Monday, May 25, 2015

John Brancy wins Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition

John Brancy
Barihunk John Brancy took 1st Prize at the 16th Annual Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition this weekend. He will receive a $15,000 award, as well as an opportunity to perform in Opera America's 2016 Emerging Artist Recital Series. 2nd Prize went to tenor Rexford Tester along with a $10,000 award, while soprano Ariana Wehr took 3rd Prize and the $7,500 award. Mezzo-Soprano Allegra de Vita won the Munday Encouragement Award and the $3,000 award.

The Fritz and Lavinia Jensen Foundation was established by Lavinia Jensen in honor of her late husband, Fritz Jensen. The Foundation's purpose is to continue their philanthropic support of the musical arts by supporting young artists pursuing a career in opera.

A number of barihunks have taken 1st Prize at the competition, including Norman Garrett (2013), David Pershall (2012) and Edward Parks (2011).

Judges for the 2015 Finals were Ken Benson, Peter Russell, and Diana Soviero.

John  Brancy sings "God be with our boys tonight":

You can catch John Brancy on Sunday, May 31 for a recital of music including the works of Gershwin, Dvorak, Bernstein, Chopin and the Beatles. The concert will be at Governors Island at Nolan Park in New York on Sunday, May 31. The concert is free to the public. He will be accompanied by Peter Dugan.

This summer, he'll be making his company debut as Dandini in Rossini's Cenerentola with Opera Saratoga at the Spa Little Theater in Spa State Park. Performances run from July 2- 26. Additional information is available online. He'll be joined by fellow barihunk Ryan Kuster as the mysterious philosopher Alidoro. Additional information is available online.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Kevin Thompson gets devilish again

Kevin Thompson as Mèphistophélés
Kevin Thompson is back as Mèphistophélés in Gounod's Faust, this time with the West Bay Opera in Palo Alto, California. He previously performed the role at the Fundación Teatro Nacional Sucre in Ecuador to great acclaim. The 6'5" American casts a towering and imposing figure as the demon and brings a booming bass to match.

In the current production, imagined by director Ragnar Conde, the action takes place in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic future, with survivors living among the scrapped, dysfunctional detritus of abandoned power plants.

Kevin Thompson sings Agnus Dei from Beethoven's Missa Solemnis:


There are three more performances at the Lucie Stern Theatre, including Sunday, May 24, Saturday, May 30 and Sunday, May 31. Tickets and additional cast information is available online.

This summer, Thompson heads to the Santa Fe Opera, where he will appear as a Jew in Richard Strauss' Salome and cover Sparafucile in Verdi's Rigoletto.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Christopher Maltman's shows some skin in Salzburg


Christopher Maltman in Iphigénie en Tauride
We recently posted about the two runs of the Whitsun Festival at Salzburg's highly successful production of Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride.  The opening night performance on May 22 already has opera aficionados across the globe talking about the production, which included an all-star cast led by Christopher Maltman as Oreste,  Cecilia Bartoli as Iphigénie, Michael Kraus as Thoas andTopi Lehtipu sings Pylade.

Iphigénie en Tauride
Beyond the great singing, much of the buzz has centered around an extremely fit Christopher Maltman's nude scene, which proves that a man can be as sexy at 45 than at 25. Maltman is no stranger to nudity, having bared all in the movie Juan, as well in the 2010 Salzburg production on Don Giovanni.

The  Festival has already announced additional performances from August 19-28 to supplement the one remaining show on May 25. Fair warning if you plan on attending, order your seats now because tickets are scarce.

Visit the Salzburg Festival website for additional information.


Christopher Maltman in Iphigénie en Tauride
With Iphigénie en Tauride, Gluck took the final step in his mission of operatic reform, radically distancing himself from both the formulaic opera seria, with its rigid sequence of numbers, and traditional French opera, creating a psychologically sound musical drama with self-contained scenes and integrated arias.

Christopher Maltman and Topi Lehtipu in Iphigénie en Tauride
Gluck had long since given the chorus an active role, and in this work, the ballet scenes that were obligatory in Paris are no longer harmless, non-committal amusements, but organically integrated in the action. Gluck stated that opera “...should speak the language of the heart, credibly portray great human passions, and serve poetry.”

Christopher Maltman in the movie Juan and Don Giovanni in Salzburg
You can next catch Maltman at the Royal Opera in London as the title character in Don Giovanni with fellow barihunks Alex Esposito as Leporello and Nahuel Di Pierro as Masetto. He'll also be reunited with his fellow cast member from Iphigénie, Rolando Villazón, who is singing Don Ottavio.

Photos from the osterfestspiele, Monika Rittershaus and Salzburg

Friday, May 22, 2015

John Brancy in free recital at Governor's Park

John Brancy and Peter Dugan
John Brancy will rejoin his frequent collaborator Peter Dugan for a recital of music including the works of Gershwin, Dvorak, Bernstein, Chopin and the Beatles. The concert will be at Governors Island at Nolan Park in New York on Sunday, May 31. The concert is free to the public.

This summer, he'll be making his company debut as Dandini in Rossini's Cenerentola with Opera Saratoga at the Spa Little Theater in Spa State Park. Performances run from July 2- 26. Additional information is available online. He'll be joined by fellow barihunk Ryan Kuster as the mysterious philosopher Alidoro. Additional information is available online.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Edwin Crossley-Mercer visiting Arabian Peninsula literally and musically


French-Irish barihunk Edwin Crossley-Mercer is bringing opera to the Arabian Peninsula in a recital at the One & Only Mirage Resort in Dubai. The May 29th show is entitled "It's All About Love" and will feature famous love songs in German, Russian, French and English.

The show will take the audience to Berlin, Moscow, Paris and New York by featuring pop classics from’40s, songs by Franz Schubert and the 19th century song repertory.  Crossley-Mercer, who grew up in the French town of Clermont-Ferrand, is also quite familiar with Berlin, having studied at the
Hanns Eisler Hochschule fur Musik.

Tickets for the show are available online

The singer's next performance also takes him to the Arabian Peninsula, but only musically. He will perform Schumann's Paradise and the Peri at the Festival de Saint Denis, which was inspired by one of the tales of the Arabian Nights. The text mixes enchantments with elements from the Bible, the Koran, and mythology.

On March 4, 2016, he makes his much anticipated US stage debut as Lescaut in Massenet's Manon at the Dallas Opera.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Peter Brathwaite to sing program of music banned by Nazis


Peter Brathwaite
On May 24th, British barihunk Peter Brathwaite will join accompanist Nigel Foster for  "Forbidden Art" at the Alderney Performing Arts Festival. The program centers around Entartete Musik (Degenerate Music), which was music suppressed by the Nazi regime for being to decadent. The concert is being performed in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Hanns Eisler's Serious Songs for baritone and string quartet:

From the Nazi seizure of power onward, these composers found it increasingly difficult, and often impossible, to get work or have their music performed. Many went into exile (e.g., Arnold Schoenberg, Kurt Weill, Paul Hindemith, Berthold Goldschmidt); or retreated into 'internal exile' (e.g., Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Boris Blacher); or ended up in the concentration camps (e.g., Viktor Ullmann, or Erwin Schulhoff).

The program includes songs by Kurt Weill, a selection of Hanns Eisler’s Protest Songs, and works by Friedrich Hollander and Ernst Krenek, including excerpts from his opera Jonny Spielt Auf. This concert forms a moving testimony to the power of music to overcome adversity, and reminds us that the atrocities of war and oppression are not confined to the battlefield. Tickets are available online.

Edwin David Vargas continues his vocal/physical transformation

Bari-Chunk to Bari-Hunk Edwin David Vargas

We introduced Edwin David Vargas to readers last year after he was inspired by barihunk Michael Mayes to get his body in shape, as well as his voice. He's been flourishing at the Brooklyn College CUNY where he's getting his Masters Degree. We also noticed that he's still hitting the gym and looking great, so we decided to share an update of his progress.

He recently performed Germont père in Verdi's La traviata at the university and will now take on the title role in Mozart's Don Giovanni. With his new physique, Leporello may have to add to the list of Don Giovanni's conquests in the Catalog Aria. We'll have additional information about the production soon. 

Vargas has previously sung Ford in Verdi's Falstaff and Don Alvaro in Rossini's Il viaggio a Reims at CUNY. He graduated from the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico, where he sang Don Giovanni at the Opera Workshop, Schaunard in Puccini's La boheme, Count Almaviva in Marriage of Figaro, Dandini Rossini's La Cenerentola and King Melchior in Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors

He has participated in the International Vocal Arts Institute in Chiari, Italy and Puerto Rico. He made his American debut with Nevada Opera in their production of Puccini's Madame Butterfly as Yamadori and Sharpless, returning later to perform in their aforementioned Don Giovanni. In 2012, he sang a concert in Carnegie Hall with Remarkable Theater Brigade.