Saturday, December 20, 2014

Björn Bürger to sing title role in Owen Wingrave

Björn Bürger
German barihunk Björn Bürger, who we introduced to readers in August when he was competing in the Mirjam Helin Competition, will be singing the title role in Britten's Owen Wingrave at the Frankfurt Opera from January 10-30. The role was previously sung at the opera by fellow barihunk Michael Nagy. He's currently wrapping up two more performances as Harlequin in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos with the company.

Bürger has been a member of the Frankfurt Opera Ensemble since 2013, where he's also sung Bengtson in Reimann's Die Gespenstersonate, Astolfo in Vivaldi's Orlando Furioso, Papageno in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte and Masetto in Mozart's Don Giovanni. He'll be adding Marcello in Puccini's La boheme to the list in February. In 2015, he will debut as Don Giovanni at the Norwegian Opera in Oslo.

Michael Nagy as Owen Wingrave in Frankfurt
In 2012, Bürger took First Prize at the Bundeswettbewerb Gesang 2012 (National Singing Competition) in Berlin and a year later the top prizes at the 'Emmerich-Smola Competition' and the Anneliese-Rothenberger Competition.

Owen Wingrave, which premiered in 1970, tells the story of a committed pacifist born into a renowned military family.  Despite strong disapproval over his beliefs and desperate to maintain the love of his would-be bride, Owen Wingrave is determined to prove his inner strength – even if it leads to his own demise.

Britten was a deeply committed pacifist, which traces back to his early life, particularly during his years at Gresham’s, his public school in Holt, Norfolk. He was know as a sensitive young boy who abhorred violence and bullying. World War I had cast a huge shadow over Britten’s generation and it was felt nowhere more keenly than at Gresham’s.  Britten was born a year before the onset of WWI  where the U.K. and its colonies saw 887,711 killed in action between 1914 and 1918. 100 boys from Gresham’s alone lost their lives.  His school formed one of the first branches of the League of Nations Union, which was designed to foster peace and prevent future conflict. The school also banned corporal punishment.

Britten's most famous pacifist composition is his War Requiem.


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Friday, December 19, 2014

Jaroslaw Kitala to tour children's opera in France


We first introduced readers to Polish barihunk Jaroslaw Kitala back in 2008 when he won second prize in the 14th Ada Sari International Vocal Art Festival in Nowy Sącz, Poland. The other two prize winners were also Polish baritones, so we dubbed the post the "Hot Pole Competition." We had somehow lost track of Kitala until now (except for a brief appearance in a toga for Purcell's Dido and Aeneas).

In 2014, he joined the Opera Studio at the Opera National du Rhin, where he's scheduled to sing Le Bûcheron in Respighi's The Sleeping Beauty (La Belle au bois dormant) opening on December 19 and running through January 9th. It then travels to the Athénée Théâtre Louis-Jouvet in Paris for a run from January 17-22, and then to Mulhouse for performances on January 31 and February 1.


Along with his ballet La boutique fantasque, Respighi's children's opera La Belle au bois dormant was one the most performed works by the composer in his lifetime. The opera premiered on April 13, 1922 at the Teatro Odescalchi in Rome.

Kitala studied at the Chorzow Music Academy and the Katowice Music Academy, graduating in 2008.  He won the 1st prize at the Imrich Godin International Vocal Competition Iuventus Canti in Slovakia. He has appeared at several music festivals in Poland and throughout Europe and has recorded with the Chamber Orchestra of Tarnów.

In 2010 he participated in the re-creation of 18th century composer Joseph Zeidler's Lauretanae Litaniae. Upcoming roles at the Opera National du Rhin include Count Robinson in Cimarosa's Il Matrimonio Segreto and Un vieux paysan in Dukas' Ariane et Barbe-Bleue.


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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Low voices dominate Icelandic opera Ragnheiður

August Ólafsson
If you love low voices as much as the Barihunks team, you may went to head north to the Icelandic Opera for Gunnar Þórðarson's Ragnheiður, which includes two basses and two baritones.

The opera is based on true historical events that took place in Iceland in the mid 17th century. The title role, Ragnheiður, is the 18-year-old daughter of the Bishop of Skálholt, the most powerful man of the church in the country. She and her young teacher, Daði, fell in love, but had to conceal their affections since the bishop had other plans for his daughter's future. In 1661 the bishop demanded that his daughter, Ragnheiður, would take an oath in front of the whole congregation to swear her virginity. Nine months later she gave birth to a child. For centuries people have discussed if she took a false oath or not.

The case includes barihunk August Ólafsson in the role of Reverend Torfi Jónsson, who explains to the title character that the consequences of perjury will be the eternal flames of hell.  He studied music at the Sibelius Academy with the great baritone Jorma Hynninen. He made his debut with the Icelandic Opera in the title role of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, and has subsequently performed Papageno in Mozart's The Magic Flute, Marcello in Puccini's La Bohème, Nick Shadow in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, Harlekin in Richard Strauss' Ariadne on Naxos, Baron Douphol in Verdi's La traviata, and Marullo in Verdi's Rigoletto.

He has
been nominated three times for the Icelandic Music Awards and received the 2011 Icelandic Music Performer of the Year.

Performances of Ragnheiður are on December 27th and 28th. Tickets are available online.


Don't forget to order you Barihunks Charity Calendar today. We've already given away $1,600 to support young singers. 
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Monday, December 15, 2014

Doug Carpenter wins $500 for best photo; Additional prizes announced for runner-ups


Doug Carpenter and his winning photos for the 2015 Barihunks Charity Calendar
Our Barihunks Calendar photo contest culminates with our Grand Prize of $500 of going to Doug Carpenter for his wine and pasta themed shirtless photos taken by Josh Drake. We asked readers to submit comments and asked our panel of five judges located on three continents to weight in, as well. At the end of the day, the voting wasn't even close as Doug Carpenter's pictures emerged as the clear favorite.

We also loved his tweet [shown above] encouraging people to vote for him with a sexy teaser. The day he posted it our calendar sales skyrocketed, which is how we raise money for young singers. So, he seems doubly deserving of the prize money.

Doug Carpenter is currently playing Billy Kostecki on the North American tour of Dirty Dancing. Click HERE to see when the show is coming to a city near you and buy tickets!

(Jacques) L'Oiseleur des Longchamps (left) and Michael Scarcelle (right)
One of our judges was so conflicted about the #2 and #3 ranked photos not winning, that she offered up $250 for each of the runner up barihunks. So Michael Scarcelle, who had the second most comments and votes, and (Jacques) L'Oiseleur des Longchamps, who had the third most comments and votes, will each be receiving $250.

We'd also like to remind readers that Kasey Yeargain and Ernesto Petti each won $100 for having the Sexiest Photo, as determined by our readers. Also, Richard Alexandre Rittelmann won $250 for the best Italian Themed Photo, also determined by our voters.

We'd like to thank all of the barihunks who participated - YOU'RE ALL SEXY AND TALENTED!!!
Kudos to Zachary Gordin, Pietro di Bianco, Michael Hewitt, Craig Verm, Xavier Rivera, David Adam Moore, Ramon Balderas, Donovan Singletary, Vittorio Prato, Christopher Temporelli, Keith Miller and Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek. Their participation in our calendar allows us to raise money to support opera and young artists in particular.

We'd like to remind everyone that the goal of this website is primarily twofold: 1) Get people interested in opera, and 2) Assist young artists in their careers. Every penny that we raise from our calendars or tee shirts goes directly to artists and artist projects. We'd like to thank our readers for your continued support in making Barihunks a success.

You can still purchase your 2015 Barihunks Charity Calendar by clicking below.
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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Reader Submission: Anas Séguin

Anas Séguin
We have another reader submission today, which come from a reader in France. They are attending Rachmaninov's Aleko at the Opéra-Théâtre de Clermont-Ferrand and noticed that the title role was being sung by Anas Séguin. They emailed us and asked if he'd ever appeared on our site, which he has not.

Anas Séguin sings Largo al factotum from the Barber of Seville:

The Moroccan barihunk began his musical studies playing the piano and the trumpet, before embarking on 10 years of vocal training at the Paris Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional. He's been a frequent prize winner in major vocal competitions, including second prize in the opera category in Arles and first prize for Mélodie at the International Competition of Lyric Singing in Marmande.

He recently performed Papageno in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte in Marmande, a role that he'll reprise in Mérignac in March 2015. Aleko will be performed on December 18th at the Opéra-Théâtre de Clermont-Ferrand. Additional information is available online. The opera, which is based on The Gypsies by Alexander Pushkin, includes the baritone aria "Ves' tabor spit," which is frequently performed by baritones in vocal competitions.

Reader submission: Simon Schnorr in sexy operetta

Simon Schnorr in Don Giovanni
A reader in Germany alerted us to a very sexy production of Benatzky's Im Weissen Rössl at the Salzburger Landestheater. They described the production as filled with "Verlockende Männer" (seductive men) and a "sexy Bariton" named Simon Schnorr, who was playing Dr. Otto Siedler.

Well, that caught our attention. 

The Tyrolean set operetta isn't normally known for being particularly sexy, although it may appeal to a few lederhosen fetishists. However, this production serves up a good number of men wearing only white lederhosen, scenes with men in one-piece swimwear, shirtless dancers and a scene involving some dropped trousers. Sometimes German regie theatre has its benefits.

Two scenes from Benatzky's Im Weissen Rössl
Munich native Simon Schnorr was a member of the famed Tölzer Knabenchor in his youth, allowing him to perform as a chorister and alto soloist in many of the major European opera houses and concert halls. He pursued his vocal training with scholarships from the MIGROS-Kulturstiftung in Zürich and from the Richard Wagner Association in Karlsruhe. He went on to win the International Schubert Song Competition in Osaka, the Franz-Völker prize in Neu-Isenburg and the Gustav-Scheck price in Freiburg.

In 2008, Schnorr made his debut at the Staatstheater Karlsruhe playing the role of Morales in Bizet's Carmen and subsequently became a full time member of their Opera Studio. During that time he performed Ping in Puccini's Turandot, Donner in Wagner's Rheingold, the Sergeant in Puccini's Manon Lescaut, Dumas in Giordano's Andrea Chenier and Viconte Valvert in Alfano's Cyrano de Bergerac. To great acclaim, he took over the role the Traveler in Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice on short notice.

Since the 2009-2010 season Simon Schnorr has been a permanent member of the Salzburger Landestheater where he debuted as Count Almaviva in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. Other roles with the company include Don Giovanni, Count Almaviva, Guglielmo, Eisenstein, Dandini, Belcore, Eugene Onegin and roles in Gluck's La Rencontre imprevue and Krenek's Jonny spielt auf.

Two scenes from Benatzky's Im Weissen Rössl
In 2012, he performed Giacomo II alongside the famed actor John Malkovich in the music theater project "The Giacomo Variations" and toured Canada with the show in 2013. The piece is based on the memoirs of Giacomo Casanova and features arias from Mozart's operas. He was also hailed by the press for his interpretation of the baritone part in Frank Martin's In terra pax at the Europäischen Kulturtagen (European Culture Days).

Performances of Benatzky's Im Weissen Rössl run through April 9 and tickets are available online. Schnorr will also appear with tenor Franz Supper at the Salzburger Landestheatre's New Year's Eve concert where they'll perform music by Johann Strauss and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.


If you can't make it to Austria, you can watch him on the Salzburg Festival's DVD of Alban Berg's Lulu


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Friday, December 12, 2014

Nicholas Pallesen to make NY recital debut



Nicholas Pallesen, winner of the 2013 George London Award, will be making his New York recital debut on Sunday, January 11, 2015 at the Morgan Library & Museum. He'll share the stage with soprano Angela Meade, who won the award in 2008.

Joined by accompanist Craig Rutenberg, Pallesen will perform Poulenc's Chansons villageoises, "Ha, welche Lust aus schönen Augen" from Marschner's Der Vampyr, and songs by Charles Ives. Pallesen performed the entire Der Vampyr with the Der Vampyr with the New Orleans Opera in 2013. He will join Meade for the duet "Tu pur lo sai" from Verdi's early opera I Due Foscari.

The George London Foundation Recital Series, which is in its 19th year, presents pairs of outstanding opera singers, many of whom were winners of a George London prize.

This year's competition will be held on Friday, February 27, 2015, at 4:00 PM. Last year's winners included three singers familiar to our readers, Norman Garrett, Cameron McPhail and Ryan Speedo Green.


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