Monday, February 29, 2016

Celebrating Rossini's birthday with a Barihunk duo

Mattia Olivieri and Richard Rittelmann
It seems appropriate on Rossini's birthday that we post these pictures of the barihunk duo of Mattia Olivieri as Figaro and Richard Rittelmann as Fiorello in Opéra Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Nice Côte d’Azur.

The cast also includes Rossini specialist Daniele Zanfardino as Almaviva, Georgian mezzo Ketevan Kemoklidze as Rosina and Marco Vinco as Basilio. There is one performance remaining on March 1st.

Mattia Olivieri and Richard Rittelmann in The Barber of Seville
Upcoming performances for Olivieri include Marcello in Puccini's La bohème in São Paulo, a June recital in Bari, Italy and Ping in Puccini's Turandot at the Bregenz Festival this summer.

Rittelmann will be performing the Fauré in six French cities between March 16-29, Johann Strauss' Der Zigeunerbaron in Turin, Berlioz's Les Troyens in concert with Honorary Barihunk Joyce Di Donato and tenor Bryan Hymel (which will be recorded by Warner Classics) and Puccini's La bohème with San Francisco's Golden Gate Opera in May.

Mattia Olivieri as Figaro
Rossini was born on February 29, 1792. Until his retirement in 1829, Rossini was the most popular opera composer in history. He is best known for The Barber of Seville, La Cenerentola, William Tell, Moïse et Pharaon (Moses), Semiramide, Il viaggio a Reims, Il turco in Italia, Tancredi, Maometto II (Le siège de Corinthe) and Le comte Ory. His overtures are frequently played by symphony orchestras.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Revised version of Brokeback Mountain debuts in Salzburg

Florian Plock as Ennis del Mar and Mark Omvlee as Jack Twist
American composer Charles Wuorinen's Brokeback Mountain continues to get European performances, while awaiting its US premiere. The latest production in at the Salzburger Landestheater with Florian Plock as Ennis del Mar and Mark Omvlee as his lover Jack Twist. The piece was originally commissioned by Gerard Mortier for the New York City Opera before its demise. Mortier then had the piece premiered at the Teatro Real of Madrid on January 28, 2014.

The piece was subsequently performed in Aachen, Germany on December 7, 2014 in a new production directed by Ludger Englels, featuring German bass-barihunk Christian Tschelebiew as Ennis Del Mar and Dutch tenor Mark Omvlee as Jack Twist. In the world premiere, Ennis Del Mar was performed by Daniel Okulitch and Jack Twist by Tom Randle.

The Salzburger Landestheater production will premiere a new chamber version by the composer for 24 instruments and will be directed by Jacopo Spirei, and conducted by Adrian Kelly.

Wuorinen used Schoenberg's half-sung, half-spoken Sprechstimme as a way for the character of Ennis to express himself in the early part of the opera. He does not develop sung lines until the second act, as before that he cannot acknowledge who he really is. He associates the two leads with different musical pitches, "B-natural and C-sharp, a whole step apart, yet divided by a third tonal area associated with the mountain itself, based on a low C."

There are six more performances between now and April 21 and tickets are available online.

Watch Edwin Crossley-Mercer in Fauré's Pénélope

Edwin Crossley-Mercer in Pénélope
You can watch barihunk Edwin Crossley-Mercer as Eurymaque in Fauré;s Pénélope from the Opéra national du Rhin until April 21st by clicking HERE. The performance includes honorary barihunk Anna Caterina Antonacci in the title role.
The opera was featured along with Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring at the opening of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in March 1913. The opera is based on Homer's Odyssey and tells the story of Pénélope who has been waiting twenty years for the return of her husband Odysseus, the King of Ithaca. Meanwhile, many suitors emerged who she promised to marry when she has finished weaving a shroud for her father Laertes.

Mark Van Arsdale and Edwin Crossley-Mercer

A silent, but sexy figure in Olivier Py's Pénélope
The role of Pénélope was originally written for the soprano Lucienne Bréval, who triumphed in the roles of Brünnhilde, Kundry and Griselda. Fauré's score is often reminiscent of both Wagner and Debussy and is filled with exotic, poetic motifs of desire.

This production is directed by Olivier Py with sets by Pierre-André Weitz in a realistic yet dreamlike interpretation. 

Justin Hopkins recitals coast-to-coast

Justin Hopkins
On April 4th, bass-barihunk Justin Hopkins will perform the New York Premiere of Nolan Gasser's Repast and the World Premiere of James Matheson's Windows in Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall. Accompanied by Bruce Livingston, he'll also perform songs by Philip Glass and Franz Schubert. Tickets are available online.

Gasser's Repast is an oratorio based on the life of the Mississippi civil rights figure Booker Wright with a libretto by PEN/Faulkner Award-winner Kevin Young. Booker Wright was a black waiter at Lusco’s, an all-white restaurant in Greenwood, Mississippi, who heroically spoke truth to power during a 1965 interview with NBC News. The oratorio tells his story of struggle and hope for the future during the height of the Civil Rights movement.

Watch Nolan Gasser's Repast in its entirety with Justin Hopkins:

After the two premieres, he flies to the opposite coast for a more traditional program of works by Brahms, Handel, Verdi, Rachmaninoff and African-American art songs and spirituals. The April 9th performance will be at the Berkeley Piano Club and tickets are available online.

From May 14-22 he'll return to the opera stage to perform the East-coast premier of Franco Faccio's Amleto at Opera Delaware.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Introducing Bari-chunk to Bari-HUNK Nathan Rodriguez

Nathan Rodriguez
We found out about barihunk Nathan Rodriguez on Twitter when his friend hunkentenor Michael Merullo posted a picture of the two them with the message "#littlewomen rehearsal with my favorite #barihunk @n-rod1." Of course, we had to check it out and discovered another amazing bari-chunk to bari-hunk transformation. He lost over 40 pounds and went from a 36' waist to a 31" waist. Most importantly, he addressed some potentially serious health issues. We think he turned out pretty damn sexy! You'll want to read our interview with him about his transformation.

Besties: Michael Merullo and Nathan Rodriguez
1. You're new to Barihunks, so tell us a little bit about your background.
I was born, raised and went to school in Connecticut. I moved to Boston a couple years ago to start grad school at a conservatory, but decided to hold off and do my own thing. I wanted to take advantage of performance opportunities in the city while working to support myself and trying to avoid adding a mountain of debt. It has been a very friendly place and I have a bunch of upcoming engagements, including John Brooke in MetroWest Opera’s production of Little Women, The Miller in OperaHub’s touring production of El Gato con Botas, and Mr. Lundquist in Nextdoor Theater’s production of Little Night Music. I’m excited for the next audition season and learning new roles in both opera and musical theater.

Barihunk Nathan Rodriguez & Hunkentenor Michael Merullo
2. We found about you because your friend tenor Michael Merullo tweeted about you with #barihunk. Did you know that he was going to do that?
Michael is a very talented, young tenor and a close friend. I met him through singing here in Boston. He’s super supportive and has really encouraged me in my singing and fitness endeavors. He's even trained with me for running races. I knew he was taking a selfie in rehearsal, but didn’t know about the hashtag. We’ve always joked about my #pathtobarihunk but I didn’t think it would actually happen. He called me at 1am one night and said “Dude, Barihunks just reached out to me on Twitter about you, it’s real!” I hung up thinking he was kidding and it was way past my bedtime.

3. What got you interested in singing and where are you with your studies/career?
I was always musically inclined. I sang in choirs, performed in musicals, and played viola for years. I was initially going to start a musical theater program for undergrad but decided to go to my state school that had a classical music program. “Not interested,” I thought. I majored my first year in Romance Languages and International Affairs. A friend in the music program convinced me to audition for voice since I’d be singing in the languages I was learning and so that I could receive more scholarships. The school also had an alliance with the Met and we attended shows frequently. After getting into the program and going to the Met for the first time, I was hooked.

Now I sing in the Boston area and have had some awesome opportunities here, particularly working with an incredible up-and-coming conductor, Lidiya Yankovskaya. Next season, I’ll be taking the YAP plunge and auditioning alongside all the other super talented, young opera singers. See ya then Opera America, fingers crossed.
Nathan Rodriguez: Before & After
 4. Tell us about your process from being overweight to getting in shape. How did being overweight effect your self-esteem, confidence and self-image?
I had many weight fluctuations post college. I had always tried to be somewhat active, but was very inconsistent. I let my schedule dictate my level of fitness. The busier I was, the less I exercised or focused on what I ate.

I also had a heart condition that reached a peak last year. I wasn’t allowed to exert myself for over 8 months while doctors figured it out and came up with a game plan. I gained weight, lost stamina, and was even having trouble singing. Being 205lbs at only 5’7” was a definite low point for me. I looked in the mirror and wondered how I’d be considered for roles in my voice type (e.g. the strapping brother, the handsome soldier, the sly best friend) if I wasn’t convinced myself, physically or in terms of vocal confidence. After recovering from multiple cardiac ablations that thankfully fixed my issues without having to implant a defibrillator, my cardiologist gave me the “all clear” to get physical again (like Olivia Newton-John). I had NO EXCUSES.

I sought an online trainer who provided a nutrition and workout plan, a 12-week program of lifting, cardio, and meal prep. It was up to me to execute it. Over the summer, I lost 25lbs, but more importantly 12% body fat. I was becoming leaner with more muscle. I took up running again and trained for a half-marathon, finishing in less than 2 hours, which felt fantastic. A friend of mine also introduced me to yoga, which has made a huge impact. With all that I lost almost 40lbs over 6 months. I went from a size 36 waist to a 31. Now, I feel great and ready to tackle new projects with confidence.
Nathan Rodriguez finishing a half marathon
5. What is your workout routine and do you workout with someone?
Now, I do a combination of everything. I lift and do more full-body workouts. I run when the weather is nice out. I do yoga 3-4 times a week, and I watch what I eat. I stick to proteins, veggies, fruits, and complex carbs for the most part. Do I have occasional pizza, ice cream and beer? Heck yes! But it’s all about balance.

I also enjoy the process of getting in shape and appreciate the philosophy that something is always better than nothing in terms of getting workouts in. I love to challenge my body and don’t focus as much on results, but rather making physical activity a part of my daily routine, a definite priority. I look forward to trying new forms of fitness. I might try crossfit and have always wanted to row so those are on my list. I’m not opposed to a workout/running/yoga buddy, but I usually make exercise into “me” time. It helps regulate my stress-level, helps me to assess and prioritize my goals, and I avoid competition that can get in the way of my own fitness achievements. However, someone to hold me accountable is always welcome and I love encouraging others get to their own fitness happy places :)
Nathan Rodriguez as Belcore in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore
6. What would be your dream role to sing in opera?
Figaro in Il Barbiere would be an epic win. I’d also love to sing some Verdi roles one day… I’ll give it a decade or so. I don’t limit myself to opera and would love to do crossover and be the emcee in Cabaret or a Sweeney Todd. The list is endless, really. I like it all!

Nathan Rodriguez trying on an old pair of pants
7. Tell us something about yourself that has nothing to do with opera or fitness.
So many singers have day jobs to sustain themselves. I’m fortunate to work at an incredible genetics research institute and I’m looking to grow into grants administration. I take classes in non-profit management on the side and would love to eventually use this skill-set to help non-profit arts organizations secure and manage funds. I’m a big advocate for singers developing other professional skills. Focusing on what can benefit the world of arts and music is crucial for our industry’s survival.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Watch Juan Diego Flórez and Gabriel Bermúdez in live stream of Roméo et Juliette

Juan Diego Flórez and Gabriel Bermúdez
There aren't many singers who get one to take their eyes off of Juan Diego Flórez, except for perhaps Gabriel Bermúdez (who remains our most popular barihunk ever based on page views). The two singers are performing together in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette at the Vienna State Opera with Marina Rebeka as the other ill-fated lover. There are two performances remaining on February 26 and March 1st.

If you can't make it to Vienna, you can watch a live stream of the performance on March 1st for 
€ 14.00. You can opt to watch the performance any time within 72 hours of the broadcast.

In addition to be a member of the Zurich Opera House ensemble since the 2002-03 season, the Spanish barihunk has been a member of the Vienna State Opera since 2014, where he has performed Melot in Tristan und Isolde, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, Marcello in La bohème, Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Belcore in L'elisir d'amore and Heger in Ruskala.   

He next performs Albert in Massenet's Werther at the Royal Opera House Muscat in April and then Marcello in La bohème at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in June and July.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Michael Mayes talks about Dead Man Walking

Jake Heggie and Michael Mayes

Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking has quickly secured its place in the operatic standard repertory since its premiere in  2000. Some of operas most amazing performers have taken on the role of alleged killer Joseph De Rocher, including John Packard, Daniel Okulitch, Philip Cutlip, Etienne Dupuis, Jordan Shanahan, Thomas Gunther, John Arnold, Marcus DeLoach, David Adam Moore, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Zachary Gordin and Mel Ulrich. But no-one has distinguished himself more in the role more than Michael Mayes, who even the composer called the "definitive" singer for the role.
The opera, with a libretto by Terence McNally, is based on Sister Helen Prejean’s 1993 account of her work on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. The opera now makes its debut in the state where the story takes place, as the New Orleans Opera performs the piece on March 4 and 6. The opera also stars Jennifer Rivera as Sister Helen Prejean, Margaret Lattimore as Mrs. Patrick De Rocher and Adrienne Danrich.

We asked Michael Mayes to talk about the role. 

Michael Mayes as Joseph De Rocher
1. What does it mean for this to be performed where the alleged crime actually happened?

When you make your life is performing characters in operas- it's a given that the bones of most of the people you portray and those whom have had their lives affected by these characters, have long since turned to dust.  Inasmuch as a significant portion of my performing career has been spent singing new works- I've been fortunate to have the privilege to portray characters for whom that isn't true.  One such instance is in my portrayal of Colonel Floyd James Thompson in Tom Cipullo's Glory Denied- the true story of the longest held prisoner of war in American History.  I've performed the role twice, and will again next year.  In the most recent production by Opera Memphis, we discovered early in the process that several of Colonel Thompson's children and grandchildren (who live in TN) would be present for opening night.  The impact of that knowledge cannot be overstated.  We were all of us incredibly excited to know they would be there, but as opening night grew closer, our anxiety as a cast began to really become quite palpable.  Not that in any other circumstance- we would have turned in performances that were less committed- but that every choice we made with these characters was incredibly important and had to have its genesis in truth.  There were definitely more limits on the choices available to us- however that constraint, rather than being a hedge, was an absolute creative boon to us all- and allowed us to create a really vivid characterization fueled by the knowledge that only feet away from us would be his son, his daughter, and his granddaughter- all of whom while not given a treatment in the score were referenced heavily.  

Were this merely a piece designed to lionize a man whose life was absolutely torn apart by war but ended somewhat happily with an affirming end of life moment- such as in Unbreakable- one would probably not have much anxiety about playing this role in corny of his family... But Glory Denied is an unflinching look at two very flawed individuals who weren't equipped to cope with the fallout that 9 years in a brutal prison camp that would reek havoc in the lives of them and their children.  There was no silk scarf over the camera lens to blur the sharp edges- and in order to play this man- I had to tell the truth- much of which wasn't pretty.  Knowing they would be there- seeing  this man that very much wanted to be perceived as a hero (to my mind he still was despite the struggle that he had to endure) was something that kept me up nights.  As the day grew closer, the anxiety that I had began to evolve into a kind of electricity.  I'd done my homework, I knew this man as well as someone who'd never actually met him could- and I had to just trust that the choices I made were appropriate and somehow told a truth- even if it wasn't 100% him.  

As I wandered around the stage that evening- telling Jim's story in all of its dimensions, both brutally honest and sympathetic, I knew that the they were somewhere in the first rows, in a very small house.  As I became Jim I had to push that thought from my mind and simply tell his story as best as I knew how.  As the lights went down on our show, I was curled into a fetal position on the deck, after one of the hardest arias I've ever had to learn which depicts colonel Thompson, body ravaged by a stroke that took his most treasured ability with it- coherent speech (Col Thompson was known to be an incredible public speaker), a ratty bathrobe soaked in stage booze, and alone still fighting the demons that plagued him his entire life- I began to come back to myself and realize that it was done.  When the lights came up on the audience I recognized his son Floyd immediately.  All around him was his family- and they were smiling.  Some with tears in their eyes.  I knew in that moment that we'd done right by him.  

After the performance we had the chance to speak with them- and their words of affirmation still ring in my ears.  It was one of my proudest moments.  Col. Thompson 's story was so important to me- and knowing that we did him justice- that his family approved, was absolutely invigorating artistically.

Dead Man Walking is based on true events- but Joseph is a fictional character.  He's not meant to be a depiction of any one historical figure, but rather to represent the journey of a man convicted of horrific crimes, sentenced to death, and eventually led to redemption by Sr. Helen.  The genius of the collaborators Terrence, Jake, and Sr Helen is that they're free to tell a story that isn't held to a concrete narrative (the names and biographical tapestry of the characters are not taken directly from history) and spares the families of all involved the pain of having their lives put on display over and over again.  

That being said- when we arrived here in New Orleans we were invited to a meet and greet to meet some important members of the NOLA opera community.  The impact that the horror of the crimes Sonnier and Willey committed was immediately apparent.  One board member recounted that she has to drive by Robert Willey's grave every day on her way into town.  One woman told me emphatically that she's looking forward to the opera, but that she was most definitely in favor of the death penalty.  The significance of doing this opera, in this town was never lost on me- but was never more starkly apparent to me as I spoke to people for whom this isn't an abstract story that occurred someplace else- this is an opera that conjures the ghosts of people who are buried in the soil all around them.  

We were asked to speak a little bit about our impression of the opera- and your question is exactly the one that occurred to me as I began to speak.  Without a doubt, in the audience, there will be people for whom this is an intensely personal story.  The horror that the men on whom my character is based inflicted is very real for them.  There will be friends, acquaintances, perhaps even family of these young people that were ripped from their lives out there. Watching.  And this is a very different story from Col Thompson's in that he was very much the victim of a horrible circumstances.  In the case of Joseph- I'm playing the instrument of horror- a man whom to many is an irredeemable monster.  It's a very different experience- and I have no idea what it will feel like to be him on his home soil.  It's incredibly intimidating to say the least- but by the same token, it's an enormous privilege and one I look forward to with every fiber of my being.  
Michael Mayes backstage

2. What does this role mean to you and how has it changed for you with subsequent performances? 

I could never overstate what this role means to me.  The first time I sang Joseph was a watershed moment for me as an artist. I'd been working here and there, doing lots of work from the standard repertoire and was a decent performer to my mind.  It wasn't until I took on Joseph, a role which is been dying to sing since I'd first been in the production in Cincinnati as one of the prison guards, that I really began to understand the kind of opera singer I wanted to be.  Seeing that show planted seeds in my mind that would eventually become the cornerstone of my own personal performing philosophy with respect to opera.  

In Joseph, I found a role in the operatic repertoire that would allow me to really "go there" dramatically.  I don't know if it was my own personal history with people like him- or if it was just a matter of timing- but I discovered in that first outing what it felt like to really connect with an audience in a way that was immediate.  There were no hedges of language or music that seemed from a different time- this was truly a masterpiece in my own language both musically and linguistically- so that all of the factors of language that often block an opera singer in America from truly having a character land on an audience with immediacy were no longer there.  I had to commit completely to the character and stand, quite literally, naked in front of the audience.  Once I'd discovered what that meant, what it felt like... A light came on for me- and I realized how much harder I needed to work when I approached roles in the standard repertoire to do everything I could to connect with my audience.  The level of commitment required to make that happen set a bar for the rest of my career that I'd strive to reach in every performance I'd give for the rest of my career.  Once I'd seen how powerful that kind of connection could be- there was no going back.  From then on- I couldn't be satisfied with the way I'd worked before.  After Joseph- I was irrevocably changed, and for the better.  
The most significant benefit of having had the privilege of performing this role as many times as I have, is the opportunity to economize and distill the epic nature of a character like Joseph down to a really streamlined and efficient portrayal.  When I first took on the role, I red-lined the entire night.  I put the pedal to the metal and kept it there for 3 hours.  I'd be absolutely wrung out physically and emotionally at the end of the night.  Now that I've had the chance to play him with many different players- I've been able to better recognize the ebb and flow of the character and use my energy in a much more effective way, so that in each moment, I'm always searching for the balance that is appropriate for that particular moment, instead of constantly feeling like I had to jump headlong into every interaction with abandon.  What I've found is the ability to relax into the natural ebb and flow of the narrative and allow the character to be carried along by the drama that Jake and Terrence have created , rather than feeling the need to control it.

Michael Mayes and Kirstin Chavez
3. What is the core message of this opera for you. 
I don't believe that this is an opera about the death penalty.  This is an opera about human compassion.  One might rush to the conclusion that in saying that I might mean for Joseph and his plight- but I mean it in a much more general sense.  What Sr. Helen, Jake, and Terrence have done with this piece is to pull back the curtain on the lives of an incredibly diverse group of people, and invite us all to take a look at them and the pain that this terrible circumstance has inflicted upon them all.  I believe they're asking us to take a respectful look at all of these people with empathy and compassion, and to see ourselves, if we can, in them all.  

I've often said that this piece doesn't take a position.  It doesn't preach.  In my opinion this piece isn't designed to cause us to change our minds on the death penalty- it's to make us analyze what we truly think about this incredibly complex issue.  The beauty of the work is that you could walk into a performance of this show with your opinion- and when the curtain comes down, walk out with the same view you had before you saw the show- but if we've done our jobs, when you leave that theatre you've really thought about why you believe what you believe.  Quite simply Dead Man Walking is not here to make a statement--- it's here to ask a question. 

Michael Mayes and Jenny Rivera
4. Compare the different Sister Helen Prejean's that you've sung with. I believe this is your second time with Jenny Rivera.

I can say with confidence is that every single one with whom I've had to privilege to collaborate has absolutely been incredible.  Each of them plays a different side of Helen- each giving such life and vibrancy to the different aspects of that character as well as bringing out different aspects of my own character in how they respond to the barrage of impulses Joseph De Rocher throws at them. Kirsten, Janice, Daniela, and Jenny are all incredible performers- going on this journey with them has been one of the greatest joys of my life.

Jenny and I are on our 3rd production, the first 2 having had quite a few performances each.  It's been an absolute joy getting to explore this relationship with her over the past few productions- we've really been able to find a groove- and the scenes between us only get richer with each iteration.  We really have a great sense of each other's dramatic timing now that so much of what we do is really unspoken and organic.  She's an incredibly supportive colleague and friend and I've enjoyed our shows together immensely.

Michael Mayes as Joseph De Rocher

5. Jake has called you the greatest Joseph De Rocher. Anything you'd like to say about the composer (and that comment)?

Heggie is my homeboy.

Jake has been such an advocate for me.  Words can't express how much love and respect I have for him.  He's been a constant source of support and love for me since the first one in Tulsa.  Since that freshman effort, I've gone through all kinds of personal and professional changes- and through it all Jake has always been a source of wisdom.  Not only just for this piece- but in life as well.  He's not only a voice of support when I've needed it, but a incredible advisor as well, when I've needed to be reminded why I'm doing this.  

I love this piece.  I love Jake- and when I love I do so passionately.  The problem is that sometimes that passion gets the best of me and I can be a bit myopic in my execution.  In those times, Jake has always been there to give me calm and reasonable perspective and I've discovered that WWJD is a great question to ask myself when I'm getting a bit over my swing.

All I can say is that I've loved every moment I've spent immersed in Jake's beautiful score- and to know that such a venerated artist thinks so highly of me is incredibly humbling- and drives me to work as hard as I can, no matter where this show takes me, to tell his truth as authentically as I can.

Barihunk duo in Palermo's Attila

Erwin Schrott as Attila (on stage and in rehearsal)
The bass-barihunk duo of Erwin Schrott and Antonio Di Matteo have been wowing audiences in director Daniele Abbado's riveting production of Verdi's Attila at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo. The February 19th opening day performance marked the debut of Schrott in the title role of Verdi's early opera. 

Schrott recently told the Italian press that the character was a "complex, restless, insecure and even emotional man who eventually succumbs to love." He recorded that aria "Mentre gonfiarsi l'anima" on his 2012 album of arias.

Erwin Schrott sings "Mentre gonfiarsi l'anima" from Attila:

Joining him in the cast as Pope Leo is fellow bass-barihunk Antonio Di Matteo, who is new to this site. He is a former member of the Opera Studio of Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome and former member of the chorus at the Teatro San Carlo di Napoli. 

Antonio Di Matteo as Pope Leo in Attila

He has previously peformed Sarastro in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, Araldo in Verdi's Macbeth and the Commedatore in Mozart's Don Giovanni. Di Matteo can next be seen as Cesare Angelotti in Puccini's Tosca at the Teatro Petruzzelli di Bari and Sparafucile in Verdi's Rigoletto at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna 

Schrott can next be seen in the title role of Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires and then the title role in Boito's Mefistofele in Baden-Baden, Germany. 

Antonio Di Matteo sings Pope Leo in Palermo's Attila:

Tickets are available online for the remaining performances on February 24 and 26.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Barihunk Edward Miskie (and a bunch of naked men) in Mascular Magazine

Edward Miskie (photo by Ron Amato)
Edward Miskie, who appears in our 2016 Barihunks Calendar, is the current issue of the new erotic art magazine UK's Mascular Magazine. The magazine's tagline is "Celebrating masculine art and the men who create it."

Miskie did a photoshoot last month with Brooklyn-based photographer Ron Amato, who has shot for Men's Health, Men's Fitness and Sports Illustrated. Miskie is part of a feature entitled "Pride," where "pride is not a sin but a statement of individuality and acceptance" His suit is by Ryan Moller and hat by The Nitty Gritty.

You can view the entire issue of Mascular Magazine online, but we warn you that it's NSFW. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

David Pershall and Steven LaBrie win top honors at George London Foundation Competition

David Pershall & Steven LaBrie
David Pershall who recently performed Schaunard in Puccini's La bohème and Lord Cecil in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda at the Metropolitan Opera, has won one of the top prizes at the 2016 George London Foundation Competition. Also taking away top honors was fellow barihunk Steven LaBrie, who just wrapped up a performance of Ginastera's Estancia with the New York City Ballet. He will tour with the Ballet to Paris in July performing the same program.

Other top winners included soprano Antonina Chehovska, tenor A.J. Glueckert, soprano Kirsten MacKinnon and soprano Claudia Rosenthal. Winners receeived $10,000 each Other baritones and basses taking encouragement prizes included Colin Ramsey, Justin Austin, Jared Bybee, Michael Sumuel and John Viscardi. Encouragement Prize winners received $1,000 each.

Pershall performed Starbuck's aria from Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick.

Steven LaBrie sings Largo al factotum from the Barber of Seville:

Pershal has previously won 1st Prize in the Marcello Giordani Foundation International Vocal Competition, 1st Prize in the New Jersey Verismo Competition, 1st Prize in the Fritz and Lavinia Jensen Foundation Competition, 1st Prize in the Gerda Lissner Foundation International Vocal Competition, 1st Prize in the Connecticut Opera Guild Competition, 1st Prize in the Hugo Kauder Competition for Voice, the Presser Music Foundation Award, and the Thomas Stewart Award for Vocal Excellence.

LaBrie won the 2013 Encouragement Award at the George London Foundation Competition, second places in both the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition and the Gerda Lissner Lieder/Song Competition as well as the Judges Award with the Opera Index Competition. In 2010, he was an encouragement award winner in Washington, DC, for the Metropolitan Opera National Council.

David Pershall performs Starbuck's aria in 2012:

Pershall can next be seen in Puccini's Manon Lescaut at the Vienna State Opera. Roucher in Giordano's Andrea Chenier at the San Francisco Opera and Albert in Massenett's Werther at The Met.

LaBrie can next be seen singing the title role in Rossini's The Barber of Seville with Lyric Opera Baltimore on March 11 and 13.

Perhall is a graduate of the Merola Opera program at San Francisco Opera and the Virginia Opera Resident Artist program. He holds a Bachelor of Music from Baylor University, as well as a Master of Music and an Artist Diploma from Yale School of Music.

Steven LaBrie is a recent graduate of The Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia.

Brandon Cedel featured in Opera News

Barihunk Brandon Cedel, who appeared in our 2011 Barihunks calendar with his husband Jonathan Beyer, is featured in Opera News this month in their Sound Bites feature:
Brandon Cedel, who is in his third and final season as a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, is the Sergeant in the company’s new production of Manon Lescaut this month. Cedel started at the Met in 2013, fresh from seven years at the Curtis Institute and a win in the company’s National Council Auditions. “The Met is like Disneyland for a young opera singer—literally everything you could possibly want is there. You see how to act onstage, how to act offstage. And you are surrounded by the best of the best every minute.” 
Continue reading at Opera News online.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Reader Submission: Welsh Barihunk Matthew Tilley

Matthew Tilley
Our latest Reader Submission is Welsh barihunk Matthew Tilley who graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama as a recipient of the Laura Ashley Scholarship. 

Tilley has been a regular performer with the Welsh National Opera, with whom he has performed in Monteverdi's Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, Puccini's Madama Butterfly and La Bohème and Verdi’s La Traviata

Matthew Tilley sings Loch Lomond and Shenandoah:

He'll be performing Masetto in Mozart's Don Giovanni with Heritage Opera from April 15-July 24. The production will be performed in Stirling, Scotland; Hatfield, Lancaster, Wiltshire, Oxford and Chesire, England; and Ruthin, North Wales. Additional information is available online. 

Tilley has also taught and given masterclasses at the Bentley Music Academy in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and is a vocal coach for the Musical Youth Theatre Wales.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Reader Submission: Australian barihunk Jeremy Kleeman

Jeremy Kleeman as Magus (right)
A reader introduced us to Jeremy Kleeman, a graduate of Victorian Opera's Developing Artist Program, who is performing Magus in the world premiere of Voyage to the Moon. The piece was inspired by the epic poem Orlando furioso using a pastiche of music by Handel, Vivaldi, Telemann and Gluck, with new words by Michael Gow.

Kleeman has a Master of Music in Opera Performance and a Bachelor of Music from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. He has been a regular on the Victorian Opera stage since his debut with the company in 2008. He has performed Rapunzel’s Prince in Into the Woods, Marquis D’Obiginy in La traviata, Lord Valton in I puritani, and Albert the Pudding in the Green Room Award-winning world premiere The Magic Pudding – The Opera

Jeremy Kleeman sings "Aprite un po’quegli occhi" from Marriage of Figaro:
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Kleeman previously sung in another baroque opera when he performed Teobaldo in Handel's Faramondo for the Brisbane Baroque Festival, which won five Helpmann Awards including Best Opera. He has twice been a finalist at the IFAC Australian Singing Competition and was as a finalist at the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Aria, Australia's premiere oratorio competition, placing as the joint runner-up and winning the People's Choice Award. In 2014 Jeremy won the Welsh Male Choir Singer of the Year.

In Voyage to the Moon, the great warrior Orlando has fallen into a deep madness. His friend Astolfo travels to the heavens with the mysterious Magus to find a cure and discovers the moon is home to many lost things including Orlando’s sanity. But first he must convince the all-powerful Guardian of the Moon, Selena, that Orlando is worth saving.

Performances of Voyage to the Moon at the Victorian Opera remain on February 18 and 19 and tickets are available online

Barihunk duos in two Opera Philadelphia performances

Zachary James and John Moore in Mazzoli's Breaking Waves
Opera Philadelphia announced their 2016-17 season, which will include the barihunk duo of John Moore and Zachary James in the world premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s chamber opera Breaking the Waves, which features a libretto by Royce Vavrek. Mazzoli is a graduate of Opera Philadelphia’s Composer in Residence program.

The opera is based on the Oscar-nominated 1996 film by Lars von Trier. The libretto tells the story of Bess McNeill (sung by Kiera Duffy), a religious young woman with a deep love for her husband Jan (sung by John Moore), a handsome oil rig worker. When Jan becomes paralyzed in an off-shore accident, her marital vows are put to the test as he encourages her to seek other lovers and return to his bedside to tell him of her sexual activities. He insists that the stories will feel like they are making love together and keep him alive. Bess’s increasing selflessness leads to a finale of divine grace, but at great cost.

Performances will run from September 22 through October 1st. The cast also includes the rising tenor sensation David Portillo, Eve Gigliotti and Patricia Schuman.

Brandon Cedel and John Chest in The Marriage of Figaro
The company's new production of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro will feature the barihunk duo of Brandon Cedel as Figoro and John Chest as the Count. Performances will be at the Academy of Music and will also feature Ying Fang as Susanna, Layla Claire as the Countess, John Chest, Cecelia Hall as Cherubino and Patrick Carfizzi as Bartolo.

Other operas in the season include Puccini's Turandot with Christine Goerke in the title role and Daniel Belcher as Ping; a re-imaging of Verdi's Macbeth by South African director Brett Bailey set in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the title character as a Congolese warlord: and Stephanie Blythe making her role debut as the title character in Rossini’s Tancredi along with Daniel Mobbs as Orbazzano.

You can find more information on the Opera Philadelphia website.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Watch Matt Worth in world premiere of Danielpour's "Five Songs of Remembrance"

Matt Worth (Photo by Hoebermann Studio)
The NY Festival of Song's program with the Manhattan School of Music which included the world premiere of Richard Danielpour's Five Songs of Remembrance for piano and baritone with barihunk Matthew Worth is now available on YouTube. The songs are written to texts by Whitman and Melville. (The songs begin around 1:19:00)

The remainder of the program includes excerpts from Susan Botti's Mangetsu for soprano and violin, David Ludwig's Our Long War for soprano, violin and piano, Anthony Constantino's When You Are Old, Wang Jie's The Animal Carnival and Therese-Marie Chaix's world premiere of excerpts from Talking Objects.

Matthew Worth can next be seen in Ricky Ian Gordon's Green Sneakers at Opera Birmingham directed by John de los Santos, who directed the riveting West Coast premiere with Jesse Blumberg in San Francisco. The program also features the composer's Orpheus & Euridice with Worth and Talise Trevigne. Performances are on March 11 and 13 at Brock Hall at Samford University in Birmingham. Tickets are available online

Worth then heads to the Fort Worth Opera Festival to sing the title role in the world premiere of David T. Little's JFK. The cast includes fellow barihunk Daniel Okulitch as LBJ.
Performances are on April 23, May 1 & 7 and additional information is available online.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Edwin Crossley-Mercer making Dallas Opera debut in Manon

Edwin Crossley-Mercer (left) and Troy Cook (right)
Barihunk Edwin Crossley-Mercer will me making his Dallas Opera debut as Lescaut in Massenet's Manon opening March 4th at the Winspear Opera House for four performances. Fellow barihunk Troy Cook will also be in the cast singing the role of de Brétigny. The role of Lescaut was originally sung by the French baritone Émile-Alexandre Taskin, who also sang in the premiere of Debussy's L'enfant prodigue.

Joining them in the cast are soprano Ailyn Pérez in the title role, tenor Stephen Costello as Chevalier des Grieux, bass-baritone David Pittsinger as Le Comte, also is his Dallas Opera debut and baritone Theodor Carlson as the innkeeper.

Natalie Dessay & Edwind Crossley-Mercer sing "Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen" 
from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte: 

Additional performances of Manon will take place on March 6, 9 and 12 and tickets are available online.

After Dallas, Crossley-Mercer goes on a recital tour in Gran Canaria, Spain, then to the Festival de Paques Deauville in France, and the Berea Art Song Festival in Ohio. Cook next heads to the Austin Lyric Opera, where he will sing the title role in Rossini's The Barber of Seville. He's also slated to make his company debuts with the Atlanta Opera in Kevin Puts' Silent Night, San Diego Opera and Washington National Opera. He also returns to the Des Moines Metro Opera as Young Galileo in Phillip Glass' Galileo Galilei.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Interview with barihunk David Castillo; Starring in Townsend Opera's Sweeney Todd

David Castillo (as Anthony in Sweeney Todd on right)
If you're in Northern California, you won't want to miss the Townsend Opera production of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. The production features barihunk David Castillo as Anthony Hope and is directed by John De Los Santos. The cast also features Zeffin Quinn Hollis in the title role, Margaret Gawrysiak as Mrs. Lovett, Camille Jasensky as Johanna, Molly Mahoney as the Beggar WOman and Phillip Skinner as Judge Turpin. There are performances on February 12 and 14 and tickets are available online

We asked David Castillo a few questions about the role of Anthony and his budding career:

1. Do you prefer musicals or opera?
I wouldn't say I prefer one over the other. I grew up singing in musicals with my aunt as the musical director and started doing operas in college at Loyola University New Orleans, when my late voice teacher Philip Frohnmayer persuaded me to get away from dentistry. I have a great love for both.  I just want to do good work in good productions with good colleagues, regardless of the "medium."

2. Is this your first Sweeney Todd?
This is the first time I have the opportunity to perform Anthony Hope. Sweeney is one of my favorite go-to-for-fun recordings and I always wanted to perform the role of Anthony. I did learn the work (trying to avoid using the word opera or musical when describing Sweeney), when I was in the chorus for it years ago in a deranged, gritty Ed Berkeley production at the Aspen Music Festival.  That was an awesome, first experience.

3. What's it like singing Sondheim ?
It's funny you ask this, I've been wondering this a lot the past few days between Sweeney rehearsals and practicing my arias. I realize that I've been singing this just slightly different than with my "opera" voice. I first learned "Johanna," when studying under Rod Gilfry at USC for my masters. He was doing a slew of Sweeneys at the time and said that Anthony would be perfect for me. We worked lots on keeping very lyric youthfulness to the sound and while milking the vowels and consonants like an art song.  Regardless, you sing need to SANG.  Sondheim's writing demands technique the entire time with such a multi-dimensional libretto to use.  We still have to cut over the orchestra and carry into the house.  It's an interesting balance.

4. Tell us about your character
When first approaching Anthony, the biggest obstacle I found was that he could be the most boring character in the story.  He could be a really flimsy, boring, vanilla, lover boy who sing a pretty song called "Johanna."  John de los Santos and I crafted him to have more grit and dimension than that. Anthony is a sailor, he's strong mentally and physically. He's been through life-threatening situations. He's been through fights. He saved a shipwrecked, almost dead Sweeney.  He's sailed through the most treacherous waters and experienced the most beautiful treasures of the world. He managed to do all that and still have a good head on his shoulders.  He is the ying to the yang that is Johanna, who probably never was allowed to leave her chambers. Anthony is more of a well-played Don José.  Anthony is still a bit young, when arriving back in London, his favorite place in the world. Seeing the city through Sweeney's eyes jades London, the world, and life for him. He falls in love in act I, he begins to go mad at the beginning of Act II when he can't find where the Judge hid her, and breaks down when finding out that Johanna is in a madhouse and is threatened by Beadle. He is in a carnal position volunterring to kill a dozen people without hesistation to find Johanna.  All concluding with the situation of not being sure if he and Johanna will make it out of London alive. That's way more interesting than a vanilla lover boy.

Director John De Los Santos and David Castillo
5. Give us a little insight into this production.
Matthew Buckman and Ryan Murray assembled an awesome team for this show. John de los Santos is the mastermind behind this production with a solid cast that brings so much dimiension to their characters. The whole concept of this is how children become infected by morbid stories and the impact. All manifested in this production with the way we treat Toby and how he is affected by this.

6. What's next for you?
Next Monday, between weekends of Sweeney Todd performances, I fly to Paris and make my European debut performing Winterreise with pianist Francois Chouchan. I am honored to be part of this important performance because it is dedicated to Francois' mentor, Dr. Elsa Cayat, who was the only female killed in the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris January 2015. It will be held at the Mairie du Troisieme Arrondissment. After that, I make my Off-Broadway and New York debut reprising the stoner role of Atzuko in the absolutely hilarious production ¡Figaro! (90210) at The Duke at 42nd. Excited to revisit this role, after performing it at the World Premiere last year with LA Opera. In April I perform as a soloist in the Los Angeles Master Chorale's staged production of Alexander's Feast at Walt Disney Concert Hall, then perform as the soloist in Bach Cantata 73 with the Horizon Chamber Singers at the Long Beach Bach Festival. May brings my LA Philharmonic debut creating the role of Goethe in their World Premiere commission of Andriessen's Theatre of the World at Walt Disney Concert Hall. In June, I perform Jesus in Bach's St. John Passion with the Pasadena Master Chorale. It's a pretty busy spring! Next season brings exciting projects, including a collaboration premiering works Filipino Composer Nilo Alcala.

You can follow David Castillo on Twitter @davidthesinger and Townsend Opera@TownsendOpera

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Nicholas Crawley in sexy Cosi fan tutte at Reisoper

Yaroslav Abaimov, Robert Davies & Nicholas Crawley (L-R)
The last time that British barihunk Nicholas Crawley was featured on this site, he was featured in nothing but a towel as Don Basilio in the Nederlandse Reisoper's production of Rossini's The Barber of Seville.  He's currently appearing in with the company in Mozart's Così fan tutte in a production directed by Dutch actor Xander Straat.

He's joined by the Ferrando of hunkentenor Yaroslav Abaimov. Straat has duo outfitted in form-fitting tattoo body suits and colored beards while disguised in an effort to prove their girlfriends as unfaithful. Performances are running from February 9 -March  19 and tickets and additional cast information is available online.

Crawley studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London where he was awarded The Independent Opera Vocal Scholarship 2012. After completing the Master of Arts in Vocal Studies and Royal Academy Opera Advanced Diploma course he joined De Nederlands Reisopera as a resident artist where he has also performed Sleep, Hymen and Winter in Purcell's Fairy Queen as well as Petrus in a staged Bach's St John Passion.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Georgios Iatrou to sing Valentine in Essen

Georgios Iatrou
We love it when colleagues suggest that we post someone that they're performing with, which is what soprano Jessica Muirhead did in a recent Twitter post about Georgios Iatrou. In fact, they both shared tweets on the same day about their upcoming performances in Gounod's Faust on March 9 and 11, and April 4 at the Aalto Musiktheater in Essen, Germany. Iatrous will be singing Valentin to her Marguerite. An alternate cast with fellow barihunk Martijn Cornet will open the run on February 13 and run through February 25.

Martijn Cornet
Iatrou is engaged at the Aalto Musiktheater from 2015-17, where he's performing Figaro in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia, Schaunard in Puccini's La boheme, Silvano in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera, Kostandis in Martinů's The Greek Passion and the Speaker in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. Performances of Il barbiere di Siviglia run from June 4-July 9 and tickets and cast information is available online

Jessica Muirhead is also in the ensemble at the Aalto Musiktheater where she is performing Violetta in Verdi's La traviata, the title role in Dvorak's Rusalka and Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Alexander Birch Elliott in Valentine's Day Concert; Returning to Portland Opera

Alexander Birch Elliott at the San Francisco Opera
Alexander Birch Elliott, who is wrapping up a run as John Brooke in Mark Adamo's Little Women today, will be featured in a Valentine's concert on Saturday, February 13th with Opera Louisiane. He'll be joined by soprano Chelsea Basler, accompanist Michael Borowitz and cellist Susannah Montandon. They will perform opera arias, duets and Boradway showstoppers. Tickets are available online.

From April 1-5, he'll sing Papageno in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte with the Orlando Philharmonic. This summer, he returns to the Portland Opera Festival, where he will perform Anthony in Sondheim's Sweeney Todd and the title role in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. He previously performed Frank in Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus and Belcore in Donizetti's The Elixir of Love with the company.

You can read an interview with him on the Madison Opera Blog.

Preview of Gregory Spears' new opera with Joseph Lattanzi

Jospeh Lattanzi in his Barihunk t-shirt at the Seattle Opera (left) and at a Merola Opera performance (right)
Gregory Spears' new opera, Fellow Travelers, will receive a piano-vocal showcase at National Sawdust in Brooklyn on March 20th at 4 PM. This is the composer's first full-length opera, which follows Paul's Case and O Columbia. Paul's Case was a huge success at the 2014 Prototype Festival and subsequently at the Pittsburgh Opera. The opera was originally developed by American Opera Projects. O Columbia was presented last year by the Houston Grand Opera and featured barihunk Ben Edquist.

Fellow Travelers, which was written in collaboration with librettist Greg Pierce and director Kevin Newbury, was developed in a 2013 Opera Fusion workshop. It will feature former Barihunks calendar model Joseph Lattanzi, who will sing both the showcase and the world premiere.

Performances of Fellow Travelers will run at the Cincinnati Opera from June 17-July 10 at the Jarson-Kaplan Theater. In addition to Lattanzi, it will feature hunkentenor Aaron Blake, Mary Johnson, Alexandra Schoeny and Talya Lieberman. Tickets and additional information is available online

 Joseph Lattanzi performs "Our Very Own Home" from Fellow Travelers: 

Fellow Travelers, set in Washington against the backdrop of the McCarthy-era "lavender scare," tells the story of Timothy “Skippy” Laughlin, an aspiring young journalist, and Hawkins “Hawk” Fuller, a handsome, profligate State Department official. A chance encounter with Hawk leads to Tim's first job in DC, and his first love affair. As his involvement deepens, Tim struggles to reconcile his political convictions, his religious beliefs, and his love for Fuller – an entanglement that will end in a stunning act of betrayal. The libretto is based on the novel by American novelist, essayist and critic Thomas Mallon.

On February 27th, Lattanzi will sing the title role in Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Arizona Opera with fellow barihunk Ryan Kuster as Masetto and the talented Matthew Burns as his sidekick Leporello. Barihunk Morgan Smith will sing the other performances of Don Giovanni. Additional cast and ticket information is available online.