Friday, March 27, 2009

Barihunks in a Fishing Village: Phares and Okulitch

[Top photos of Daniel Okulitch; Keith Phares photos by Dario Acosta]

Although Benjamin Britten operas provide this site with a plethora of barihunks, it usually doesn't come from the magnificent opera Peter Grimes. Usually, it's The Rape of Lucretia, Midsummer Night's Dream or Billy Budd that provide us with the most scintillating pictures.

One of our readers sent us a picture of Keith Phares with a note that he found him the hottest singer in the production, despite Daniel Okulitch's portrayal of Swallow [stop giggling]. Our view is that they're both hot singers, even dressed up as fishing town villagers.

Opera News profiled Keith Phares and wrote:

Keith Phares...started making music as a trumpet player in the pit orchestra of his New Jersey high school's annual musical. After the baritone and his family moved to North Carolina, Phares kept up his trumpet playing, but his senior year brought his first taste of center-stage stardom. "The school had no orchestra. They said, 'We need guys. Can you audition?' And believe it or not, I got cast as Emile de Becque in South Pacific."

Phares entered the University of Richmond as a psychology major, but a summer-stock gig in The Secret Garden set him on the path to serious vocal study and stints at New England Conservatory and Juilliard Opera Center. He made his Opera Theatre of Saint Louis debut in 1999, as the Second Noble in Paul Schoenfield's The Merchant and the Pauper, and was soon tapped by the company for two high-profile assignments that showed off his warm, supple baritone and wry, uncommonly expressive command of text — Pip in Dominick Argento's revised Miss Havisham's Fire (2001) and Charles Lindbergh in the world premiere of Loss of Eden (2002).

It was in Saint Louis that Phares's eye was caught by mezzo Patricia Risley, who sang Estella to his Pip in Miss Havisham. "When we met, I figured that she was so far out of my league, professionally and personally, that I didn't have a prayer. That changed." They were married in 2004, and they try to sing together when their schedules allow. "It's great working with her — we don't dicker about dumb things."

Phares's leading-man looks belie his affinity for off-beat, modern roles such as Charlie in the 2008 world premiere of Jake Heggie's Last Acts (Three Decembers) at Houston Grand Opera (an assignment he repeats next season at San Francisco Opera); the Pilot in The Little Prince at New York City Opera and Boston Lyric Opera (2005); Chou En-Lai in Portland Opera's 2006 Nixon in China ("I feel comfortable being the wingman"); and the barnstorming preacher in the world premiere of Robert Aldridge's Elmer Gantry at Nashville Opera (2007). "That was a great big punishing sing — it was wild. I don't think of myself as a real alpha-male type, but as Elmer, I had a blast.

You can search this site for information on Daniel Okulitch, who has been a regular feature and a fan favorite.

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1 comment:

  1. Phares is just plain gorgeous--tall, dark and handsome. If he hasn't done Onegin, he should be a natural for it.