Thursday, March 28, 2019

Barihunk duo in Bavarian State Opera's "Iolantha"

Boris Prýgl and Markus Suihkonen
Bass-barihunk Markus Suihkonen and barihunk Boris Prýgl will be featured in the Bavarian State Opera's "Iolanta," which will be paired with Stravinsky's "Mavra." The opera is about a blind princess who doesn't not know that she is blind or that she is a princess. Her blindness is eventually cured by love

Iolanta was Tchaikovsky's final opera and premiered on December 18, 1892. The libretto was written by his brother, Modest Tchaikovsky, who adapted the play “King Rene’s Daughter” by the Danish playwright Henrik Hertz. The opera was originally paired with The Nutcracker ballet and was actually better received initially than it's counterpart.

The best known piece from the opera is the love duet at the end of the opera, but the opera also features two arias for low male voices. King Renè's prayer and Robert's aria "Who can be compared with my Matilda?"

Igor Stravinsky's Mavra is a one-act comic opera and one of the earliest works of Stravinsky's neo-classical period. Boris Kochno's libretto is based on Alexander Pushkin's The Little House in Kolomna.

Performances of the double-bill run from March 15-28 and tickets are available online

Birthday Interview with Samuel Ramey

Samuel Ramey as Attila (left)
He has been referred to as the original barihunk by some, for leading the way in sexy portrayals of the low voice repertory. His video of Boito's Mefistofele from the San Francisco Opera has become a cult classic with opera aficionados. He continued his sexy shirtless portrayals as Attila that were not only sexy, but set the vocal standard to this day.

His amazing vocal flexibility and range has allowed his to sing roles ranging from Argante in Handel’s Rinaldo to the title role in Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle. His repertoire includes the florid pasages of Handel, the bel canto roles of Bellini and Donizetti, the great baritone roles of Verdi and Puccini, great American operas and even many of the great Russian and French bass roles.

Rather than post our annual birthday tribute, we asked the legendary bass to answer a few questions for readers.

1. You were considered a "barihunk" before Francesca Zambello coined the phrase, singing both Attila and Mefistofele shirtless.  Did you ever imagine that baritones and basses would become the sex symbols of opera? 

Ramey: Generally speaking, most baritones and basses are "sexier" than most tenors.  So I can‘t say I‘m surprised.

2. You're now singing two comprimario roles at the Dallas Opera. What draws you to the stage when most singers are enjoying retirement? 

Ramey: I feel that I still have something to offer as a performer and I still love being on the stage.  I‘ve been trying to reinvent myself but it‘s not easy.  I appreciate the Dallas Opéra for giving me this opportunity.

3. Your Attila and Mefistofele are considered definitive interpretations by most opera aficionados. Were these your favorite roles. Which other roles did you love?

Ramey: Attila and Mefistofele were certainly two of my favorite roles, but I have quite a few favorites.  Others would be Mephistopheles in Faust and Damnation de Faust, Mozart‘s Figaro and Don Giovanni, Nick Shadow in Rake's Progress, Filippo II in Don Carlo, Bertram in Robert le Diable, Boris Godunov.

4. What role did you never get to sing that you would have loved to perform? 

Ramey: I‘ve always loved the early Verdi operas.  One I always hoped to sing was Silva in Ernani, but the opportunity never presented itself.

5. Karita Mattila just posted on our Twitter feed that Placido Domingo was her best stage kiss. Who was yours?

Ramey: I didn‘t have many stage kiss opportunities but I‘d have to say that my best stage kiss was Marie McLaughlin.


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Thomas Glass and William Guanbo Su advance to Met Opera Grand Finals

William Guanbo Su
Baritone Thomas Glass and bass William Guanbo Su are among the nine singers who advanced to the 65th annual Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

The 2019 Grand Finals concert will take place March 31. Winners, selected by a panel of judges, will earn cash prizes of $15,000, with remaining finalists receiving $7,500.
At the recital, each finalist will perform two arias, accompanied by the Met Orchestra (conducted by Carlo Rizzi).

Anthony Roth Costanzo will host the proceedings, which will also feature a performance from bass-barihunk Christian Van Horn. Tickets are available online.

The other finalists are tenor Piotr Buszewski, tenor Dashuai Chen, soprano Alaysha Fox, soprano Meghan Kasanders, tenor Miles Mykkanen, soprano Elena Villalón and mezzo-soprano Michaela Wolz.

A number of low male voices who won the Competition have gone on to have stellar international careers, including Louis Quilico, Justino Díaz, Robert Hale, Samuel Ramey, Thomas Hampson, Nathan Gunn, Eric Owens and Christian Van Horn.    

Thursday, March 21, 2019

"As One" opens at Portland Opera with Lee Gregory

Hannah Penn and Lee Gregory (Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera)
Barihunk Lee Gregory, who starred in the Southern California premiere of Laura Kaminsky's opera "As One" at the Long Beach Opera in 2017, will reprise the role up the coast when he opens as "Hannah before" at the Portland Opera on March 22nd.

The world premiere of Laura Kaminsky's opera "As One," which explores the revelatory and redemptive journey of a transgender individual, opened on September 4, 2014 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with the real-life married couple of mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and barihunk Kelly Markgraf. The opera was a critical success and has been performed throughout the country.

Joining Lee Gregory in Portland as "Hannah after" will be soprano Hannah Penn.

Performances will be on March 22, 24, 26, 28 and 30 and tickets are available online. There will be an extended Q&A after the Sunday, March 24th performance, which is free and open to the public.

Kaminsky was inspired to write As One 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 straight to gay. The opera is based on the life experience of noted filmmaker Kimberly Reed.

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.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Baritone Robin Adams makes house debut at Staatsoper Stuttgart

Robin Adams (Image from Staatsoper Stuttgart)

Baritone Robin Adams made his debut yesterday at the Staatsoper Stuttgart in the title role of Henze’s opera Der Prinz von Homburg.

The initial impetus for Henze’s Der Prinz von Homburg came from Italian director, Luchino Visconti, with whom the composer had worked with on the ballet Maratona di Danza in 1957. Henze asked Ingeborg Bachmann to adapt the libretto from Heinrich von Kleist’s play, Prinz Friedrich von Homburg oder die Schlacht bei Fehrbellin and the opera was premiered on May 22, 1960 in Hamburg. The text shows Henze's strong personal dislike of German militarism.

The opera begins with the eponymous Prince of Homburg who, having been distracted by a daydream before a major battle, misses the field marshal’s briefing and risks the army’s victory when he leads his troops into the fight. The battle is won nonetheless, but the prince is sentenced to death for disregarding orders. Der Prinz von Homburg explores the prince’s struggle with guilt and reconciliation, as well as the justice or injustice of his sentence.

Performance will run until May 4th and tickets and cast information is available online.

Henzes's operas can be seen at three other houses this year. Beginning in May with Der junge Lord at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz in Munich and his final opera Phaedra at the Royal Opera House in London featuring the Jette Parker Young Artists. In July, a new production of the Elegy for Young Lovers will open at Theater Aachen.

Vittorio Prato to make role and house debut in Hamburg

Vittorio Prato (Photo from artist's website)
Vittorio Prato will make both his role debut and house debut when he steps on the stage this week at the Hamburg State Opera.

He'll be singing the role of Lescaut in Puccini's opera Manon Lescaut, led by the stunning soprano Kristine Opolais in the title role and tenor Jorge de León as Des Grieux. Performance are on March 21 and 29 and tickets are available online.

Puccini's libretto is an amalgam of text by five different librettists whom Puccini employed, including the composer Ruggero Leoncavallo, as well as Marco Praga, Giuseppe Giacosa, Domenico Oliva and Luigi Illica. The opera was composed between 1890 and 1893 and is based on the 1731 novel L'histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost. It was the composer's third opera and his first big success.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Damien Pass in "Jakob Lenz" at Festival le Balcon

Damien Pass
Australian barihunk Damien Pass (whose birthday is today), is taking on the role of Oberlin in Wolfgang Rihm's one act chamber opera Jakob Lenz at the Festival le Balcon at the Athénée Théâtre Louis-Jouvet in Paris. The title role is being sung by Vincent Vantyghem, as regular with Maxime Pascal’s contemporary Ensemble Le Balcon. Vantyghem has also sung the role at the Dialogues Festival in Salzburg. 

The opera runs through March 29th and tickets are available online

The opera was first performed at the Hamburg Staatsoper in 1979 with the late English baritone Richard Salter in the title role. It has subsequently been performed at the Wiener Festwochen and at Oper Stuttgart with Georg Nigl, Teatro Comunale di Bolgna with Tomas Möwes, Theater Bielefeld with Evgueniy Alexiev and at the English National Opera with Andrew Shore. 

The opera Jakob Lenz is based on the novella "Lenz" by Georg Büchner which deals with an incident in the life of the German poet. Lenz, who along with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, formed the “Sturm und Drang” (Storm and Stress) movement in German literature which made German authors the cultural leaders of Europe during the 18th century. 

Jakob Lenz at the Athénée Théâtre (Photo: © Le Balcon)

The source of Büchner's material comes from the diaries of the social reformer and priest Johann Friedrich Oberlin, which detail the activities of his house guest, who was clearly suffering from mental illness at the time.  The suicidal poet stayed with Oberlin in a small village in the Vosges Mountains near the German-French border in the hope of recovering from his depression.

Büchner's opening pages describing the mountain landscape and hinting at Lenz's inner state with the single sentence "he did not feel at all tired, only it sometimes annoyed him that he could not walk on his hands instead of his feet" are reduced to a stage direction, but the rest of the libretto roughly follows Büchner's outline. A key element of the libretto deals with his trauma around the death of a small child whom was he was unable to resuscitate.

At the end of Lenz's life he lived with Goethe's brother-in-law, Johann Georg Schlosser, where he lived in poverty.  After years of increasingly poor physical health and debilitating mental problems, Lenz died on the streets of Moscow 1792.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Cody Quattlebaum to premiere new edition of Handel's Brockes Passion

Cody Quattlebaum
Bass-barihunk Cody Quattlebaum will perform the role of Christus with The Academy of Ancient Music in a performance recording of Handel’s Brockes Passion. The project is the culmination of several years of scholarly research, setting Handel’s Passion as the composer intended, featuring previously unheard music and instrumentation. 

The restored version reinstates the first 63 ‘missing’ bars, brings in additional instruments, and showcases choruses and other numbers omitted from some editions.

Led by Richard Egarr, The Academy of Ancient Music will premiere the new edition at the Barbican Centre in London on Good Friday, April 19th, which is the 300th anniversary of the work’s premiere. The rest of the cast includes Robert Murray as the Evangelist), Elizabeth Watts as the Daughter of Zion, Ruby Hughes as the Believing Soul, Tim Mead as Judas and Gwilym Bowen as Peter.

Cody Quattlebaum sings "Deh vieni alla finestra":

The text of Brockes Passion is based on text by the German poet Barthold Heinrich Brockes, which has been set to music by numerous composers, including Georg Philipp Telemann. It is not known exactly why or when Handel set the text of the Brockes Passion, but the work was performed in Hamburg in 1719.

The performance will be recorded for release on AAM Records later in the year.

This season at the Dutch National Opera, Quattlebaum will perform Bruno Zirato in Hamel's Caruso a Cuba and Zuniga in Bizet's Carmen.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Ryan McKinny featured in world premiere of Rilke Songs

Ryan McKinny (Photo from artist website)
Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas will mark his 25th and final season as the San Francisco Symphony’s music director with a schedule that includes newly commissioned works by John Adams, Julia Wolfe, Adam Schoenberg and the composer/conductor himself.

Bass-barihunk Ryan McKinny will be featured along with mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke in the world premiere of 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  He has set the texts of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Anne Frank. Other compositions include Street Song for brass instruments and Agnegram, an overture for orchestra.

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

Ryan McKinny can currently be seen in the European premiere of John Adams' "Girls of the Golden West" at the Dutch National Opera

Four low male voices advance to Met Semifinals

Hubert Zapiór and William Guanbo Su
Twenty-one young opera singers who have won regional auditions around the United States will compete in the semifinal round of the country's leading vocal competition, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, on Sunday, March 24.

The 2019 semifinalists include two baritones, one bass-baritone, one bass, nine sopranos, three mezzo-sopranos and five tenors.

The two baritone semifinalists are Thomas Glass (Rocky Mountain Region: Edina, Minnesota) and Hubert Zapiór (Eastern Region: Brzesko, Poland).  The bass-baritone semifinalist is Nicholas Newton (Western Region: San Diego, California).  The bass is William Guanbo Su (Eastern Region: New York, New York).

The closed semifinal competition, held on the Met stage before a panel of judges, will determine the select group of finalists who will advance to the final round of the competition-the Grand Finals, which is open to the public and will be held on the Met stage on Sunday, March 31.

William Guanbo Su sings Rossini's La calunnia:

The finalists who advance to the Grand Finals will have a week of training with Met musical and dramatic coaches to prepare for the Grand Finals Concert on March 31. Each finalist will sing two arias on the Met stage with conductor Carlo Rizzi leading the Met Orchestra. Bass-barihunk Christian Van Horn, who was a Grand Finals winner in 2003, will perform for the audience while the judges deliberate to decide the Grand Finals winners. Following the performance, the winners will be announced, each of whom will receive a cash prize of $15,000 and career-making exposure. 

Other singers who advanced are Sylvia D'Eramo, Monica Dewey, Meryl Dominguez, Anna Dugan, Alaysha Fox, Mary Hoskins, Meghan Kasanders, Murrella Parton, Elena Villalón, Abigail Dock, Camille Sherman, Michaela Wolz, Piotr Buszewski, Dashuai Chen, Anthony Ciaramitaro, Miles Mykkanen and Joshua Lee Wheeker.

Tickets for the Grand Finals Concert are on sale now and may be purchased at the Met Box Office, by phone at (212) 362-6000, or online.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Trio of low male voices in UK staged premiere of Smetena's Libuše

James Quilligan (Photo: Twitter @JamesQuilligan)
Regular readers (with a long memory) might recall our post in 2015 about the first barihunk sextet to be featured in a professional production. British barihunk James Quilligan was part of that cast and now he's featured with a trio of male low voices in the the British staged premiere of Smetana's 1872 masterpiece Libuše.

The U.K. debut of Libuše will debut take place on March 18th with the University College Opera. Joining Quilligan as Chrudos, will be British baritone Robert Davies as Libuše's husband Přemysl and Scottish baritone John Mackenzie as Lutobor. Joining the men will be Kirstin Sharpin as the queen Libuše and Eve Daniell as Krasava. The opera is directed by Cecilia Stinton. Additional performances are on March 20, 22 and 23 and tickets are available online.

Premysl's aria and quartet from Libuše:

In Czech historical myth, Libuše, the title character, prophesied the founding of Prague. In the current production, Smetana's Bohemian queen and her medieval court reside in a modern-day city, where soaring skyscrapers promise glamour and wealth at a human cost.

The opera was composed in 1871–72 for the coronation of Franz Josef as King of Bohemia, but was not performed. The opera was finally premiered nine years later at the National Theatre in Prague. After a fire destroyed the theater, the opera was performed at the reopening in 1883. The current production is being performed to celebrate the refurbishing and reopening of the 541-seat Bloomsbury Theatre, marking the University College Opera's return to its home after three years away performing at the Theatre Royal Stratford East.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Barihunk Trio in Boston's Rape of Lucretia

Brandon Cedel, Duncan Rock and David McFerrin (Photos from artist's websites)
Boston Lyric Opera’s season of rebels, dissenters and tales of strong women continues with Benjamin Britten's The Rape of Lucretia, The entire series of operas is being led by women directors.

The Rape of Lucretia will feature a trio of barihunks, led by Duncan Rock as Tarquinius, Brandon Cedel as Collatinus and David McFerrin as Junius. They'll be joined by Kelley O’Connor as Lucretia, Margaret Lattimore as Bianca, Sara Womble as Lucia, and Jesse Darden and Antonia Tamer as the Male Chorus and Female Chorus. The opera runs from March 11-17 at the Artists for Humanity EpiCenter in Boston's Fort Point Neighborhood. Tickets are available online.

Brandon Cedel  & Duncan Rock rehearsing (Photo: BLO)
Duncan Rock created a sensation when he performed the role of Tarquinius with the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in a performance that was broadcast worldwide. He also performed the role at the Deutsche Oper Berlin to great acclaim. Rock made his U.S. stage debut the Boston Lyric Opera in the title role of Mozart's Don Giovanni in 2015.

The opera tells the story of Lucretia, who is raped by the tyrant Tarquinius Superbus, ruler of Rome. Unable to live with the shame, Lucretia  commits suicide. The action of the opera is commented on throughout by a Male and Female Chorus who occupy another dimension, at times narrating the story and at times voicing the thoughts of the different characters.  The opera was not particularly well received by audiences or critics at the time, but the chamber opera has grown in popularity in recent years.
Duncan Rock rehearsing Tarquinius (Photo courtesy BLO)
Brandon Cedel is making his role debut as Collatinus. David McFerrin has been a regular at the Boston Lyric Opera, appearing as Ferguson in Burke & Hare, an Officer in Glass' In The Penal Colony, Kuligin in Katya Kabanova, Captain McFarlane in Lizzie Borden and Yamadori in Madam Butterfly.

Did you know that Duncan Rock started his musical career playing the bagpipes, and that he also played basketball as well as the bass?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Reader Submission: Barihunk Denis Milo

Denis Milo (Photos courtesy of artist)
Moscow born Denis Milo has lived in Germany since childhood and is currently a member of the Staatsoper Nürnberg.

He started his musical training playing the flute at age eight and later switched to voice, with early vocal training from renowned baritones Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Thomas Quasthoff in Berlin. He made his first stage appearance at age twelve in a musical production of Emil and the Detectives, which toured Europe, North America and Japan.

Denis studied at the Berlin University of Arts with Enrico Facini, where he performed Papageno in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, Guglielmo in Mozart's Così fan tutte and Valentin in Gounod's Faust. In early 2016, he debuted as Nardo in Mozart's La finta giardiniera with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, and later that year he participated in the Mozart Residency at the Académie du Festival d'Aix en Provence.

In 2016, Milo became a member of the Komische Oper Berlin Opera Studio where his roles included Fiorello in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia, Moralès in Bizet's Carmen, Masetto in Mozart's Don Giovanni, Zopire in Rameau's Zoroastre and L'horloge in Ravel's L'enfant et les sortilèges.

Since 2018 Denis has been a member of the Ensemble of the Staatsoper Nürnberg, where is rooles have included Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia, Guglielmo in Mozart's Così fan tutte, Sharpless in Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Papageno in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte and Posa  in Verdi's Don Carlos.

In 2017, he performed at the New Music World Festival, singing the title role in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin and the Count in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro.

Milo has an extensive concert repertoire, which includes Bach cantatas, Verdi’s Requiem, Orff’s Carmina Burana and Beethoven’s Symphony No 9

As an actor, he has performed the role of Claudio in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure at the Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts in Berlin.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Six Low Male Voices Amongst 20 Finalists at Cardiff Singer of the World

Leonardo Lee and Patrick Guetti
Low male voices will be well represented at the 36th BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, as they comprise six of the final twenty competitors. Competing for the prestigious prize from June 15-22 will be baritone Jorge Espino from Mexico, baritone Badral Chuluunbaatar from Mongolia, baritone Leonardo Lee from South Korea, baritone Andrei Kymach from Ukraine, bass Patrick Guetti from the United States  and bass-baritone Richard Ollarsaba from the United States.

Winners of the Singer of the Year Prize and Song Prize will receive £20,000 and £10,000 respectively. An Audience Prize of £2,500 will also be awarded. 

This year's panel of judges will be opera director David Pountney, tenor José Cura, soprano Dame Felicity Lott, mezzo-soprano Federica von Stade, and Grange Park Opera founder Wasfi Kani.

Richard Ollarsaba sings "Se vuol ballare" from Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro:

A number of operas most famous low voices were winners at Cardiff, most famously Dmitri Hvorostovsky who won the Main Prize in 1989 and Bryn Terfel who won the Song Prize that same year. Other winners have included Mongolian baritone Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar who was co-winner of the Song Prize in 2017, Tommi Hakala who won the Main Prize in 2003, Christopher Maltman who won the Song Prize in 1997, Paul Whelan who won the Song Prize in 1993 and Jacques Imbrailo who won the coveted Audience Prize in 2007.

The other 2019 competitors are Guadalupe Barrientos, Lauren Fagan, Camila Titinger, Mingjie Lei, Katie Bray, Adriana Gonzalez, Luis Gomes, Roman Arndt, Karina Kherunts, Yulia Mennibaeva, Owen Metsileng, Sooyeon Lee, Lena Belkina and Angharad Lyddon.

Friday, March 1, 2019

David Adam Moore returns to Atlanta Opera as Eugene Onegin

David Adam Moore in A Streetcar Named Desire (Photo: David Beloff)
American barihunk David Adam Moore returns to the Atlanta Opera on March 2nd in the title role of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. He previously sang Schubert's Winterreise with the company in a  production designed by GLMMR with costumes by Moore's partner Vita Tzykun.

He last sang the role of Onegin with the Arizona Opera in 2015. The Atlanta cast includes tenor William Burden as Lensky, Raquel González as Tatyana and Megan Marino as Olga. There are additional performances on March 5, 8 and 10 and tickets are available online.

David Adam Moore highlights from Winterreise:

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.

Moore will also be making his Teatro Colòn debut in May 2019 singing one of greatest roles,  Stanley Kowalski in Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire