Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Barihunk Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek to join Liza Minnelli

Liza Minnelli & Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek
Barihunk Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek will join four-time Tony Award-winning legend Liza Minnelli at New York's Joe's Pub at The Public Theater as part of an all-star tribute concert and benefit celebrating the music of incomparable multi-award-winning composer Jule Styne. Proceeds from the concert will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

The May 11th benefit will also feature Marissa Mulder, Anita Gillette, Leslie Uggams, David Burtka, Carolee Carmello, Jennifer Diamond, Mandy Gonzalez, Randy Graff, Dee Hoty, Rita McKenzie, Alice Ripley and 1998 Miss America Kate Shindle.

Jule Styne is a Tony Award- and Academy Award-winning composer known for writing over 1500 songs over the course of his career, including scores for such notable Broadway musicals as Gypsy, Funny Girl, Gentlemen Prefer Blonds, Peter Pan, Bells Are Ringing, Do Re Mi, Sugar and Hallelujah Baby! Teaming with lyricist Sammy Cahn in the 1940s, he also created a string of Hit Parade leaders and chart-topping hits, including the Oscar-winning "Three Coins In The Fountain."

David Burtka
Styne's illustrious collaborators include Stephen Sondheim, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Bob Merrill, Leo Robin and E.Y. Harburg, with their combined efforts over the years having produced such unforgettable showstopping standards as "Everything's Coming Up Roses," "Don't Rain On My Parade," "Let Me Entertain You," "The Party's Over," "People," "Never Never Land," "Just In Time," and "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend."

Tickets are $35 and are available HERE.

Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek can currently be seen as Joseph DeRocher in Dead Man Walking at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater in Chicago on April 27th. Tickets are available online. From May 30-June 15, he sings Count Almaviva in Mozart's Marriage of Figaro at the Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, California.

Michael Mayes returns to signature role in Dead Man Walking

Michael Mayes in Dead Man Walking
February 25, 2012 was a life-changing day for barihunk Michael Mayes. It's the day that he first took the stage as Joseph de Rocher in Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking at the Tulsa Opera. His performance as the accused killer was so riveting that word shot around the opera world about his intense performance. Most importantly, composer Jake Heggie was also impressed by Mayes. He recently told Colorado Public Radio, "I've seen Mike Mayes sing Joe a few times and I can tell you nobody in the entire world has ever done it better or with more authority."
I've seen Mike Mayes sing Joe a few times and I can tell you nobody in the entire world has ever done it better or with more authority. - See more at:
I've seen Mike Mayes sing Joe a few times and I can tell you nobody in the entire world has ever done it better or with more authority. - See more at:
I've seen Mike Mayes sing Joe a few times and I can tell you nobody in the entire world has ever done it better or with more authority. - See more at:

Our readers also took notice, as the photo that we ran of Mayes after he'd buffed up for the role instantly became one of our most viewed pictures. The role itself takes enormous physical stamina and baritones have been known to go to great lengths to get in shape, as the opera includes an aria that's sung while doing pushups. Etienne Dupuis went so far as hiring two trainers when he sang the role at the Opera de Montreal.

Mayes is now back singing what's become his signature role at both the Madison Opera and Central City Opera. The production will be performed in Madison on April 25 and 27, and then in Central City on July 5, 9, 11 and 13.

Michael Mayes with Erik Larson (and Pete)
Mayes first appeared in the opera not as the main character, but as a motorcycle cop at the Fort Worth Opera Festival in the 2008-09 season. We couldn't help but wonder if the Madison cast has a future de Rocher in it, as Erik Larsen has been cast in the role of the motorcycle cop. Larson made waves when he busted out of his pants and posted it on Twitter (which we, of course, reposted on Barihunks).

After his two runs of Dead Man Walking, Mayes continues with his commitment to contemporary opera. He'll be performing in Ethan Gans-Morse's The Canticle of the Black Madonna, a new opera premiering in Portland, Oregon on September 5, 2014. Set in coastal Louisiana amidst the devastation of the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill, it tells the story of a fictional soldier returning from Afghanistan to his wife. Together, they face the challenges of his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and her struggles to maintain the family business. 

Interview with Lee Poulis

Lee Poulis & Sean Panikkar (photo: Rachel Parker)
Theater Jones, which covers the arts scene in North Texas, recently ran a feature on Lee Poulis, who is starring in the Fort Worth Opera Festival production of Bizet's Pearl Fishers directed by John de los Santos.
“The role of Zurga has a lot of singing and two of the highest notes I have ever sung on stage,” he says. “Usually, a high G is the top in baritone roles. Bizet writes an optional A flat and an A natural. I am singing them because they fit in my voice and they are not in highly dramatic moments, where you would be tempted to oversing. I love this role.”
You can read the entire article HERE

There are two performances remaining on April 27 and May 2. Click HERE for tickets or additional information.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Introducing Photogenic Italian Bass-Barihunk Andrea Mastroni

Andrea Mastroni (photo: Nicodemo Luca Lucà)
We have a particular soft spot for basses in our pantheon of barihunks. When we saw pictures of Italian basso Andrea Mastroni by the great Milanese photographer Nicodemo Luca Lucà on Twitter we drawn to how seductive and sensuous he came across through the lens. 

Andrea Mastroni was born in Milan and originally studied the clarinet.  He then began studying voice with the great Italian soprano Lello Cuberli and Rita Antoniazzi. He graduated with honors from the Istituto Claudio Monteverdi in Cremona, while also obtaining a degree in Aesthetic Philosophy. In 2005, he won the Mario Basiola Prize and in 2007 took home both the Giuseppe Di Stefano Competition and the Bibiena Prize.

Andrea Mastroni
Andrea Mastroni
He is currently singing Colline in Puccini's La bohème at the Teatro La Fenice through May 30th. In July, he heads to Verona to tackle more Puccini when he sings Timur in Turandot at the famous arena. He then switches to Verdi, alternating the roles of the King and Rafis in Aida at the Arena di Verona. Last season, Mastroni's sinister and dark Sparafucile in Verdi's Rigoletto was a big hit singing opposite Leo Nucci and Aleksandra Kurzak.

Andrea Mastroni sings Pergolesi's "Quoniam tu solus sanctus": 

Mastroni has also focused on 19th century chamber music and lieder, performing such standards as Schubert's Die Schöne Müllerin and Winterreise, as well as Schumann's Dichterliebe. He can be heard on a number of recording and DVD's, including as Il Conte Vaudemont in Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani opposite Leo Nucci and Daniela Dessi, Oroe in Rossini's Semiramide and Frere Laurent in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette opposite Andrea Bocceli and Maite Alberola.

Introducing British Barihunk Toby Girling

Toby Girling in Zatopek! (left) and Winterreise (right)
Some singers just seem to inspire directors to get them into various states of undress and British barihunk seems to be one of them. We originally saw the picture of him from Zatopek! (above left) when we were posting about his castmate Peter Brathwaite and then the picture of him on the right from a Bluebeard's Castle/Winterreise double bill showed up in our messages. Girling is the sole vocal performer in Schubert's Winterreise with the Vlaamse Opera, which will run in Antwerp through May 10th. Tickets are available online.

Toby Girling is a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He was a member of the Glyndebourne Opera Festival Chorus in the Michael Grandage production of Britten's Billy Budd, in which he also sang the role of Arthur Jones and covered the role of Donald. Regular readers may recall that Glyndebourne's Billy Budd also featured barihunks Jacques Imbrailo and Duncan Rock. 

Toby Girling sings Der Lindenbaum from Schubert's 'Die Winterreise:

He has sung at a number of major festivals other than Glyndebourne. These include a 2011 performance of Ben in Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti at the Wexford Festival, Guglielmo in Mozart's Così fan tutte and the Sorceress in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas at the Verbier Festival, and Ceprano in Verdi's Rigoletto at the Iford Festival. He also performed in both Guglielmo in Così fan tutte and Fiorello in Rossini's the Barber of Seville to great acclaim with the English Touring Company.

He is currenlty a Studio Artist at Oper Frankfurt, where he performed as the Flemish Deputy in a revival of Verdi's Don Carlo.  Other appearances with the company include Ein Steuermann in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, Manuel in de Falla's La Vida Breve and Mann in Sallinen's Kullervo.

Introducing French Barihunk Boris Grappe

Boris Grappe as Robert in "Wasser" (photo: Regine Koerner)
We recently discovered this photo of French barihunk Boris Grappe performing in the 2012 world premiere of Wasser by Arnulf Hermann at the Oper Frankfurt.  The story is about a man who upon waking up finds himself in a hotel room with no idea how he got there. He thinks he recognizes people in the lobby, but his memory fails him. Everything is strangely shifted and displaced, including the music.

Grappe had previously performed Barabbas in Aulis Sallinen’s Barabbas Dialogues with the company.

We decided to find up what he's up to and found him singing Franz in Christian Lauba's La Lettre des sable at the Opéra National de Bordeaux from April 24-30. The opera evokes the great classics of science fiction to imagine the mysteries between the past and the future. The characters pass through the hourglass of time without really knowing where they are and who they are. 

Boris Grappe (photo by Patrick Vogel)
Born in Besançon, France, Boris Grappe studied voice at the Conservatoire de Lyon and at the Hochschule für Musik of Vienna. From 2007 to 2011, Boris Grappe was engaged at the Nationaltheater Mannheim where he performed Don Giovanni, Conte Almaviva, Guglielmo, Papageno, Figaro (Barbiere di Siviglia), Schaunard, Ping, Silvio, Harlekin, Donner, Melot, Falke, Albert. Graf Eberbach (Der Wildschütz).

From Decemeber 15-31, he'll perform Puck in Offenbach's La Grande-Duchesse de Gerolstein at the Grand Théâtre de Genève opposite Ruxandra Donose.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Barihunk Feast in Fort Worth: Pearl Fishers and Silent Night

Photos by Rachel Parker
The Fort Worth Opera Festival, one of our favorite stops on the opera circuit, kicked off the season with a stunning production of Bizet's Pearl Fishers featuring barihunks Lee Poulis as Zurga and Justin Hopkins as Nourabad. We should also mention that hunkentenor Sean Panikkar, of Forte fame, adds to the beefcake fest AND sings Nadir's beautiful aria "Je crois entendre encore."

Any opera directed by John de los Santos promises to be entertaining and an oft-static work like Pearl Fishers needs the touch of someone who can direct AND choreograph. De los Santos' non-stop action in the Mikado at the Festival in 2011 had audiences rolling in the aisles. We've heard that his dance scenes are magnificent. Throw in a shirtless Lee Poulis with his pants hanging low on his torso and you have an operatic feast for the eyes and the ears.

Justin Hopkins and the dancers from Fort Worth Opera's Pearl Fishers
The opera is the story of two men who fight over the same woman, make up and then fight over her again when she reappears. In between there is one of the most famous duets in all of opera and a beautiful aria for the girl Leïla. One of the men gives up his life to save Leïla and his friend. This was reality TV before reality TV.

There are additional performances on April 27 and May 2 and tickets are available online.

Dan Kempson, Lt. Gordon in Fort Worth's Silent Night
If two barihunks isn't enough for you, then you'll enjoy the next opera at the Fort Worth Opera Festival, which has four bariunks.  Kevin Puts' Silent Night will be performed on May 4 and 10 with barihunks Dan Kempson as Lt. Gordon, Aaron Sørensen as the French General, Craig Irvin as Lt. Horstmayer and Morgan Smith as Lt. Audebert.

Aaron Sørensen, the French General in Silent Night: "Il est mignon!"
The opera is based on the screenplay Joyeux Noël by Christian Carion and recounts a miraculous moment of peace during one of the bloodiest wars in human history. On WWI’s western front, Scottish, French and German officers defy their superiors and negotiate a Christmas Eve truce. Enemies become brothers as they share Christmas and bury their dead.
You can listen to the entire opera online at composer Kevin Puts' website.