Friday, February 28, 2014

Reader Submission: Alfonso Mujica

Alfonso Mujica
A reader submitted Uruguayan barihunk Alfonso Mujica to the site after finding a video of him singing Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen on YouTube. We knew that there had to be another sexy Uruguayan barihunk other than Erwin Schrott.

Mujica began his career after receiving a grant from the National Fund for Music in Uruguay and getting the top ranking at the Juventudes Musicales. He made his debut singing in Galuppi's chamber opera Il Filosofo di Campagna with the Official Service of Broadcasting, Television and Entertainment of Uruguay (SODRE).

He went on to perform Manuel in de Falla's La Vida Breve, Aeneas in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, Ping in Puccini's Turandot and Pablo Sorozábal's zarzuela La del Manojo de Rosas. He's also performed numerous oratorios and masses, as well as recitals, often accompanied by a guitar.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Question & Answer with Rodney Earl Clarke

Rodney Earl Clarke

Being the middle child of five children with three brothers and one sister, I very quickly got used to being told what to do and mastered how to do the telling. With fun loving parents, siblings, an enormous army of toy soldiers and of course our trusty Amstrad CPC 6128 computer, I was pretty much ready to stay a kid forever. I had to grow up though and education was hot on the agenda in the household. I attended a Catholic primary school in what seemed to me at the time as being way out in the sticks (in Kent). I loved the train ride though, I can still recite the stations in order (sign of things to come eh – elephant memory) but it was here that I gained my earliest performance experience.  But rewind for a bit, my first exposure to music I can remember came from the talking story book The Town mouse and the Country mouse. It was read by a man whose voice I can still imitate and set to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons I later learned. Back to primary school, I was one of few boys who could sing and it seemed I was destined to play the leading role in the Nativity Play, not Joseph but MARY. Stuffed with a basketball up my gown, I sang, as Shakespeare puts it “round wombed,” It went down a treat!


Yes, I sang in the choir of St. George’s Cathedral, Southwark not to be confused with Southwark Cathedral. I draw our readers’ attention to this not because  of denominational differences but more significantly because the choir I sang in did not have lay clerks who were paid but was an entirely voluntary ensemble. This made for very interesting rehearsals. Varying abilities but with one aim to achieve high standards, we were put through our paces and I personally developed my ear and memory skills here. I cannot express how important my time was here – there was a true sense of camaraderie. I joined when I was around nine and left when I was nearly seventeen. I had a stable diet of Byrd, Palestrina, Lotti, Allegri to name but a few. Solo opportunities on major feast days in front of large congregations tested my nerves. I remember my head twitching uncontrollably at times.  Thankfully this became less and less each year I sang the solos. 

Rodney Earl Clarke

I’ve been told I have a nice smile and a kind face so playing the good, honest, hard-working, and loving Jake was kinda straightforward for me. But I do have a dark side, I mean a side that I like to channel into dark, dramatic characters. That’s the beauty of singing Crown. It’s an actors gift playing a drug addict , an alcoholic and general arse-hole. Rehearsals are fun as I work out my own interpretation of this character. There’s no fun in just rehashing material from past productions. I find it is imperative to tell the story but as Rodney playing Crown. This way, I believe the audience stands a better chance of connecting with the character and the story itself which, despite me growing up in England resonates strongly within me. My parents are from Jamaica and my ancestors suffered the same trials just like others but whose stories began in different locations as a result of which boat they ended up on.


You have a duty as an actor and a singer to tell the story. I worked very closely with both composer and director to ensure that everyone was satisfied that respect was being shown to the subject matter. Playing a high- octane, murdering lover required careful rehearsal. I had to place a lot of trust in the director and also found myself apologising to the attending survivor of the genocide as she explained the person I was portraying slaughtered her family.

Operas which give us an opportunity to delve into modern day affairs, conflicts and dilemnas enable us as performers to examine issues from a personal stance without fear of reprisal rather like the function of the Greek Play. It also gives us as society a way into that which might be taboo.

Rodney Earl Clarke sings Some Enchanted Evening:


Well I do love the Don and Escamillo but Javert in Les Mis would be quite cool for me I think. I know it is not opera but it is great music and would suit my voice. I’m also a sucker for Rodgers & Hammerstein and sing quite a lot of this old school musical theatre rep these days. I try to show my versatility whenever I can so from singing the Ferryman in Britten’s  church opera Curlew River to I Wont Send Roses from the musical Mack & Mabel,  I feel quite at home.


I was curious about the term BARIHUNK as it was bandied about during a rehearsal in London then thanks to google all became clear. Upon seeing myself listed my reaction was something one could only describe as being undeniably West Indian  - IRIE! (meaning WICKED). No seriously, to be on a site with so many accomplished artists is quite overwhelming.


Ok, I don’t know about you but my voice is part of my body. I sing with my body so it is impossible for me to separate the two. In terms of looking after your body, you have a duty to maintain the apparatus so that it performs at its best at all times.  Looking great and sounding great is an unbeatable combination. My routine, well that’s a secret.

Rodney Earl Clarke sings Ol' Man River:


Well, as I said before, aiming to look and sound great is an unbeatable combination. When I say looking great however I mean looking great for the part! Remember what I said about telling the story? Good looks get you the role of the good looking guy,a portly person will be cast for a portly character. We are moving into a world where the audience enjoys the greater sense of reality experienced from certain casting choices but having said that I think they still want to be able to clearly distinguish between television and theatre. So, this encourages skilled acting choices and a balanced approach all round.

Rodney Earl Clarke

Firstly, I’m not in that enviable position to decline work but moreover can’t wait to collaborate with other artists on telling another story. There it is, that word again ‘story’. As long as it is being told I don’t really have a problem, in fact I relish the bizarre, the controversial and the physically challenging production. I enjoy putting my body in odd positions whilst singing and to that extent have had a pretty good time with directors. I just have to remind myself to stay inwardly strong and keep my integrity.


We don’t dumb down. Give them the real thing and nothing less. However, giving them the real thing doesn’t mean presenting the old, fuddy-duddy age old production all the time. You can still don a curly Mozartian wig  in a vibrant and sexy way but just do one thing and they’ll be happy – tell the story. We should have courage to present the stories truthfully allowing them to resonate in audiences as they enjoy the fantasy of going back in time or the head on, eye watering truth in operas depicting current affairs.


I was a treble until the age of fifteen and then it all dropped and settled in the same summer holiday period. Since then, nothing has changed. I have made one outing as a counter-tenor but don’t get too excited, that was once and not to be repeated. My head of Music at my secondary school realised I had a voice worth training and he put me in touch with the Head of Vocal Studies at the Royal Academy of Music, London one Professor Mark Wildman. I took my father along with me to have a consultation session and after singing one baritone aria, Professor Wildman closed the piano lid and said “There would be something terribly wrong with this world if this boy doesn’t have a career”. And so that was it for me in terms of singing. 

 Rodney Earl Clarke sings Gabey's Song from Lonely Town:


After the pleasurable silence, I love to listen to people talking. I’m a great one for sipping a cappuccino in a café and just people watching. I take many mental notes of style, behaviour and emotions displayed and store them up for later use. When I work out however, Stevie Wonder gets a good hearing!


Well, I mentioned earlier my elephant memory. I actually have a photographic memory which helps me learn music as well as shock people when I remember what they wore weeks ago. I recently performed a Philip Glass opera called Sound of A Voice and the edition I had was printed on separate pages with music on one side and blank on the other. I was having trouble memorising the music until I rearranged the pages so that they were like a normal book and I could differentiate the contours of each page easily and thus commit them to memory.

Craig Verm in Gotham Opera double-bill at Metropolitan Museum

Craig Verm in Il combattimento (Photo by Richard Termine) and from the Barihunks calendar
The Gotham Chamber Opera is presenting a double bill of Monteverdi's  Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda along with a newly commissioned work, I Have No Stories to Tell You, by  Lembit Beecher. Performances are on Wednesday, February 26 and Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 7pm at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, who co-commissioned the production.

The performances will be staged in two locations in the Museum: Monteverdi’s opera will be performed in the Museum’s Emma and Georgina Bloomberg Arms and Armor Court, and Beecher’s new work will be performed in the Medieval Sculpture Hall.

Barihunk Craig Verm stars in the production along with mezzo-soprano Beth Clayton.  They will be joined by tenor Samuel Levine, mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer, soprano Sarah Tucker, and mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway. 

 Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda from the Netherlands Opera:

Monteverdi’s Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda was published in 1638 in the composer’s Eighth Book of Madrigals. This operatic scena tells the story of the Christian soldier Tancredi who battles with a Muslim soldier, unknown to Tancredi as his lover Clorinda because she is disguised in armor. When Clorinda is mortally wounded, Tancredi discovers her identity. As she lies dying, she asks to be baptized. The instrumentation for the scena is string quartet and continuo.

 I Have No Stories To Tell You, turns from the battlefield to domestic life to tell the story of a soldier’s return home after extended assignment in the Middle East. Haunted by her experiences and reluctant to discuss them with a husband who no longer seems to understand her, she struggles to readjust to home. As we see glimpses into her life over the course of a year, we begin to understand the burden of guilt she carries, her inability to communicate it with her husband, and the way in which her husband's need to know will drive their relationship to the brink. Scored for a period instrument ensemble and inspired by interviews with soldiers and army psychologists, I Have No Stories To Tell You explores the effects of war on one's identity and sense of home. The instrumentation for the opera is string quartet, theorbo, harpsichord, Baroque oboe, and electronics.  

Monday, February 24, 2014

Hanno Müller-Brachmann's West Coast Debut & Only US Performance in 2014

Hanno Müller-Brachmann in Cosi fan tutte in Berlin
American fans of the amazing gifted German barihunk Hanno Müller-Brachmann will have one chance to see him in 2014, when he makes his West Coast debut with the San Francisco Symphony on May 29 and 30. Müller-Brachmann will be performing Fauré's Requiem under the baton of Charles Dutoit along with soprano Susanna Phillips. Tickets are selling fast and are available online.

Müller-Brachmann's U.S. appearances are an unfortunate rarity. He made his New York  in 2000 debut at Carnegie Hall in Elliott Carter's opera "What next" with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim.

Hans Müller-Brachmann performs St. Matthew's Passion:

Upcoming European performances are focused on the Passions of Johann Sebastian Bach, as he takes on St. Mark's Passion with the Knabenkantorei Basel on March 20 and 21, St. Matthew's Passion with the Sinfonieorchester des Schwedischen Rundfunks on March 28 and 29, St. John's Passion with the Vienna Symphony on April 13 in Vienna and 15 in Aix en Provence, and finally returns to the St. Matthew's Passion with the Berlin Konzerthausorchester on April 18 and 19.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Introducing Pietro di Bianco: Leporello in Paris

Pietro Di Bianco
We're not sure how Italian bass-barihunk Pietro di Bianco escaped our eagle eyes or slipped by our readers in Europe, but we're thrilled to add him to our site. With his runway model looks and voice to match, we have a feeling that he'll be a regular on this site. 

He's currently getting ready to open as Leporello in Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Atelier Lyrique de l’Opéra National de Paris in a cast that features fellow barihunk Damian Pass as Masetto. Performance run from March 22-29 and additional information is available online. He will reprise the role of Leporello on July 5 and 7 at the Anthéa Antipolis Théâtre d'Antibes.

Born in 1983, Pietro Di Bianco studied piano at the Conservatoire Giuseppe Martucci of Salerno, where he graduated in 2004. He studied chamber music at the Accademia nazionale de Santa Cecilia and won several national competitions. He was hired as a piano accompanist at the music conservatories in Salerno and Potenza.

He then took up singing at the conservatory in Aquila and graduated in 2009. He worked with the great soprano Renata Scotto at the opera in Santa Cecilia and with the legendary baritone Renato Bruson in Sienna. He was a finalist at the 62nd Concours européen Associazione lirica concertistica Italiana at the Teatro de Como. He is currently honing his skills with the Bulgarian soprano Raina Kabaiwanska.

Pietro Di Bianco
Di Bianco performed concerts throughout Rome, while also appearing at the Palau de la Música di Valencia as Leporello in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Collatinus in Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia at the Théâtre de l'Athénée, Fauré's Requiem with the Orchestra Sinfonica Abruzzese, Don Alfonso in Mozart’s Così fan tutte in Rome, Don Alvaro in Rossini’s Il Viaggo in Reims at the Teatro Rossini and the Pharaoh in Rossini’s Mose in Egitto at the Teatro Municipal Giuseppe Verdi.

In October 2012, he joined the roster of the Atelier Lyrique. Upcoming performances include Alidoro in Rossini’s La Cenerentola at the Sofia Opera and Beaupertuis in Nino Rota’s Il cappello di paglia di Firenze in Bari,Italy.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Seattle Opera's "Four Barihunks" Model Tee Shirts

Sarah Larsen with  Michael Todd Simpson, Steven LaBrie, Joseph Lattanzi, and Colin Ramsey (Photo by Elise Bakketun) 
We recently posted about the barihunk foursome performing in Menotti's The Consul at the Seattle Opera. The opera stars Michael Todd Simpson as John Sorel, Steven LaBrie as the Police Agent, Joseph Lattanzi as Assan and Colin Ramsey as Mr. Kofner. The four singers agreed to don their Barihunk tee shirts and take some shots on the set with soprano Sarah Larsen, who plays the secretary.
Sarah Larsen with  Michael Todd Simpson, Steven LaBrie, Joseph Lattanzi, and Colin Ramsey (Photo by Elise Bakketun)
The Consul was a huge hit during its initial Broadway run, earning both the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical and the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Music. The original production featured the legendary performances of Patricia Neway as Magda Sorel and Marie Powers as the mother. The great Verdi baritone Cornell MacNeil sang the role of John Sorel.

The story is about a devoted wife and mother who clashes with the bureaucracy of a nameless police state while trying to obtain an exit visa for her family.

Sarah Larsen with  Michael Todd Simpson, Steven LaBrie, Joseph Lattanzi, and Colin Ramsey (Photo by Elise Bakketun)
The opera runs from February 22nd to March 7 and tickets are available online.

Three Barihunks to perform in "Vavrek and Vrebalov"

Jonathan Estabrooks, Sidney Outlaw and Zachary James
Barihunks seem to be showing up in bunches these days and we're loving it. Our recent post about the Seattle Opera's The Consul actually featured four barihunks in one production. On the opposite coast, we have a barihunk triumverate performing in "Vavrek and Vrebalov" at The National Opera Center, which is being presented by the American Lyric Theater. The performance features Jonathan Estabrooks, Sidney Outlaw and Zachary James in selections from librettist Royce Vavrek and Composer Aleksandra Vrebalov, who were both Resident Artists at the National Opera Center.

The program will include Nora at the Altar-Rail, a short, one-act opera written by composer Jay Anthony Gach with Royce Vavrek as librettist, excerpts from Aleksandra Vrebalov’s first full-length opera, Mileva, and arias and scenes written by Vavrek with some of his favorite collaborators, including David T. Little (a scene from Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera), Jeff Myers (scenes from The Hunger Art, and Maren of Vardo), Rachel Peters (a scene from Prairie Dogs), Andrew Gerle (a scene from The Beach), and Missy Mazzoli (scenes from Song from the Uproar and Breaking the Waves - a new opera in development).

A scene from Aleksandra Vrebalov's Mileva:

Aleksandra Vrebalov is a Serbian composer based in New York City. She studied composition with Miroslav Statkic at Novi Sad University, then with Zoran Erić at Belgrade University, Elinor Armer at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Ivana Loudova at the Prague Academy of Music. She has received commissions from Kronos Quartet, Carnegie Hall, Barlow Endowment, Festival Ballet Providence, Merkin Concert Hall Zoom Series. Vrebalov is also a co-founder of South Oxford Six, a composers' collective in New York.

Vavrek has become one of the most in-demand librettists in the country, creating works for many companies including Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Fort Worth Opera, and Beth Morrison Projects.

The performance is at 3 PM on February 23 at OPERA America in New York City. Tickets are $20 and are available online.  

Matt Worth to star in premiere of The Manchurian Candidate

Matt Worth to star in The Manchurian Candidate
Matt Worth, who is currently performing Starbuck in Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick with the Washington National Opera, will star in the world premiere of Kevin Puts' The Manchurian Candidate, the third commission of the Minnesota Opera's New Works Initiative. This is second opera from Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts, who debuted Silent Night with the company, which was broadcast on PBS and is being revived at the Fort Worth Opera Festival this spring.

The opera is based on a 1959 novel by Richard Condon, which inspired two film adaptations. In the story, Major Ben Marco, Sergeant Raymond Shaw and the rest of their infantry platoon are kidnapped during the Korean War and brainwashed to believe that Shaw saved their lives in combat - for which Congress awards him the Medal of Honor. Years after the war, Marco begins having a recurring nightmare about Shaw murdering two of their men while under observation by Chinese and Soviet officials. When Marco learns that another soldier from the platoon also has been suffering the same nightmare, he determines to solve the mystery. They discover that the Communists have been using Shaw as a sleeper agent, a guiltless assassin subconsciously activated while playing solitaire to obey orders. Shaw's KGB handler is his mother Eleanor, a ruthless power broker working with the Communists to quietly overthrow the U.S. government and establish her husband, the McCarthy-esque Senator Johnny Iselin, as a puppet dictator.

 Matt Worth sings "A sermon about doubt" from Douglas Cuomo's Doubt:

Worth, who previously received rave reviews with the company as Guglielmo in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte and as Father Flynn in the world premiere of Douglas Cuomo's Doubt, will take on the critical role of Sergeant Raymond Shaw. He'll be joined by soprano Brenda Harris as Eleanor Iselin and bass Daniel Sumegi as Senator Johnny Iselin.

soprano Brenda Harris (Macbeth and The Dream of Valentino, 2014) will sing the role of Eleanor Iselin opposite bass Daniel Sumegi (The Flying Dutchman, 2003) as Senator Johnny Iselin. Kevin Newbury (Doubt) directs and Music Director Michael Christie conducts this Minnesota Opera New Works Initiative production.
Performances will run from March 7-14, 2015

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Question & Answer with Theo Hoffman

Theo Hoffman

1. Most singers dream of moving to New York to study and have careers, but you grew up in Manhattan. Tell us a little about your upbringing. What music did you listen to growing up.
As with every New Yorker it seems, I have a love-hate relationship with the City. It has completely spoiled me, so living elsewhere for more than a few months is difficult. On the other hand, it has given me a cultural education one cannot receive elsewhere. My parents are restauranteurs (Back Forty and previously Savoy), so my culinary experiences have shaped a lot of what I love about the city.

In terms of music, It all started with the Beatles. Then add Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Rolling Stones, and David Bowie and you essentially have my musical upbringing. Now that I think about it, Bob Dylan isn't such a vast departure from Schubert. There was zero classical music entering my ears until I got to LaGuardia High School, where I was turned on to art song, oratorio, and opera. The rest is history. 

2. Tell us about your time at Julliard. What was your favorite performance there? Any coaches or teachers who were a particular influence?
My time at Juilliard has been an incredibly rich one, and it's not over yet! A couple favorites come to mind. I made my role debut as the Count this year in a beautifully unique production of Nozze by rising-star director John Giampietro. I always thought this was a role that I wouldn't play until I was much older, but in the Beaumarchais play, Almaviva is probably around the same age I am. Playing the role, I realized a lot about myself. It was extremely cathartic. Also this year, I performed Songs and Proverbs of William Blake with Brain Zeger, the artistic director of Juilliard Vocal Arts and one of my mentors, which was a foray into some of the coolest poetry I've ever had the pleasure of communicating.

3. You're currently doing some work at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis. What is that experience like and how is it furthering your artistic growth?
I auditioned for OTSL when I was 19, expecting nothing. I sang an art song in my audition, for pity's sake. A week after my audition I received that email which sort of changed my life. Through the years, they have fostered some incredible talent through their Gerdine Young Artist program and have a beautiful community of people who make opera happen every summer. I turned 20 when I was there last summer, and I'll tell you, having 30 superb young artists singing "Happy Birthday" to me was one of the highlights of my life. I met some of my best friends in that program. I'm headed back this summer to cover Papageno and sing Thierry in Dialogues of the Carmelites. I hope to work with them for many years to come.

Theo Hoffman
4. You've already caught the attention of some major people in the business, including the amazing Steven Blier. Tell us what you're doing with him. Who else are you excited about working with?
Steve and I are kindred spirits in so many ways. We started working together basically the week I got to Juilliard and have barely missed a week since. We work on everything from Monteverdi to Britten to Noël Coward and Marc Blitzstein. I made my New York Festival of Song debut this past December and will be performing with them at Caramoor and New York in March.

One always hears advice to seek out a team of mentors who you trust, who you can share your craziest ideas with, and who truly have your best interests at heart. With so many different agendas flying everywhere, many singers get really confused about what they're supposed to be doing. I am lucky to have Steve as one of these important mentors, along with my teacher Sanford Sylvan.

5. Do you have any dream roles? Favorite composers?
It's always been my dream to play Sid in Albert Herring (partially because I have a thing for mezzos). The musical language of Benjamin Britten has always resonated with me incredibly acutely. If I could sing a role outside my fach, I'd choose Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier. Strauss is another favorite. I'm always excited by new works, and I'm waiting for someone to turn The Hobbit into an opera so that I can play Bilbo Baggins.

6. How did you first find out that you were on Barihunks and what was your reaction?
When I saw the post, I was extremely grateful to be a part of such a talented bunch of singers. Some of my favorite singers and colleagues are featured on the site. John Brancy, Matt Worth, Christopher Maltman, and Stephane Degout (to name just a few) are all artists I have vast respect for, and I love hearing about what they're up to.

7. Do you think singers should be as concerned about their bodies as their voices? Do you have a workout routine?
Singers have to stay in shape. We are athletes. Being a body-builder, however, is arguably not fantastic for the voice, more specifically, for muscular tension. I am an incredibly skinny man, so my task is actually keeping the weight up rather than loosing any. When New York thaws, I'm looking forward to getting back to my long bike rides up and down the west side of Manhattan. I feel my breath and my soul in the right place after one of my rides.

8. Some singers like Furruccio Furlanetto are refusing to work with directors who have gotten particularly outrageous in their conceptualizations. Are there productions  or director requests that would turn you off?
There is not too much I wouldn't play on stage, as long as it serves the text and the original intention of the composer. I have my limits, though. When a guy gets completely naked onstage, the conversation immediately deviates from the action of the opera to how hung they are (for better or for worse). I think it's a waste of the audience's attention, as are many "concepts."
"I remember the first time someone told me I was a baritone. It was like finding the warmest, softest blanket to cuddle up in. - Theo Hoffman
We also have a couple of reader questions for you:

9.  How do we make opera more relevant to today's audiences while still respecting the art?
We need to educate our children early! Parents, take your kids to the opera and treat it like you're reading them a bedtime story. These are fairy tales brought to life, so why not embrace them as such? I wish the proliferation of new works was more readily supported by big houses like the Met, not just one or two per season, but more like four or five, so that the repertoire is always growing and changing.

10. Did you initially sing as another voice type before becoming a baritone? How did you discover that you're really a baritone?1
I was always a baritone. I remember the first time someone told me I was a baritone. It was like finding the warmest, softest blanket to cuddle up in. I quickly fell in love with the repertoire, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Happy Birthday, Lee Hoiby!!!

Composer Lee Hoiby and Barihunk Benjamin Curtis
Lee Hoiby was born in Madison, Wisconsin on February 17, 1926 and died on March 28, 2011. He was one of America's most prominent composers of works for the lyric stage. He was introduced to opera by his teacher at the Curtis Institute of Music, Gian Carlo Menotti, who involved him closely in the famed Broadway productions of The Consul and The Saint of Bleecker Street

Hoiby's first opera, The Scarf, a chamber opera in one-act, was recognized by Time Magazine and the Italian press as the hit of the first Spoleto (Italy) Festival. His next opera, Natalia Petrovna (New York City Opera), now known in its revised version as A Month in the Country.

Two excerpts from Lee Hoiby's Summer and Smoke:

Among Hoiby’s operatic works are the one-act opera buffa Something New for the Zoo (1979), the musical monologue The Italian Lesson (1981, text by Ruth Draper) which was produced off-Broadway in 1989 with Jean Stapleton, and a one-act chamber opera, This Is the Rill Speaking (1992, text by Lanford Wilson, adapted by Shulgasser). Hoiby was a long-time collaborator with Brooklyn's American Opera Projects, having held a chair as Mentor Composer on AOP’s Composer and the Voice program for two seasons. 

Listen to Benjamin Curtis perform Lee Hoiby's Private First Class Jesse Givens Lee Hoiby and
Five poems of Walt Whitman at 22:35:

Hoiby's contribution to the art song repertoire includes over 100 songs, which are performed by many of the greatest singers worldwide. The great American soprano Leontyne Price introduced many of his best known songs and arias to the public. His musical idiom displayed a grateful acceptance of the rich legacy of melodic homophony, embracing references from Monteverdi to American blues without sounding eclectic or piecemeal.  

His best known works for baritone are "I Was There, 5 songs for Baritone and Orchestra, after Whitman (1995)" and "Last Letter Home," for men's chorus. The Whitman songs are set to  Beginning My Studies, I Was There,  A Clear Midnight,  O Captain! My Captain!  and Joy, Shipmate, Joy!. The latter is Hoiby's 2007 musical setting of Pfc. Jesse Givens' note home to his family before perishing in Iraq. It has become one of the most performed contemporary works for baritone.

The next performance of one of his operas will be Summer and Smoke at Florida State University on May 23 and 24.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Pictures from Agrippina featuring "the hottest cast in opera"

Hadleigh Adams
Our recent post about entitles "Hottest Cast in Opera Assembled in Omaha for Handel's Agrippina" drew a disproportionate amount of traffic to our site. It proves once again that with great programming and singers who interest the public, opera can flourish anywhere.  After all, Omaha is better known for Warren Buffet than Leonard Warren.

They also hired the 29-year-old director James Darrah, who didn't shy away from the more sexual aspects of the story, keeping it current and fresh. Fidelity to the music was preserved under the direction of early opera specialist Stephen Stubbs. [By the way Darrah is some pretty serious eye candy, as well].

Hadleigh Adams
The performance received a rave review from the Omaha Tribune Herald.  They said of Hadleigh Adams, who played Claudio, "...Hadleigh Adams had a delivery that was impressively full-bodied and bold. He has a gorgeous voice and performed with a confidence befitting an emperor. Moreover, he had a physical presence that was commanding and powerful and conveyed that, like Agrippina, Claudius is used to getting what he wants."

Doug Williams
Of Doug Williams they wrote, "Bass-baritone Doug Williams and tenor Zachary Wilder perfectly complemented each other as Pallante and Narciso, and their standout scene featured each being pseudo-seduced by Agrippina in her bedchamber. While the action produced many laughs, it was the delivery that demonstrated their abilities to smoothly control their voices, even amid semi-steamy action."

Of course, even the music critic Kim Carpenter couldn't help but notice the attractiveness of this talented cast, giving us our favorite lines of the review: "As a side note, I feel compelled to mention that the entire ensemble is impossibly pretty. While it's the voices and acting that matter, of course, having a gorgeous line-up of performers makes the over three hour production all the more enjoyable."
Doug Williams
Opera Omaha, which began in 1958 as the Omaha Civic Opera Society, is the only professional opera company in Nebraska, It became a fully professional opera company by 1970 and is known for highlighting gifted young singers from the area as well as nationwide. The company is known for both its innovation and educational outreach programs. They had produced eight world premieres and four American premieres.

Although Agrippina ends today, they have performances of Rossini's La Cenerentola coming up in April with two singers familiar to readers of this site, Daniel Belcher and Levi Hernandez. Belcher will be singing Dandini and Hernandez is taking on Don Magnifico. The talented young tenor Andrew Bidlack will be Ramiro, joining soprano Lauren McNeese who is singing Angelina. Performances are April 25 and 27. Tickets are available online.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Barihunk foursome in Seattle Opera's The Consul

Michael Todd Simpson & Colin Ramsey
Joseph Lattanzi & Steven LaBrie
Michael Todd Simpson will be joining three of the hottest barihunks on the scene in Gian Carlo Menotti's The Consul at the Seattle Opera, which runs from February 22nd to March 7. Michael Todd Simpson takes on the major role of John Sorel, Steven LaBrie makes his company debut as the Police Agent, Joseph Lattanzi performs Assan and Colin Ramsey also makes his company debut as Mr. Kofner. We can't remember many instances when there's been this much pulchritude on the stage at one time.

Michael Todd Simpson is also the featured singer on the Seattle Opera blog where you can read an extensive interview with the Seattle based performer. 

Colin Ramsey will reprise the role of Mr. Kofner in a different production of The Consul with Opera Santa Barbara on March 25 and 27.  That production will feature barihunk Joshua Jeremiah as John Sorel.

Keith Phares reprises Elmer Gantry with Tulsa Opera

Keith Phares in Tulsa Opera's promotional material for Elmer Gantry
Keith Phares in going to reprise his role as Elmer Gantry in Robert Aldridge's opera about the womanizing, hypocritical religious figure who attains great heights before being exposed and disgraced. The opera will play for two nights at the Tulsa Opera on February 28 and March 2. Tickets are available online.

Also in the show is Casey Yeargin as the Revival Worker. We recently featured him for his dramatic BariChunk to BariHunk transformation, which has been extremely popular and inspirational with readers.

Keith Phares sings, "When you hear the truth do you know it?"

Keith Phares sings,"Of course, I mean nothing to her"/"She is the sign to me"

Keith Phares in Elmer Gantry
Phares performed the role with the Nashville Opera in 2008 and in his debut with the Florentine Opera in 2010. The latter performance was recorded live and released on Naxos records and named Opera News' top opera recording of 2011.

Phares recently scored a huge critical success in Gregory Spears' chamber opera Paul's Case with the PROTOTYPE festival in New York City.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Barihunks dominate 2014 International Opera Awards

Stéphane Degout and Duncan Rock
The nominations for the 2014 International Opera Awards have been announced and barihunks are dominated many of the categories. The awards ceremony features nineteen categories, including Best New Production, Best Chorus, Best Conductor, Best CD, Best DVD, Best Rediscovered Work and even Best Philanthropist. The awards are the work of British opera patron Harry Hyman and the the British magazine Opera.

The Best Male Singer category is dominated by barihunks Stéphane Degout, Peter Mattei, Luca Pisaroni and Ludovic Tézier, pitting some of the sexiest and most vocally gifted performers against each other.

Barihunks calendar model Duncan Rock has been nominated as Best Young Singer for the second consecutive year.

Christopher Maltman in ENO's 2001 production of Rape of Lucretia
In the Best DVD Category Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick conducted by Patrick Summers and featuring Morgan Smith leads the pack. The DVD was featured in our Best of 2013 feature in December as the best performance on disc. Also nominated was Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande with conductor Stefan and featuring Jacques Imbrailo and Britten's The Rape of Lucretia conducted by Paul Daniel and featuring the barihunk duo of Christopher Maltman and Leigh Melrose.

The Opera Awards will take place on Monday 7th April at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane, London. You can check out the entire list of nominees and categories at the Opera Awards website.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Interview with Sidney Outlaw; Appearing in People's Opera Gala

Sidney Outlaw
We have been following Sidney Outlaw since his young artist days and have always been impressed with his singing, his intelligence and his passion for life. He'll be performing at the "70 Years of the People's Opera" on February 21 at New York City Center. The event is a benefit for the New York City Musicians' Emergency Relief Fund, which was created by Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians. Tickets are available HERE.

The concert will feature fellow singers Lauren Flanigan, Joélle Harvey, Jennifer Rivera, Ryan MacPherson, Mark Delavan with the New York City Opera Orchestra, conducted by music director George Manahan. The concert will feature selections from "The Ballad of Baby Doe," "Candide," "Carmen," "L'etoile," "Giulio Cesare," "Malcolm X," "Martha" and "Die tote Stadt."

We spoke with Sidney Outlaw about being part of this historic concert.

1.    What does City Opera mean to you personally and what did it mean to the greater opera community.

The New York City Opera gave me a platform to launch my career. In fact, it was the first company that hired me to work outside of the realm of the types of gigs other young artists secure. Performing in a NYCO production was a huge deal for me, and I immensely enjoyed my time working with great people, such as Cori Ellison, Cory Lippiello and Brad Moore and many others in the NYCO administration. In addition, they were supportive of me, my career and helped nurture my talent.

I think performing in the NYCO helped the greater opera community see that talent comes in many variations. I'm just a guy from Brevard, North Carolina who has a great vocal gift. The beauty is that I've been able to share that gift with some of the greatest opera houses in country - NYCO being one of them.

Sidney Outlaw and Marsha Thompson from the 'X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X'
2. Talk about playing Malcolm in “Malcolm X” at New York City Opera?

It was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. While I am not an orator or an activist, it was a humbling and exciting experience for me to portray such a great civil rights leader.

The production gave me the opportunity take my God-given gifts and weave them with one of the pieces of fabric that make up the patchwork of our country's history. 

I would be honored to perform the entire opera in the future.

3. Have you performed before with any of your other colleagues from the gala?

I have not yet had the occasion to perform with any of my colleagues, but I more than welcome the opportunity to do so.

Jennifer Rivera & Michael Rice
4. Jennifer Rivera is married to barihunk Michael Rice. You and Michael have both been featured on the Barihunks site. Do you think appearance matters more in opera today and should it for certain roles and for attracting audiences?

I absolutely believe appearance matters in every facet of the entertainment business - not just the opera and classical genres. However, I believe that every one is different. Those differences are important because it gives each artist an opportunity to cultivate their own brand.

Like most other entertainers, I am striving to be healthy and look appropriate for each setting. But I am also aiming to create a brand that is unique to me. I do not wish to look like Eric Owens or Larry Brownlee or Mark Delevan or Russell Braun. My wish is create a brand that is authentic and true to me.

It is also important to me that I stay true to the art form and true to the music - no matter what I sing. If I cannot do that, then any concerns or thoughts about appearance or the brand become irrelevant.

5. If City Opera had stayed around, what would have been your dream roles to perform with them?

That's a tough question. My dream role would have been to sing “il Barbiere di Siviglia” there with Lawrence Brownlee as Count Almaviva. Now, THAT would have been fun!

6. What do you think will fill the vacuum left by City Opera?

It is really disconcerting to me that New York City - one of the largest cultural centers in the world - cannot support two great opera houses. It saddens me because it means that much of the art that was showcased by the NYCO will be inaccessible. It means that there are fewer opportunities for my colleagues and I to do what we love.

The vacuum left by the City Opera is a void that cannot be filled by anything but NYCO. Hopefully the stars will align and the Company will be brought back to life so the community and opera world can enjoy it once again.

7. Can you give us some insight to what you'll be singing?

I will be singing two selections. Pierrot's "Tanzlied from Die tote Stadt," which is one of my favorite arias. I will also sing Malcolm’s aria from Anthony Davis’s opera, “X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X.” Singing Malcolm's aria is special to me because it is the first gig I ever sang at NYCO.

That performance was produced for the VOX Series at the Schomburg Library in Harlem. It was an amazing experience and one that provided me with a chance to gain a wealth of knowledge. I learned so much during that process. 

8. Anything else that you'd like to share?

I have some amazing roles coming up this season. I'll be performing the role of Moses in "Moses" with the American Symphony Orchestra.

I'll also make my debut with the Atlanta Opera in the role of Figaro in "The Barber of Seville."

I'm also excited to work with the Metropolitan Opera for "The Death of Klinghoffer."

You can follow Sidney Outlaw at:
Twitter: @sidneyoutlaw

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chris Carr awarded Igor Gorin Memorial Award

Chris Carr & Ryan Kuster
The coveted Igor Gorin Memorial Award is being awarded to a barihunk for the second consecutive year, as Chris Carr will be the 2014 recipient. Last year's winner was Ryan Kuster. Mary Gorin created the Igor Gorin Memorial Award to honor her husband, the late Russian baritone Igor Gorin, by financially assisting talented young vocalists at the beginning of their careers.

Chris Carr is the baritone studio artist at Arizona Opera for the 2013-2014 season.  Chris attended Simpson College and the University of Missouri-Kansas City where he studied with and continues to study with renowned tenor Vinson Cole.  He was a district winner in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in both 2011 and 2012 and is a 2013 alumnus of the San Francisco Opera Center Merola Program. He will be using the award to support his next audition season as he attempts to move from young artist work to professional work.

Chris Carr will be performing Baron Douphol in Verdi's La traviata from February 28-March 9 and Malatesta in Donizetti's Don Pasquale with the Arizona Opera from April 12-27.

Ryan Kuster will perform Escamillo in Bizet's Carmen at the Virginia Opera from March 21 to April 13 and again with Opera Colorado from May 3-11.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Barihunk Cover Boys: Ildar Abradzakov & Alex Esposito

Alex Esposito & Ildar Abradzakov
We've previously reported on the wonderful trend of barihunk cover boys increasingly gracing the front of the leading music magazines in the world. We particularly love it when they're featured in February, the month of Valentine's Day. Alex Esposito was featured on the cover of the German magazine Das Opernglas and Ildar Abdrazakov is featured on Opera News, both draped in Valentine's Day hot red.

Alex Esposito is in the middle of the sold out run of Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Royal Opera House opposite fellow barihunk heartthrobs Mariusz Kwiecien as the Don and Alexander Tsymbalyuk as the Commendatore. Ildar Abrdrazakov is in the gorgeous production of Borodin's infrequently performed Prince Igor at the Metropolitan Opera.

Fortunately for opera lover, both performances are being broadcast worldwide. The March 1st performance of Prince Igor will be broadcast live in HD from the Metropolitan Opera. You can click HERE to find a theater near you.

The February 12th performance of Don Giovanni will be broadcast live to cinemas in Europe. and taped for screenings worldwide throughout March. If you're in Europe, check the Royal Opera House website for listings. If you're outside of Europe, check your local movie listings.

Abdrazakov next takes on the four villains in Offenbach's Les contes d’Hoffmann at the Wiener Staatsoper from May 23 to June 4. Esposito next takes on Alidoro in Rossini's La Cenerentola from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich from March 4-12.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Christopher Burchett in North Dakota's first opera premieres

Christopher Burchett in Soldier Songs
Barihunk Christopher Burchett, who showed off that he look pretty hot in a pair of skivvies in David T. Little's Soldier Songs, is about to make history in Fargo, North Dakota. On March 28th and 30th at the Fargo Moorhead Opera, he'll be part of the Poe Project Double Bill, which is comprised of two one-act operas, Buried Alive and Embedded, which were commissioned by American Lyric Theater as part of Edgar Alan Poe centennial back in 2009. These will be the first opera premiere ever presented in the state.

Composer Jeff Myers and librettist Quincy Long's Buried Alive draws on themes of anxiety and mortality from Poe’s story “The Premature Burial,” as a painter’s nightmares of death start to become real. It will be directed by Larry Edelson.

Composer Patrick Soluri and librettist Deborah Brevoort's Embedded was inspired by Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.”  The libretto revolves around a TV news anchor who finds herself on the other side of the headlines. It will be directed by Sam Helfrich.

Aaron Sorensen & Jonathan Blalock
Burchett will be joined in both operas by soprano Caroline Worra, soprano Sara Gartland, mezzo soprano Jennifer Feinstein, bass Nathan Stark and tenor Jonathan Blalock, who was recently awarded a Barihunks Calendar Grant along with bass Aaron Sorensen to make a joint West Coast recital debut in 2014.

Tickets for the world premiere production of the Poe Project may be purchased online.

Fargo-Moorhead Opera was founded in 1968 and and is the only full-season opera company from Omaha to Winnipeg and Minneapolis to Billings. The company tours regularly throughout North Dakota and rural Minnesota as a part of its commitment to bring opera to communities that have never before experienced live opera.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Jarrett Ott sings Tony Solitro's "War Wedding"; Metropolitan Opera Auditions next week

Jarrett Ott
We recently introduced Jarrett Ott to readers when he advanced in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions.  On February 15, he'll be competing in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions at the Kennedy Center.

A reader alerted us to an amazing video of him performing Tony Solitro's "War Wedding" during a closed recording session at the Curtis Institute of Music. The songs of War Wedding chronicle the sensuous wedding night of two young lovers set against the backdrop of a savage and vicious war. After they part at daybreak, the young soldier dies from his wounds, and his bride is left alone.

The cycle was commissioned by, and is dedicated to, musicologist Justin Vickers.

He is finishing up his Master’s degree at the Curtis Institute of Music where he has performed  Argante in Handel’s Rinaldo, Aeneas in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Gregor Mittenhoffer in Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers, Valentin in Gounod’s Faust, Harašta in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, and Le Mari in Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tiresias. This season he will also perform Ned Rorem’s Evidence of Things Not Seen with Mikael Eliasen at various venues, as well as perform Ralph Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony with the Riverside Symphonia. At Curtis he will sing roles in Poulenc's Dialogues des carmélites and Rossini's La Cenerentola. You can listen to some sound clip HERE.