Friday, May 22, 2015

John Brancy in free recital at Governor's Park

John Brancy and Peter Dugan
John Brancy will rejoin his frequent collaborator Peter Dugan for a recital of music including the works of Gershwin, Dvorak, Bernstein, Chopin and the Beatles. The concert will be at Governors Island at Nolan Park in New York on Sunday, May 31. The concert is free to the public.

This summer, he'll be making his company debut as Dandini in Rossini's Cenerentola with Opera Saratoga at the Spa Little Theater in Spa State Park. Performances run from July 2- 26. Additional information is available online. He'll be joined by fellow barihunk Ryan Kuster as the mysterious philosopher Alidoro. Additional information is available online.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Edwin Crossley-Mercer visiting Arabian Peninsula literally and musically

French-Irish barihunk Edwin Crossley-Mercer is bringing opera to the Arabian Peninsula in a recital at the One & Only Mirage Resort in Dubai. The May 29th show is entitled "It's All About Love" and will feature famous love songs in German, Russian, French and English.

The show will take the audience to Berlin, Moscow, Paris and New York by featuring pop classics from’40s, songs by Franz Schubert and the 19th century song repertory.  Crossley-Mercer, who grew up in the French town of Clermont-Ferrand, is also quite familiar with Berlin, having studied at the
Hanns Eisler Hochschule fur Musik.

Tickets for the show are available online

The singer's next performance also takes him to the Arabian Peninsula, but only musically. He will perform Schumann's Paradise and the Peri at the Festival de Saint Denis, which was inspired by one of the tales of the Arabian Nights. The text mixes enchantments with elements from the Bible, the Koran, and mythology.

On March 4, 2016, he makes his much anticipated US stage debut as Lescaut in Massenet's Manon at the Dallas Opera.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Peter Brathwaite to sing program of music banned by Nazis

Peter Brathwaite
On May 24th, British barihunk Peter Brathwaite will join accompanist Nigel Foster for  "Forbidden Art" at the Alderney Performing Arts Festival. The program centers around Entartete Musik (Degenerate Music), which was music suppressed by the Nazi regime for being to decadent. The concert is being performed in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Hanns Eisler's Serious Songs for baritone and string quartet:

From the Nazi seizure of power onward, these composers found it increasingly difficult, and often impossible, to get work or have their music performed. Many went into exile (e.g., Arnold Schoenberg, Kurt Weill, Paul Hindemith, Berthold Goldschmidt); or retreated into 'internal exile' (e.g., Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Boris Blacher); or ended up in the concentration camps (e.g., Viktor Ullmann, or Erwin Schulhoff).

The program includes songs by Kurt Weill, a selection of Hanns Eisler’s Protest Songs, and works by Friedrich Hollander and Ernst Krenek, including excerpts from his opera Jonny Spielt Auf. This concert forms a moving testimony to the power of music to overcome adversity, and reminds us that the atrocities of war and oppression are not confined to the battlefield. Tickets are available online.

Edwin David Vargas continues his vocal/physical transformation

Bari-Chunk to Bari-Hunk Edwin David Vargas

We introduced Edwin David Vargas to readers last year after he was inspired by barihunk Michael Mayes to get his body in shape, as well as his voice. He's been flourishing at the Brooklyn College CUNY where he's getting his Masters Degree. We also noticed that he's still hitting the gym and looking great, so we decided to share an update of his progress.

He recently performed Germont père in Verdi's La traviata at the university and will now take on the title role in Mozart's Don Giovanni. With his new physique, Leporello may have to add to the list of Don Giovanni's conquests in the Catalog Aria. We'll have additional information about the production soon. 

Vargas has previously sung Ford in Verdi's Falstaff and Don Alvaro in Rossini's Il viaggio a Reims at CUNY. He graduated from the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico, where he sang Don Giovanni at the Opera Workshop, Schaunard in Puccini's La boheme, Count Almaviva in Marriage of Figaro, Dandini Rossini's La Cenerentola and King Melchior in Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors

He has participated in the International Vocal Arts Institute in Chiari, Italy and Puerto Rico. He made his American debut with Nevada Opera in their production of Puccini's Madame Butterfly as Yamadori and Sharpless, returning later to perform in their aforementioned Don Giovanni. In 2012, he sang a concert in Carnegie Hall with Remarkable Theater Brigade.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

André Courville wins Loren L. Zachary Vocal Competition

André Courville (left) and Jared Bybee (right)
Barihunk André Courville won the Loren L. Zachary Vocal Competition for Young Opera Singers in Los Angeles today. Five of the ten finalists were baritones this year, including fellow barihunks Jared Bybee and Michael Adams, who have both been featured on this site. Other finalists included baritone Anthony Clark Evans, soprano Chelsea Chaves, bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee, mezzo Sarah Mesko, soprano Julie Davies, soprano Elizabeth Baldwin and tenor Dominick Chenes, who won the Encouragement Award.

Dominick Chenes, Micahel Adams, André Courville and Jared Bybee
Courville's winning performance included "Vieni la mia vendetta" from Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia and Air du Tambour-Major from Thomas' rarely performed Le Caïd. Adams performed "Come Paride" from Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore and Thomas' "O vin dissipe la tristesse" from Hamlet, while Bybee sang "Per me giunto" and "io morro" from Verdi's Don Carlo.

Courville even managed to pay tribute to the great Ezio Pinza while in Hollywood, whose birthday we're celebrating today in a separate post.

Happy Birthday, Ezio Pinza (May 18, 1892-May 9, 1957)

Ezio Pinza
Ezio Pinza (Fortunato Pinza) was one of the most popular and important basses of the twentieth century. Born in Rome in 1892, he originally wanted to make a career in sports, or perhaps engineering, but after discovering his voice he began studies at Ravenna and Bologna. He made his debut in the town of Spezia as Oroveso in Bellini's Norma in 1914, but his career was soon delayed by service in the Italian Army during World War I.

After the war, he sang at the Teatro Verdi in Florence in 1919 and then the Teatro Costanzi in Rome where he sang leading roles in Verdi's La Forza del Destino, Ponchielli's La Gioconda, Rossini's Il barbière di Siviglia, and Aida. He made his Teatro alla Scala debut in 1921 as Pogner in Wagner's Die Meistersinger. This and other German roles in Tristan und Isolde and Salome were sung in Italian translations. He sang Tagellino in the premiere of Boito's Nerone in 1924. During this time, he also sang in Naples, Turin, and other Italian opera houses.

His Metropolitan Opera debut came in 1926 as Pontifex Maximus in Spontini's La Vestale. He sang there for the next 22 years, and was greatly admired for his interpretations of leading Verdi roles in La Forza del Destino, Simon Boccanegra, Aida, and Rigoletto. Even more important was his participation in the revivals of Mozart's Don Giovanni and Le nozze di Figaro; his importance to the success of these productions cannot be overestimated, with his good looks having as much to do with his fame as his superb vocal abilities. Pinza was equally popular in several French operas including Gounod's Faust, Delibes' Lakme, and Bizet's Carmen. His Russian roles included King Didon in Rimsky-Korsakov's Le Coq d'Or (in French) and Boris Godunov (in Italian). Other important roles at the Metropolian Opera were Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Basilio in Il barbière di Siviglia and the Father in Louise.

Pinza also appeared regularly in Europe at Covent Garden, the Paris Opera, Salzburg Festival, Florence, and Vienna State Opera. He appeared every season at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires from 1925 until 1932. In the United States, he also sang in Chicago and San Francisco. Late in his career, he appeared with his daughter, Claudia Pinza, who had a minor career singing leading soprano roles. After his retirement from the opera stage, he made a successful Broadway debut in South Pacific and later in Fanny. He also appeared in several motion pictures.

His voice was a rich basso cantante and had an easy elegance of phrasing, which is exhibited in nearly all of his recordings. He was at a disadvantage from some of his colleagues because he could not read music, but this meant that he was more willing to follow the concept of the conductor and, indeed, he was a favorite of Arturo Toscanini, Tullio Serafin, and Bruno Walter. He was able to sing the baritone role of Escamillo in Carmen as easily as most baritones. Although he had the lower notes of a bass, they did not have the presence usually associated with the true bass voice, which meant that his Sarastro (The Magic Flute) was not as effective as his Figaro or Don Giovanni. He willingly undertook smaller roles such as Ferrando in Il Trovatore and Colline in La Bohème.

Erik Larson makes role debut at Billy Bigelow

Erik Larson as Billy Bigelow
We first met Erik Larson busting out of his pants two years ago and we instantly fell so in love with the Midwestern barihunk. Now he's singing "So In Love" for the first time ever as Billy Bigelow in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical Carousel. It's is role debut and it played for two nights at the Middleton Players Theatre in Wisconsin. He'll also sing the beautiful Soliloquy, which is one of the most famous baritone arias from a Broadway musical 

Gordon McRae sings Soliloquy from Carousel:

Known as Rodgers and Hammerstein’s favorite of all their collaborations, Carousel tells the beautiful and heartwrenching story of a young woman who falls in love with a roustabout carnival barker. Carousel is based on Ferenc Molnár's Hungarian-language drama, Liliom, which premiered in Budapest in 1909. Except for the ending, the plots of Liliom and Carousel are very similar.

Famous interpreters of Billy Bigelow have included John Raitt, Gordon MacRae, Stephen Douglass, Robert Goulet, Nathan Gunn, Bruce Yarnell, Michael Hayden, Howard Keel and Patrick Wilson.