Saturday, February 25, 2017

Alex Esposito and Joyce DiDonato in Live Stream of Semiramide

Alex Esposito and Joyce DiDonato
Rossini's Semiramide will be live streamed from the Bavarian State Opera on Sunday, February 26th at 5 p.m CET/11 AM EST/8 AM PST. The production stars Honorary Barihunk Joyce DiDonato and barihunk  Alex Esposito along Daniela Barcellona and Lawrence Brownlee. The broadcast will be available HERE.

The new production by David Alden sets the action in a modern, generic Middle Eastern dictatorship, rather than in ancient Babylon.  Both Alex Esposito and Joyce DiDonato are making their role debuts, as Semiramide and Assur respectively. The role of Semiramide was written for Rossini's mistress Isabella Colbran, an alto with great extension. In recent years the role has been sung primarily by sopranos including Joan Sutherland, Angela Meade, Laura Aikin, Elena Mosuc. Leah Crocetto, Montserrat Caballé, June Anderson and Edita Gruberová, Perhaps the most famous Assur of our generation was Sam Ramey, who recorded the role and performed it on stage.

The libretto by Gaetano Rossi is based on Voltaire's tragedy Semiramis, which in turn was based on the legend of Semiramis of Assyria.

In the opera, Queen Semiramide is haunted by the ghosts of her past. Together with her lover Assur, she once murdered her husband King Nino; a deed which ever since has weighed heavily upon her. With her marriage to Arsace, she hopes her soul will at last find solace. Her love, however, is misplaced. Arsace not only loves another, he is also, as is later revealed, the son Semiramide and Nino believed to be dead. He is faced with a decision: should he avenge the death of his father – and thus become his mother's killer?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Robin Adams in sexually charged Quartett at Liceu

Robin Adams and Allison Cook in Quartett
Barihunk Robin Adams is singing Luca Francesconi's two-person opera Quartett along with soprano Allison Cook a the Liceu Opera Barcelona. The opera is a re-reading of Heiner Müller's play based on Les liaisons dangereuses and reflects on the decadence of certain classes of society.

The libretto revolves around two ex-lovers who get caught up in a game of seduction that can only end in death. The Marquise de Merteuil challenges the Viscomte de Valmont to seduce her niece Cécile, who is a virgin, but he opts instead to lead Madame de Tourvel, a faithful wife, astray.

Francesconi’s score calls for a massive sound design, and demands two distinct orchestras – one of which is pre-recorded and electronically treated, the sound sent flying over the heads of the audiences.

The composer once said of this piece, "Don’t dare to come if you can't accept that you need to analyse what you do and who you are. This piece is violent, it’s sex, it’s blasphemy, it’s the absence of mercy. The only two characters in the opera are the definition of cynical, they have made a pact that they don’t have to love any more. Love and sentiment are banned, the only thing that’s left and that matters is a kind of chess game with people's souls and bodies. So don’t come if you have problems in your relationship, you might discover something you might not want to! But do dare to come if you can face the reality of how dried up your heart is, how little space there is in your feelings for anything that doesn’t come from being self-defensive, from being totally scared by the world. We are prisoners of our fears. That’s the real last message of this piece, that we can no longer hide our problems – and that we shouldn’t."

The opera runs through March 3rd and tickets are available online.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Michael Kelly grooms to play androgynous Edward Kynaston

Michael Kelly, who appeared in our very first Barihunks calendar, had to do a little grooming for his latest performance as an actor known for playing female characters in the 17th century. 

Set in Restoration England during the time of King Charles II,  composer Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players follows the story of Edward Kynaston, a Shakespearean actor famous for his performances of the female roles in the Bard's plays. Samuel Pepys once called Kynaston "the loveliest lady that ever I saw in my life" and a performance of his was once delayed when he was playing the Queen, as he "was not shav'd."

In the opera, when the King grants permission for women to appear onstage, and forbids male actors from continuing to appear in female roles, Kynaston must relearn his entire craft or face the end of his career. 

Adapted from Jeffrey Hatcher’s play A Compleat Female Stage Beauty and the subsequent 2004 film Stage Beauty, the opera was commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera. It received its world premiere this past March 2016 at the HGO Studio. Since the performances in Houston the composer made a few small revisions, which will be heard for the first time in this production by the little OPERA theatre of ny at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College. Kelly will perform on February 23 and 25, alternating the role with Shea Owens, who performs on February 24 and 26.

On March 17th you can catch Kelly as Count Gil in Wolf-Ferrari’s one-act comic intermezzo Il segreto di Susanna with The Orchestra Now at Carnegie Hall.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Francesca Zambello directs five barihunks in Dead Man Walking

Michael Mayes as Joseph de Rocher in Dead Man Walking
We generally credit director Francesca Zambello with coining the term "barihunk," so it should come as no surprise that she's directing five of them in a new production of Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking at the Washington National Opera from February 25-March 11.

The cast will be led by Michael Mayes, who the composer dubbed the definitive Joseph de Rocher, the accused killer at the center of the story. Mayes is making his company debut with this performance, although he's performed the role with the New Orleans Opera, Central City Opera, Tulsa Opera, San Francisco's Opera Parallèle, Madison Opera and Eugene Opera. He'll be joined by barihunks Wayne Tigges as Owen Hart, Timonty J. Bruno as George Benton, Michael Adams as the Motorcycle Cop/Prison Guard and Andrew Bogard as the other Prison Guard. Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham will sing Mrs. de Rocher and Kate Lindsay will sing Sister Helen.

Barihunks Andrew Bogard, Michael Adams and Timothy J. Bruno

Wayne Tigges
The opera is based on Sister Helen Prejean’s acclaimed 1993 memoir, which tells of her time working with death row inmates at Louisiana State Penitentiary and of a particular relationship she developed with one of the inmates. The opera explores the human conflicts posed by society’s demands for vengeance and the Christian imperative for forgiveness and love.

Dead Man Walking is one of the most performed of new American operas. Since its world premiere at San Francisco Opera in 2000, it has been staged internationally in more than 40 productions on five continents; it has also received two live recordings. 

The company will also present Terence Blanchard and Michael Cristofer’s Champion starring barihunk Audrey Allicock from March 4– 18.

Both operas explore the theme of social justice which is often associated with John F. Kennedy and are presented as part of JFKC, the Kennedy Center’s season-long celebration of President Kennedy’s centennial. Using many of the same designers and scenic elements, the directors of each opera have worked collaboratively to create two distinct worlds in each new production to showcase the issues of Justice, Courage, and Freedom at the heart of these two compelling stories.

Terence Blanchard uses jazz as the basis for a cinematic and groundbreaking operatic score filled with bluesy harmonies and Afro-Caribbean beats; Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cristofer’s libretto tells the true story of Emile Griffith, a professional boxer from the U.S. Virgin Islands who threw a fatal punch in the boxing ring in 1962 after being taunted for his sexuality by his rival.

Aubrey Allicock, who created the role of the Young Emile at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis in 2010, will be making his Washington National Opera debut with this performance. Singing the role of Emile’s mother, Emelda Griffith, is mezzo- soprano Denyce Graves, while tenor Victor Ryan Robertson is Emile’s rival Benny Paret, baritone Wayne Tigges is Howie Albert and contralto Meredith Arwady peforms Kathy Hagan.

Discounted ticket information for both shows is available online.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Four barihunks take prizes at George London Competition

(Clockwise top left) Will Liverman, Brian Vu, Cody Quattlebaum and Shea Owens
Four barihunks walked away with awards at the 46th annual George London Foundation Awards Competition for young American and Canadian opera singers at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.

After three days of preliminary auditions, 18 were selected as finalists and a total of $75,000 was given in awards. Five were selected as winners of George London Awards of $10,000, including Will Liverman. Three singers received $5,000 awards, including Cody Quattlebaum and the remainder received $1,000 each, including Shea Owens and Brian Vu.

Barihunk Richard Stilwell in his singing days
his year's panel of judges included soprano Harolyn Blackwell, mezzo-soprano Rosalind Elias, former Metropolitan Opera administrator Alfred F. Hubay, George London Foundation President Nora London, mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer, tenor and voice professor George Shirley, and barihunk Richard Stilwell (who won a George London Award at the first competition in 1971). The competition pianist was renowned collaborative pianist Craig Rutenberg.

Other $10,000 prize winners included tenor Aaron Blake, soprano Michelle Bradley, tenor Errin Duane Brooks and soprano Lara Secord-Haid.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Opéra de Montréal's new season includes barihunk duo in JFK

Daniel Okulitch as LBJ and Matt Worth as JFK
Opéra de Montréal just announced their new season, which will included David T. Little and Royce Vavrek's JFK, which premiered last Spring at the Fort Worth Opera. Much of the cast will remain the same, with barihunks Matthew Worth and Daniel Okulitch reprising their roles as JFK and LBJ. Worth shares both the good looks and New England charm of our 35th President, while Okulitch matches the Vice President's 6' 4" frame. Daniela Mack will return as Jacqueline Kennedy and John Mac Master will take on the role of Nikita Khruschev.

The opera delves into the final hours that President John F. Kennedy spent in Fort Worth, Texas immediately before his assassination in Dallas. The piece explores the inner life of the President and Mrs. Kennedy during their final moments together. The opera uses dreams to create an imaginary time and space, allowing the couple to revisit those who helped to shape their personal and political lives. Jack travels to the moon with his sister Rosemary, where he spars with political rivals, and relives his courtship of the demure Jacqueline. Jackie sings a duet with her future self, Jacqueline Onassis, who dresses her in her iconic pink Chanel suit, assuring her that she has a part to play in the day’s proceedings.

Performance will run from January 27-February 2, 2018. Other operas for their new season includ Puccini's Tosca, Gounod's Romeo & Juliette, Rossini's La Cenerentola and Sokolovic's Svadba.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

LA Opera's Ghosts of Versailles wins 2 GRAMMY® Awards

Christopher Maltman as Beaumarchais
The Los Angeles Opera's critically-acclaimed recording of John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles walked away with both GRAMMY® Awards that it was nominated for: "Best Opera Recording" and "Best Engineered Recording, Classical."

The cast includes two barihunks, led by Christopher Maltman’s Beaumarchais and Lucas Meachem as Figaro. The cast also includes Patricia Racette as Marie Antoinette, Renée Rapier, Guanqun Yu, Joshua Guerrero, Lucy Schaufer and conductor James Conlon and the LA Opera Chorus & Orchestra.

Also winning was classical music producer David Frost, whose many recording included Ildar Abdrazakov's recording of Shostakovich's Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarroti.