Monday, July 21, 2014

Vittorio Prato's busy year of Donizetti

Vittorio Prato working out and in Rameau's Les Indes Galantes
Italian barihunk Vittorio Prato just made his debut in Bad Kissingen, Germany as Belcore in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore (Der Liebestrank for our German readers).  Prato was a replacement for Fabio Capitanucci, who had a scheduling conflict with the Montpellier Festival. From all accounts Prato was a huge success and we have some rehearsal footage of him singing the village sergeant's aria "Come Paride vezzoso."

Prato will be singing some obscure Donizetti this Fall at the Bergamo Music Festival when he sings Max in Betly, ossia La capanna svizzera. It's been a busy year for him singing Donizetti, having performed Doctor Malatesta in Munich and Verona.

Betly is a one act opera giacosa that was composed during the summer of 1836. It is a love story full of pastoral naïveté, whose humor is both gentle and pointed. There are a number of comic scenes for Max and his regiment, as they try to intimidate Betly, and turn the quaking Danielle into a hero for her. The text for Betly was adapted from a libretto by Eugene Scribe for an opera called La Chalet

Betly premiered on August 24, 1836 at the Teatro Nuovo of Naples. It was very well received, and remained popular until the middle of the century when its popularity died out. It has begun to regain favor in recent years and Donizetti intended it to be performed with another of his one-act operas, Il Campanello.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Barihunky season at innovative West Edge Opera

Hunkentenor Jonathan Blalock and barihunks Kenneth Kellogg and Efraín Solis
The innovative West Edge Opera in Berkeley, California is once again challenging audiences with a performance of Philip Glass' Hydrogen Jukebox in an alternative space. The opera will take place in the foyer of the Ed Roberts Campus, which is an internationally recognized center dedicated to disability rights and universal access.

The cast includes some eye candy, as well, with hunkentenor Jonathan Blalock and barihunks Kenneth Kellogg and Efraín Solis. The female side of the cast is rounded out by Sara Duchovnay, Molly Mahoney and Nicole Takesono. Performances are on July 27, August 2 and August 8, and tickets are available online.

The interior of the Ed Roberts Campus and V. Savoy McIlwain
Philip Glass' opera set to the poetry of counter-culture poet Allen Ginsberg. The text deals with a variety of topics from the 1950's through the 1980's ranging from the sexual revolution, eastern philosophy, drugs, the environment, the threat of nuclear destruction, Iran-Contra scandal and meditation. The six vocal parts were thought to represent six archetypal American characters- a waitress, a policeman, a businessman, a cheerleader, a priest, and a mechanic.

Unlike other Glass operas that deal with social issues, Hydrogen Jukebox is sung in English. In other operas, he has used languages unfamiliar to most opera-goers, including Sanskrit for Satyagraha, ancient Egyptian for Akhnaten, Latin for the CIVIL warS, or just numbers and syllables in Einstein on the Beach.

The rest of the West Edge Opera season includes Puccini's La bohème and Jake Heggie's The End of the Affair, cast with an abundance of barihunks. La bohème features casting appropriate to a venue dedicated disability rights, as blind barihunk Brandon Keith Biggs will sing Colline in a cast that also includes Jordan Eldredge as Schaunard and V. Savoy McIlwain as Marcello. Biggs sight impairment is due to having Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, a rare inherited eye disease that appears at birth or in the first few months of life, and affects around 1 in 80,000 of the population. Performances are on July 26, August 1st and 10th. Tickets are available online.

Jake Heggie, who is one of the world's premiere composers for the baritone voice, rounds out the season with his The End of the Affair, based  on Graham Greene’s novel. It will feature Keith Phares in the key role of Maurice Bendrix. Performances are on August 3, 7 and 9 and tickets are available online.

Pietro di Bianco in Paris Opera Awards

Pietro di Bianco
We recently posted about barihunks Sam Roberts-Smith and Yu Di appearing in the Final 50 of the Paris Opera Awards. 

We've now learned that another of our favorite barihunks will be in the Final 50, as well. Italian barihunk Pietro di Bianco, who we introduced to readers back in February, will also be competing to make it into the Final 10, where contestants will perform with a full orchestra in a gala concert in honor of soprano Joan Sutherland. The singers will perform not just for the Grand Jury, but for agents and music professionals from across the globe. 

Yu Di and Sam Roberts-Smith
After the performance, three male and three female singers will be selected as winners, with a prize of €5000 (US $6750) for 1st place, €3000 (US $4050) for 2nd place and €1000 (US $1350) for 3rd place.  Special prizes for Best Artistic Performance and Audience Favorite will earn the winners €1000.

The competition starts with 50 singers and ends with prizes for three male and three female singers. Ten singers will perform in a gala finale on November 19th. Each singer can place two video clips on their profile and the public can vote for their favorite singers. 
Make sure to check out the Paris Awards website and cast your vote. The site is in French, but many pages are translatable to other languages by clicking on the flags on the top right of the page. 

Pietro di Bianco as Leporello in Paris:

Born in 1983, Pietro Di Bianco studied piano at the Conservatoire Giuseppe Martucci of Salerno, where he graduated in 2004. He studied chamber music at the Accademia nazionale de Santa Cecilia and won several national competitions. He was hired as a piano accompanist at the music conservatories in Salerno and Potenza.
He then took up singing at the conservatory in Aquila and graduated in 2009. He worked with the great soprano Renata Scotto at the opera in Santa Cecilia and with the legendary baritone Renato Bruson in Sienna. He was a finalist at the 62nd Concours européen Associazione lirica concertistica Italiana at the Teatro de Como. He is currently honing his skills with the Bulgarian soprano Raina Kabaiwanska. 
He recently received critical acclaim for his performance as Leporello in Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Atelier Lyrique de l’Opéra National de Paris in a cast that featured fellow barihunk Damian Pass as Masetto.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Edwin Crossley-Mercer song recital set for release

Edwin Crossley-Mercer
We posted about Michael Linton's 17-movement song cycle Carmina Catulli late last year featuring barihunk Edwin Crossley-Mercer. The performance was at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall and was taped for future release. That performance will now be available on CD and at Digital Stores on August 19th. You can watch a trailer below.

If you want to catch Crossley-Mercey live, on August 10th, he'll be performing a song recital with accompanist Fernando Pérez at the Sala Verdi in Montevideo, Uruguay. From October 13-21 he reprises his huge success as Pollux in Rameau's Castor et Pollux at the Théâtre des Champs Élysées in Paris. Tickets and additional cast information are available online.

Hear LA Opera's Carmen online

No sooner had we posted about the Santa Fe Opera's Carmen than we received an email from an L.A. Opera loyalist who reminded us that they had Ildebrando D'Arcangelo as Escamillo in their production last Fall. There will be a radio and online broadcast of one of the performances at WRTI radio beginning at 1 PM PST/10 AM EST.

The performances were conducted by Placido Domingo and the cast includes Patricia Bardon as Carmen, Brandon Jovanovich as Don José, and Pretty Yende as Micaëla.

Carmen performance with Barihunk Trio added at Santa Fe Opera

Evan Hughes (left & far right) and Daniela Mack as Carmen (Production photo: Ken Howard)
Due to a heavy demand for tickets, the Santa Fe Opera has added another performance of Bizet’s Carmen to the final week of its current season. The opera features the barihunk trio of Kostas Smoriginas as Escamillo, Evans Hughes as Zuniga and Dan Kempson as Le Dancaire. The sensational mezzo Daniela Mack, who was the runner up at the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, is singing the title role.

A performance has been added on August 18th, making a total of thirteen performances of the popular French opera. The opera’s season will end with a performance of Carmen on August 23rd. Tickets are available online.

All three barihunks have been featured on our site before.

Kostas Smoriginas (photo: Ken Howard)
Lithuanian barihunk Kostas Smoriginas is making his Santa Fe Opera debut with this production and he appears to be an instant favorite with audiences. In 2010, he made his American opera debut as Figaro in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Washington National Opera, a role he later repeated at the San Francisco Opera. He returned to Great Britain to appear as Escamillo in Carmen in Opera North’s new production, having made his debut in the role at Berlin’s Staatsoper.

Evan Hughes is a grand prize winner in the Marilyn Horne Foundation Competition, who is also making his debut with the Santa Fe Opera. A member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, he won praise as Don Alfonso in the 2012 production of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte at Lincoln Center. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2013 as Crebillon in Puccini’s La Rondine .

Dan Kempson from Barihunks calendar (left) and in Santa Fe's Carmen (photo: Ken Howard)
Dan Kempson made his Santa Fe Opera debut during the 2012-13 season as Le notaire in Offenbach's Grande-Duchesse of Gerolstein. We recently featured him in performances of Philip Glass' Hydrogen Jukebox with Skylight Music Theatre and as Lieutenant Gordon in Fort Worth Opera’s production of Kevin Puts’ Silent Night. He will be making his debut with the Opera San Antonio as Badger the Miner in Tobias Picker's The Fantastic Mr. Fox on September 23rd.

Introducing Barihunk Benoit Pitre

Benoit Pitre
Canadian Bass-Barihunk Benoit Pitre is new to our site. He came to our attention when we noticed that he'll be performing Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro beginning next week on July 23th at the Neues Theatre in Halle before moving the production for three performance at Hauptstadtoper in Berlin.

Pitre received his degree in music performance from McGill University, following initial musical studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Benoit Pitre and Kirstin Hasselmann  (Photo: Christina Kämper)
He recently performed the roles of Don Pizzaro and Don Fernando in the Stefan Neugebauer production of Beethoven's Fidelio in Berlin and Lord Cecil in Opera Sacra's production of Donizetti's Maria Stuarda. Previous operatic engagements saw him as the Count Almaviva in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Festivale della Lirica in Vale, Argentina and as Guglielmo in Mozart's Mozart's Così fan tutte at the Volkstheater Weimar. He also traveled as Peter in Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel and Papageno in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte on outreach tours throughout Austria, Germany and northern Italy during his first years in Europe.

Also committed to song recitals and promoting contemporary repertoire, he performed on multiple occasions with luminaries such as accompanist Roger Vignoles. Earlier this month he performed a series of recitals promoting songs of his native Quebec and contemporary New York composers.
Pitre was a recipient of a Tanglewood Music Center and a Junge Musiker Stiftung Bayreuth fellowship.