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.