio in New England premiere of Fellow Travelers; Coming to Arizona and Madison

Jesse Darden as Timothy Laughlin and Jesse Blumberg as Hawkins Fuller (Photo by Liza Voll)
The Boston Lyric Opera is presenting the New England premiere of Gregory Spears' Fellow Travelers from November 13-17. The cast will included the barihunk trio of Jesse Blumberg as Hawkins Fuller, David McFerrin as Senator Joe McCarthy and Simon Dyer in multiple roles. 

The remainder of the cast includes Jesse Darden as Timothy McLaughlin, Chelsea Basler as Mary Johnson, James Maddalena as Senator Charles Potter, Vincent Turregano as Tommy McIntyre, Brianna Robinson as Lucy and Michelle Trainor as Miss Lightfoot. Tickets are available online

Simon Dyer and David McFerrin
Fellow Travelers, which is set in Washington D.C. against the backdrop of the McCarthy-era "lavender scare," tells the story of Timothy “Skippy” Laughlin, an aspiring young journalist, and Hawkins “Hawk” Fuller, a handsome, profligate State Department official. A chance encounter with Hawk leads to Tim's first job in DC, and his first love affair. As his involvement deepens, Tim struggles to reconcile his political convictions, his religious beliefs, and his love for Fuller – an entanglement that will end in a stunning act of betrayal. The libretto is based on the novel by American novelist, essayist and critic Thomas Mallon.

Joseph Lattanzi as Hawkins Fuller and Jonas Hacker as "Skippy" McLaughlin
The opera is also being performed on the other side of the continent at the Arizona Opera with Joseph Lattanzi reprising the role of Hawkins Fuller, which he created at the Cincinnati Opera in 2016. The cast includes Marcus DeLoach as Senator Joe McCarthy, Thomas Cannon as Senator Charles Potter, Jonas Hacker as Timothy McLaughlin, Katherine Beck as Mary Johnson, Cadie Jordan as Lucy and Kaitlyn Johnson as Miss Lightfoot. Tickets are available online

The opera will also be performed next year at the Madison Opera with Ben Edquist as Hawkins Fuller, Sid Outlaw as Tommy McIntyre and Andy Acosta as Hawkins Fuller. 

Monday, October 21, 2019

Barihunks galore in Hamburg's Mozart/Da Ponte trilogy; Livestream of Don Giovanni from Rome

André Schuen and Kyle Ketelson in Don Giovanni (© Brinkhoff/Mögenburg)
The Hamburg State Opera kicked off its Mozart/Da Ponte trilogy of opera with the premiere of Don Giovanni on October 20th featuring the barihunk trilogy of Andrè Schuen in the title role, Kyle Ketelsen as Leporello and Alexander Tsymbalyuk as the Commendatore. Additional performances are on October 23, 26, 29 and November 3, 6 and 9.

On October 22, they will add Così fan tutte to the rotation with barihunk John Chest as Guglielmo.  Additional performances will be on October 22, 27, 31 and November 2. The final opera will be Le Nozze di Figaro, which opens on November 1, with additional performances on November 5, 8 and 12. The cast features barihunks Christoph Pohl as the Count and Wilhelm Schwinghammer as Figaro.

Tickets for all three operas are available online.

Alessio Arduini as Don Giovanni in Rome
If you can't make it to an Hamburg or another opera house featuring Don Giovanni, you can watch a performance from the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma on Oct. 26, 2019 on OperaVision. The cast includes barihunk Alessio Arduini in the title role, along wtih Vito Priante, Emanuele Cordaro, Antonio Di Matteo, Juan Francisco Gatell, Maria Grazia Schiavo, Salome Jicia, and Marianne Croux. The livestream may not play in some countries.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Barihunk switch in Lyric Opera of Chicago's Don Giovanni

Lucas Meachem as Don Giovanni
Lucas Meachem will replace Ildar Abdrazakov in the Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni from November 14 - 30. He has previously performed the role with the Semperoper Dresden, Cincinnati Opera and Santa Fe Opera.

The Lyric Opera of Chicag production was recently featured on this site and you can read about it HERE.

Meachem will return to Lyric in February to portray Yeletsky in Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades. He is no stranger to Lyric audiences, having perfomed Oreste in Gluck's Iphigenée en Tauride, Valentin in Gounod's Faust, Demetrius in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream , Marcello in Puccini's La bohème and most Chorebus and the Ghost of Chorebus  in Berlioz's Les Troyens.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Hvorostovsky's hometown to honor late singer on his birthday

Statue of Dimitri Hvorostovsky in Krasnoyarsk (Photos: TASS)
On October 16th, the city of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia will hold a celebration of the life of Dmitri Hvorostovsky on what would have been his 57th birthday.  The celebration will occur at the monument which was erected in his honor in the park near the Siberian Institute of Art, where the artist studied.

Hvorostovsky was born and educated in Krasnoyarsk and lived there until the mid-1990s. The 11 1/2 foot (3.5 metres) tall sculpture at the site was designed by Moscow sculptor Vladimir Usov. Hvorostosky sang a farewell concert in his hometown in June 2017. 

According to Hvorostovsky’s last will, his body was cremated and the ashes were placed into two urns. One was buried at Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery (the final resting place of the most outstanding artists, cultural personalities, scientists, politicians, and military heroes), and the other was flown to Krasnoyarsk for burial. The airport in Krasnoyarsk was also named in his honor. 

Dmitri Hvorostovsky performs in Krasnoyarsk:

After being diagnosed with a brain tumor in June 2015, Hvorostovsky died on November 22, 2017 in London.  There were memorial concerts in his honor at The Royal Opera in London and at Zankel Hall in New York City.

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.

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 to a rousing ovation.

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, five days before his death, his first recording of Verdi's Rigoletto was released, on which he sings the title role.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Barihunk duo in Spontini's rarely perfomed "Fernand Cortez"

Gianluca Margheri as Moralez in Fernand Cortez
Spontini's rarely performed opera Fernand Cortez is being performed at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino with barihunks Gianluca Margheri as Moralez and André Courville as the Mexican High Priest.

Following on from the triumph of Gaspare Spontini's opera Vestale, he was asked to compose a new opera for the Paris Opèra. The request came from Napoleon, whose favorite composer was Spontini.

André Courville as the Mexican High Priest in Fernand Cortez
The choice was for the story of Fernand Cortez, a legendary 16th-century Spanish captain involved in the conquering of Mexico. Well aware of the power of art as a vehicle for propaganda, Napoleon aimed to obtain public support for his military campaign in Spain. The protagonist of the opera, a wise and magnanimous man, whose only desire was to free the Mexican people from the slavery imposed by the superstitious indigenous religion, in fact represented the perfect match for Napoleon, who - like Cortez - wanted to appear as a representative of civil and liberal values.

Fernand Cortez made its debut at the Opèra on November 28, 1809. The sumptuous staging, grandiloquent orchestra, spectacular special effects - such as the charging of real horses on the stage - war-like choirs, barbarous dances and even a sentimental touch provided by the love between Cortez and the young indigenous Amazingly, guaranteed the opera its hoped-for success.

Gianluca Margheri rehearsing Moralez in Fernand Cortez
The glory of Napoleon was greatly exalted, and Fernand Cortez became the symbolic opera of his empire. The popularity of the piece declined with the waning of the French army's fortunes in Spain and Portugal.

The opera was last performed at the Theater Erfurt in 2006. It had its premiere in the United States during the 1887-88 season at the Metropolitan opera with the Wagnerian tenor Albert Niemann and Swedish bass Johannes Elmblad. Remaining performances at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino are on October 16, 20 and 23. Tickets are available online.

A new production of the opera will be performed at the Theater Dortmund from May 21 through June 12, 2020.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Barihunk Quartet making Lyric Opera of Chicago debuts in Don Giovanni

Ildar Abdrazakov, Brendon Cedel and Davide Luciano
Four barihunks will be making their Lyric Opera of Chicago debuts in the upcoming production of Mozart's Don Giovanni, which opens on November 14. Russian bass-barihunk Ildar Abdrazakov will alternate the title role along with Davide Luciano, while Brandon Cedel sings Masetto. Finnish basso Mika Kares also makes his debut with the company as the Commendatore after an impressive performance in Mozart's Requiem earlier this year with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

They will be joined by Rachel Willis-Sørensen as Donna Anna, Ben Bliss as Don Ottavio, Amanda Majeski as Donna Elvira, Matthew Rose as Leporello and Ying Fang as Zerlina.

Mika Kares
Don Giovanni was the first opera that the company produced in early 1954 in an effort to gauge Chicago's support for a new opera company. Needless to say, it was quite a success, considering the cast included Nicola Rossi–Lemeni as Don Giovanni, John Brownlee as Leporello, Eleanor Steber as Donna Anna, Léopold Simoneau as Don Ottavio and Bidú Sayão as Zerlina. The debut season also included Maria Callas performing her signature role of Norma.

The current production will be the company's eleventh performance of the season. There will be nine performances from November 14 through 8. Tickets are available online. David Luciano will perform on December 3 and 8, while Ildar Abdrazakov sings on all other dates.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Craig Verm stars in "film noir" version of Don Giovanni

Craig Verm and Rachelle Durkin (Photo: David Bachman)
The Pittsburgh Opera is kicking off its new season on October 12 with barihunk Craig Verm in the title role of Mozart's Don Giovanni.

Director Kristine McIntyre has reinvisioned the opera in the style of film noir. Film noir was popular in the 1940s and 1950s and explored dark stories of crime, sexual motives and deceit. What could be darker and more deceitful than the noted Lothario Don Giovanni, the charming sexual predator who preys on women of all social classes, including the vengeful Donna Anna, leading to a fight that results in her father’s death?

Some of the greatest film noir movies included Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity, Otto Preminger's Laura, Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep, Charles Vidor's Gilda and Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. Film noir was a response to World War II and at the dawn of the Cold War, which generated stories of espionage and betrayals.

Verm will be joined by Musa Ngqungwana as Leporello, Tyler Zimmerman as Masetto, Brian Kontes as the Commendatore, Rachelle Durkin as Donna Anna, Corrie Stallings as Donna Elvira, Kang Wang as Don Ottavio and Antonia Botti-Lodovico as Zerlina. Performances are on October 12, 15, 18 and 20. Tickets are available online.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Zachary James prepares for Met debut with a little Cabaret

Zachary James (Photos courtesy of the artist)
Barihunk Zachary James made quite a splash with his super sexy, scantily clad performance of Sally Bowles' "Maybe this time" from Cabaret at the Bearded Ladies’ Late Night Snacks Cabaret, part of Opera Philadelphia’s O19 festival and FringeArts. The lineup also includes the legendary gender bending performer Justin Vivian Bond, as well as opera legends Stephanie Blythe and Anthony Roth Costanzo. There a couple of remaining shows before the festival closes on September 29 and tickets are available online.

The festival came with the following disclaimer; "Late Night Snacks ingredients may include artistic experimentation, adult content, consensual touch, ear worms, nudity, jubilation, great selfie material, rampant queerness, and many repeat visits."

You can see Zachary James' performance HERE.

He said this of the festival. "Several of the singers from Opera Philadelphia’s O19 festival were invited to participate in Late Night Snacks Cabaret in South Philly produced by The Bearded Ladies, a month long nightly event included in this year’s Opera Philly O19 festival and Philly FringeArts festival. We love what we do as opera singers but also all have cravings to step outside of the box and explore our versatility. Late Night Snacks hosted Stephanie Blythe screlting rock and busting out Carmen with ukulele, Anthony Roth Costanzo singing jazz in a smooth baritone, Alissa Anderson belting You Don’t Own Me, Will Liverman singing gospel accompanying himself on piano like a beast, and many more stunning turns. This was a time and space to let our hearts out and explore our hidden desires as artists."

Zachary James in Akhnaten (Photo: Jane Hobson)
James will also be making his Met debut alongside his Late Night Snacks co-stars Anthony Roth Costanzo and Will Liverman, when he reprises his performance as Amenhotep III in Philip Glass' Akhnaten, which runs from Noevember 8-December 7. Tickets are available online.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Marco Vassalli swashbuckling in Germany before making only U.S. appearance in 2019

Marco Vassalli and Vikrant Subramanian
German barihunk Marco Vassalli is performing Count Mondego (Graf von Mercerf) in Frank Wildhorn's The Count of Monte Cristo at the Stadtheater Bremerhaven with Vikrant Subramanian taking on the title role. Performances run from September 29 through June 10 and some shows are already sold out, so get your tickets online.

Lyricist and librettist Jack Murphy took his influences from the Alexandre Dumas père book of the same name, as well as the popular movie starring Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Richard Harris and Henry Cavill.

The musical was first work-shopped in New York City in 2008 with many of the cast members of Broadway's A Tale of Two Cities. The American professional premiere was produced by the Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City in May 2016. The German language version (Der Graf von Monte Christo) premiered at the Theater St. Gallen in Switzerland on March 14, 2009.

Vassalli will take advantage of a break in the schedule between his October 13 and 26 performances to make his only U.S. appearance. He will be reprising Clint Borzoni's Stufen with the Festival String Quartet, which was written for him and has proved to be immensely popular with audiences and on YouTube. He will also perform works by Leonard Bernstein and Franz Schubert along with the Piano Quintet in Eb major by Robert Schumann. Tickets are available online.

Cleveland Orchestra to perform 5 operas with 5 barihunks

Simon Keenlyside, Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Eric Owens, Bo Skovhus and Ludwig Mittelhammer (center)
The Cleveland Orchestra announced that it is extending the contract of Music Director. Franz Welser-Möst’s for five years until 2027, which would be his 25th anniversary with the company.

They also announced five operas for upcoming seasons, each featured a noted barihunk.

First up will be Berg's Lulu, which runs from May 16-22, 2020 and features Bo Skovhus as Dr. Schön. The all-star cast will feature Barbara Hannigan in the title role, Jennifer Johnson Cano as Countess Geschwitz and John Tomlinson as Schigolch.

Next up will be a performance of Verdi's Otello in the 2020-21 featuring barihunk Simon Keenlyside making his role debut as the evil Iago. No other cast information was available.

The 2021-22 season will also include Wagner's Parsifal featuring barihunk Hanno Müller-Brachmann as Amfortas, along with tenor Piotr Beczala in the title role, mezzo-soprano Okka von der Damerau as Kundry and bass Peter Rose making his role debut as Gurnemanz.

The 2022-23 will undoubtedly feature a slew of barihunks in Puccini's almost all-male cast in  La Fanciulla del West. Bass-barihunk Eric Owens and soprano Tamara Wilson will both be making role debuts as Jack Rance and Minnie respectively.

The 2023-24 season will feature an all to rare U.S. appearance by Ludwig Mittelhammer, who will be features as Papageno in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. He'll be joined by tenor Julian Prégardien as Tamino and bass Peter Kellner as Sarastro.