Saturday, April 30, 2016

TRIFECTA: André Courville wins his third major vocal competition


Chloe Moore, André Courville and Marie Natale
Bass-barihunk André Courville, won his third First Prize when he took home top honors at the 28th Annual Violetta DuPont Vocal Competition. He previously won the 2015 Loren L. Zachary National Vocal Competition and the 2014 Giargiari Bel Canto Competition. The competition was held at Lenfell Hall in the Mansion at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey.

Courville took home $5,000 as the winner of competition. The $3,000 Second Prize went to soprano Marie Natale and the $1,500 Third Prize to soprano Chloe Moore. The winners were winnowed down from 114 candidates, which resulted in 18 finalists.

Each finalist performed an aria of his or her choice to be judged by a panel of renowned opera figures and jurists based on voice quality, technique, intonation, diction, interpretation, and stage presence. The judges included Gerda Lissner Foundation President Stephen DeMaio, Maestra Eva Quelar, Artist Manager Robert Lombardo, retired soprano Barbara Ann Testa, and arts patron James Thurmond Smithgall.

Last year's winner, tenor Alasdair Kent, performed "Fantaisie aux divins mensonges" from Leo Delibes' Lakme as the judges deliberated.
Courville can next be heard on May 6th as the bass soloist in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis with The Cecilia Chorus of New York at Carnegie Hall. The West Coast can hear him on May 22 in concert with the Opera Associates of Los Angeles at the 36th Church of Christ, Scientist in Studio City, California.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Christopher Burchett in Edgar Allan Poe double-bill in Fort Worth

Christopher Burchett and Maren Weinberger in Buried Alive (photos: Brandon Wade)
Back in 2014, we posted about barihunk Christopher Burchett performing in composer Jeff Myers and librettist Quincy Long's Buried Alive at the Fargo Moorhead Opera. He's reprising the role, in which he appears in various states of undress, at the Fort Worth Opera Festival, which is currently underway.

Buried Alive was written specifically for Burchett, and he has been with the project since the first workshops with the American Lyric Theater in 2010. As part of the Poe Project, the goal was to create an opera that Poe himself might have written, although it's based on the author's The Premature Burial. The opera is directed by Lawrence Edelson, who heads up the American Lyric Theater.

The Fort Worth Opera is presenting Buried Alive at the Scott Theatre at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, which is a more intimate space than Bass Hall where they perform their standard repertory pieces. It's part of a double-header with Embedded, based on The Cask of Amontillado, and previewed at Fort Worth Opera's Frontiers showcase for new works in 2013. The stagings include twelve TV monitors with special effects and a large eyeball that ogles the crowd. Burchett also appears as the Producer in Embedded.

Christopher Burchett
Buried Alive tells the story of Victor, a painter whose nightmares of death begin to become real. Alternating realities are juxtaposed and culminate in a final gruesome ending. 

Embedded revolves around an aging American news anchor who finds herself on the wrong side of the headlines. Desperate to prove her value while being pushed out of her job by a young rival, she is tricked by a notorious terrorist into traveling to see him for an exclusive interview. The opera takes an unexpected twist and ends with a moment of triumph in face of death.

There are five remaining performances on April 26, 29 and 30, and May 3 and 7. Tickets and additional cast information are available online.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Reader Submission: Austrian Barihunk Rafael Fingerlos

Rafael Fingerlos
An eagle-eyed reader introduced us to barihunk Rafael Fingerlos, who he noticed was singing the world premiere of Thomas Adès' The Exterminating Angel at the Salzburg Festival this summer with fellow barihunk David Adam Moore, hunkentenor deluxe Ed Lyon and  the legendary baritone Sir Thomas Allen. The all-star cast also includes Anne Sofie von Otter, Sally Matthews, Charles Workman, Iestyn Davies, Eric Halvarson and Audrey Luna with performances running from July 28-August 8.  

The Exterminating Angel is inspired by the 1962 film El ángel exterminador by the famed surrealist Luis Buñuel. The Salzburg performances will be followed by productions at The Royal Opera in London and the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in 2017. Buñuel’s film, a parable on the ‘bourgeois condition’, sees a collection of society’s grandees trapped in a room; in no time at all their veneer of sophistication cracks.

Barihunk David Adam Moore and Hunkentenor Ed Lyon are both appearing in Salzburg
Fingerlos hails from Mariapfarr in the Salzburg region of Austria, so music is in his blood. In 2013, he graduated with honors from his master’s program in solo vocal performance at the private Conservatory of Vienna and won the “Musica Juventutis” auditions at the Wiener Konzerthaus in Vienna.

He also won the  Brahms singing competition and received first prize as well as the public’s choice prize at the International Franz Schubert Lied Competition held in Steyr. As a participant in the Young Singers Project at the 2015 Salzburg Festival, Rafael sang the part of Figaro in Der Barbier von Sevilla für Kinder. 

 Rafael Fingerlos sings Brahms' "Wie rafft' ich mich auf":  

This Fall, he will alternate the title role in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Vienna State Opera with fellow barihunk Alessio Arduini. His Rosina will be Isabel Leonard and Almaviva will be sung by hunkentenor Pavel Kolgatin. 

He has released a solo CD of romantic German Lieder and one of Bach’s cantatas.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

JFK opera debuts in Fort Worth with barihunk duo


Daniela Mack and Matthew Worth in JFK (Photo: Allison V. Smith NY Times)
The Fort Worth Opera, in collaboration with the American Lyric Theater, debuted JFK tonight, about the final twelve hours of President John F. Kennedy's life. The opera will star two of the world's most popular barihunks in the lead roles: Matthew Worth takes on JFK and Daniel Okulitch portrays LBJ. Worth shares both the good looks and New England charm of our 35th President, while Okulitch matches the Vice President's 6' 4" frame.

LBJ (left) and Daniel Okulitch in Brokeback Mountain
Joining them in the cast will be the amazing mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack as Jackie Kennedy, Talise Trevigne as hotel maid Clara Harris, hunkentenor Sean Panikkar as JFK's secret service agent and confidant Henry Rathbone, Cree Carrico as Rosemary Kennedy and Katharine Goeldner as Jackie Onassis. The opera was written by composer David T. Little and librettist Royce Vavrek, who collaborated on the critically acclaimed opera Dog Days in 2012. Additional performance will be on May 1 and 7 and tickets are available online.

 "Spin, Measure Cut" from a workshop for the opera JFK:  

The Fort Worth Opera is a fitting setting for the premiere of JFK, as it's the last place that the President slept before being gunned down in Dallas. JFK left the Hotel Texas (now the Fort Worth Hilton) on the rain-soaked morning of November 22, 1963, and spoke to thousands who had waited in the rain to hear him speak. Those remarks were to be his final public speech.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Nederlandse Reisopera's tall order producing "Der Kaiser von Atlantis"

Wiard Witholt rehearsing Der Kaiser von Atlantis
They only time that Wiard Witholt has appeared on Barihunks was in 2010 when we were trying to figure out who the tallest barihunk was in the world. The Cardiff Singer of the World Competition listed him at 6' 7½" which is a little over 2 meters tall, making him the second tallest after Olivier Laquerre (but the tallest to ever compete at Cardiff).

He's now performing the title role in Czech composer Viktor Ullmann's Der Kaiser von Atlantis at the Nederlandse Reisopera from May 4-13 in Amsterdam, Enschede, Apeldoorn, Maastricht and Leiden. The Netherlands Opera presented the world premiere of the opera December 16, 1975, at the Bellevue Centre in Amsterdam. The opera was performed at Theresienstadt on May 25, 1991, fifty-one years after the initial rehearsal.The opera has had numerous performances worldwide in recent years, including in Kassel, Long Beach, Hamburg, Linz, Boston, Lyon, Vienna, Dijon and a U.K. tour. Other upcoming performances will be in Madrid with Alejandro Marco-Buhrmester and in Vienna with Matteo Loi.

Wiard Witholt studied at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and the New Opera Academy in Amsterdam, graduating in 2005. In 2008, he made his debut at the Royal Theatre La Monnaie Brussels as Le Berger in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande. In the 2009-10 season, he became a full-time member of the Opera House in Dessau. He created Schemariah, the principal character in Hiob, Erich Zeisl's opera based on the novel by Joseph Roth. Last season he sang the Messanger in the world première of Pascal Dusapin's Penthesilea at the Royal Theatre La Monnaie and Dusapin's Passion at the Sydney Festival 2016.


Viktor Ullman and his librettist Peter Kien wrote Der Kaiser von Atlantis while interned at the Nazi concentration camp of Theresienstadt (Terezín) around 1943. The opera received a rehearsal at Theresienstadt in March 1944, but the Nazi authorities interpreted the work's depiction of the character Kaiser Overall as a satire on Adolf Hitler and did not allow a performance.

Both of Viktor Ullmann's parents were from families of Jewish descent, but had converted to Roman Catholicism before his birth. Ullmann remained active musically at Theresienstadt, where he was a piano accompanist, organized concerts, wrote critiques of musical events, and composed, as part of a cultural circle including Karel Ančerl, Rafael Schachter, Gideon Klein, Hans Krása, and other prominent musicians imprisoned there. Both the composer and the librettist died in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The Netherlands Opera presented the world premiere of the opera December 16, 1975, at the Bellevue Centre in Amsterdam. The opera was performed at Theresienstadt on May 25, 1991, fifty-one years after the initial rehearsal.

Barihunk quartet in Dutch National Opera's Don Giovanni

Iurii Samoilov and Christopher Maltman
The Dutch National Opera will be presenting the somewhat controversial and provocative production of Mozart's Don Giovanni that was created for the 2008 Salzburger Festspiele. That production featured the barihunk trio of Christopher Maltman as Don Giovanni, Erwin Schrott as Leporello and Alex Esposito as Masetto. Maltman and Schrott returned to Salzburg for two revivals with Adam Plachetka and Stefan Kocan as Masetto.


Stefan Kocanas Masetto in 2010.
The Dutch National Opera has brought Christopher Maltman back in the title role, with Adrian Sâmpetrean as Leporello, Iurii Samoilov as Masetto and Mika Kares as the Commendatore. This production will no doubt be a veritable feast for barihunk lovers. The modern-dress production features a dying and sympathetic Don Giovanni and a lovable, drug addicted Leporello, whose physical attributes are freely shown off by the director.

In the opera's first scene, the Commendatore manages to shoot Don Giovanni in the abdomen before expiring. Don Giovanni spends much of the remainder for the evening trying not to die of his wound, first in desperation and eventually with wry resignation.

Christopher Maltman sings "Deh, vieni alla finestra" in Salzburg's Don Giovanni:

Erwin Schrott sings Leporello's catalog aria in Salzburg's Don Giovanni:


We've not featured the Finnish bass Mika Kares before, who was an ensemble member at the Baden State Opera from 2005-2010. Active off the stage, as well, he founded a children’s songwriting competition, serves as the Artistic Director of a Rauma Chamber Music Festival and the Eurajoki Bel Canto Festival. He also runs his own blog.

Christopher Maltman is returning to the Dutch National Opera where he had a successful and highly-acclaimed run as Rodrigo in Verdi’s Don Carlo in 2012. He'll be singing Don Giovanni again in the Fall at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin. In between Dons, he'll be at Covent Garden as the Count di Luna in Verdi's Il Trovatore. He returns to the Metropolitan Opera later this year in both Mozart's Die Zauberflöte and Puccini's Manon Lescaut.

Iurii Samoilov, who appears in this year's Barihunk calendar, returns to his home base at the Oper Frankfurt, where he'll appear in Berg's Wozzeck and Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. Adrian Sâmpetrean can next be seen at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden as Ferrando in Verdi's Il trovatore. He makes his U.S. stage debut in October as Raimondo in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Performances of Don Giovanni run from May 7-28 and tickets and additional cast information is available online.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Christopher Herbert in revolutionary Wall Street concert


Christopher Herbert
On April 21st, Barihunk Christopher Herbert will return to Trinity Wall Street for a concert that's part of a series called "Revolutionaries: The late works of Beethoven & Ginastera." He will be the baritone soloist along with NOVUS NY, Trinity Wall Street's contemporary music orchestra, in both the Ginastera Cantata Bomarzo and Faure's Requiem.

Ginastera played a key role in the unrest that led to the Argentine Revolution of the 1960s and '70s. Having lost an early teaching position for protesting the dismissal of his colleagues, he went on to lose his directorship of the conservatory that he himself had founded, for resisting orders to name it for Eva Perón. Several of his works were banned in his homeland, and he spent much of his life in self-imposed exile.

Ginastera was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1916 to a Catalan father and an Italian mother. In 1934 he won 1st prize of the musical society El Únisono for his Piezas Infantiles for piano. His next piece of importance was Impresiones de la Puna. As a young professor,  Ginastera taught at the Liceo Militar General San Martín. In 1946-1947 he traveled to the USA on a Guggenheim fellowship and studied with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood. Returning to Argentina, he co-founded the League of Composers and served as director of the Conservatory of the province of Buenos Aires in La Plata. He then taught at the Argentine Catholic University and also was a professor at the University of La Plata. Among his notable students was Ástor Piazzolla.

Christian Gerhaher sings the baritone solo from Fauré's Requiem:

Five of the seven sections of the Fauré Requiem were completed by January 1888 and performed that month at the Madeleine for the funeral of the architect Joseph Lesoufaché. Fauré continued to work intermittently on the Requiem, and by 1893 he judged the score ready to be published. For the 1893 version a baritone solo, two bassoons, four horns and two trumpets are added to the original scoring. When possible Fauré employed a mixed choir and a female soprano soloist, partly because the soprano lines, particularly the solo in the Pie Jesu, are difficult to sing and demand excellent breath control, easier for adult women than for boys.

You can see the entire Revolutionaries concert schedule HERE. The concert will be available online.