Sunday, July 31, 2011

Schrott and Netrebko Nixed From Salzburg

Hot Schrott & Anna Netrebko
Erwin Schrott is in the middle of a successful run of Mozart's "Le nozze di Figaro" at the Salzburg Festival. He is playing Figaro opposite the Count of fellow barihunk Simon Keenlyside. The performance was broadcast worldwide yesterday to great acclaim and Schrott remains a fan favorite in the Austrian city.

So it came as a surprise when Schrott and his soprano wife, the equally beautiful Anna Netrebko, gave an interview to the German magazine NEWS and revealed that they are being nixed from future performances after Netrebko's upcoming Boheme.

NEWS: Weshalb kommt in Ihren Plänen für die nächsten Jahre Salzburg nicht vor?
Schrott: Ganz einfach deshalb, weil in ­Pereiras Plänen kein Platz für mich ist. Aber ich habe viele andere Projekte ­anderswo.

NEWS: Aber Sie, Frau Netrebko, singen nächstes Jahr die Mimi in Puccinis „Bohème“. Wie geht es dann weiter?
Netrebko: Danach gibt es auch für mich keine Projekte in Salzburg.

NEWS: Schmerzt das nicht?
Netrebko: Ja, das tut es.
Schrott: Ja, das tut es.
The worst part of the interview is that they both said that the obvious slight hurts. Netrebko and Schrott are not only rock stars in Austria and at Salzburg in particular, but they have become global ambassadors for the art form. If you want to see Schrott in what appears to be his final performances at Salzburg for awhile there are still limited tickets available for August 4, 11 and 13.

Schrott with the Susanna of Marlis Petersen at Salzburg
The couple also revealed that they plan on opening up a restaurant in Vienna in the near future. The couple joked that they didn't know yet if the menu would include Churrasco from Schrott's native Uraguay or Borscht from Netrebko's Russia.

Here is Schrott at Covent Garden performing "se vuol ballare":

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Friday, July 29, 2011

New York Festival of Song's Barihunk-filled New Season

Steven Blier's always entertaining and interesting New York Festival of Song has announced its 2011-12 five-program series at Merkin Concert Hall. As always, the Festival of Song will be programmed with some of the best young talent in opera and once again there will be plenty of barihunks to enjoy.

Andrew Garland
The season opens on Oct. 25 and 27 with In the Memory Palace: Games of Love featuring barihunk Andrew Garland, who will be joined by Michelle Areyzaga, Rebecca Jo Loeb and Paul Appleby. The program centers around the premiere of Gabriel Kahane’s song cycle, The Memory Palace, which evokes scenes of East Coast solitude with his haunting music and mordant lyrics.

Jesse Blumberg & Timothy McDevitt

On Novemeber 17th, the festival will reprise Manning the Canon: Songs of Gay Life with barihunks Jesse Blumberg and Timothy McDevitt, joined by Scott Murphee and Matt Boehler.  The program is a "touching celebration of the lives and art of gay men in works that reflect the heritage of gay composers in art song, as well as contemporary songs about the gay experience."

Joahua Jeremiah & John Brancy
On November 29 and December 1 the Festival will feature barihunks John Brancy and Joshua Jeremiah joined by Lauren Worsham, Mary Testa, Josh Breitzer for  A Goyishe Christmas to You! Yuletide Classics by Jewish Songwriters.

Jesse Blumberg

On February 14 and 16th, Jesse Blumberg returns for A Modern Person's Guide to Hooking Up and Breaking Up along with Anne-Carolyn Bird, Liza Forrester, Alex Mansoori and Jesse Blumberg.  The show is described as a “quirky survey of the awkwardness, pain, lust and perversity of contemporary relationships."

The season concludes on March 11th with New York to Paris, Paris to Paradise featuring members of Caramoor’s 2012 Vocal Rising Stars program.

You can click HERE for tickets and additional program information.

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Celebrating Sigmund Romberg's Birthday with Nelson Eddy

Nelson Eddy

Nelson Eddy sings "Stouthearted Men":

Sigmund Romberg was born on July 29,1887 in Nagykanizsa, Hungary. He showed musical ability at an early age, but his parents wanted him to go into something more sensible. They sent him to Vienna to study engineering, but he immersed himself in the world of Viennese music.

In 1909, he moved to the United States and settled in New York. His first job was in a pencil factory for seven dollars a week. He soon found work as a pianist in cafes, and formed his own European salon and light music orchestra in 1912.

Sigmund Romberg

By 1917, Romberg had composed 275 numbers for seventeen musicals and revues. His first great success came in 1917 with “Maytime.” In 1924, he wrote one of his greatest hits, “The Student Prince,” which included the immortal pieces "The Drinking Song" and "Serenade."

In 1926, Romberg teamed up with Oscar Hammerstein II and Otto Harbach for “The Desert Song,” and with Hammerstein for "New Moon" in 1928, which featured the standard "Lover Come Back to Me." Throughout the 1930s, he wrote the scores for several movies, including two with Hammerstein..

Romberg died in New York on November 9, 1951. At the time of his death, he was working with lyricist Leo Robin on a musical “The Girl in Pink Tights,” which was produced posthumously on Broadway in 1954. Also in 1954, Jose Ferrer portrayed Romberg in the movie “Deep in My Heart.”

Nelson Eddy sings "One Alone" from Desert Song:

Nelson Eddy & Jeanette McDonald sing "Wanting You" from New Moon:

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Nmon Ford's Spicy Hungarian Escamillo

Nmon Ford rehearsing Escamillo in Szeged

Barihunk Nmon Ford will be at the Szegedi Szabadtéri (Open Air Festival of Szeged) in Hungary for the next two days performing Escamillo in Carmen. Szeged sits on the Tisza River and is Hugary's third largest city. It is believed that Attila the Hun's seat of power was somewhere in the area. Regular readers of the site will remember that we dubbed Nmon Ford the hottest Attila the Hun ever when he performed the role in Macerata last year.

Nmon Ford as Attila in Macerata
Szeged is also the home of the spice paprika, which seems appropriate as this production is pretty spicy. Updated to contemporary times by director Gábor Kerényi Miklós, Escamillo is seen in a classic white muscle tee shirt, acid-wash jeans and brandishing a bottle of booze. Ford describes the Escamillo in this production as "strongly sexual" and a "media whore." The production includes cameras on the stage and large video projections of the singers allowing people in the furthest reaches of the theater enjoy Nmon Ford's ripped physique.

Here are two videos of Ford discusing the production and the interpretation of his role:

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Ticket information can be found HERE.

Konstantin Shushakov Garners 2nd Prize at Operalia; Gabriel Preisser Advances

Konstantin Shushakov
The baritone winning streak that we've been covering in international singing competitions suffered a minor setback at this year's Operalia competition. Russian baritone Konstantin Shushakov came in second place after being nudged out by American tenor René Barbera and South African soprano Pretty Yende.

"I was one of the two baritones who were allowed into the finals," Shushakov told Voice of Russia. "I was surprised to see how many tenors reached the finals. That was a real battle of tenors, you know. But all competitions after all are aimed to help singers get access to the world`s best opera stages. Very often those who received second or third prizes become even more successful than top-prize winners."

Barihunk Erwin Schrott is a past winner of the competition.

The annual competition, which was founded in 1993 by tenor Placido Domingo, was held last Sunday. The competition is held in a different city each year. During Sunday's ceremony, Domingo received the Russian Order of Friendship for his work in cultural exchange.

Here are some selections of Shushakov from other performances.

Meanwhile, across the globe at the Utah Festival Opera, Gabriel Preisser was redeeming baritones as he won the final round of the Lirico Concorso Competition and will now advance to the interantional finale in Italy. The Barihunks Team wishes him well.

Gabriel Preisser

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Teddy Tahu Rhodes Talks About "The Ship Song Project"

The Ship Song Project - Teddy Tahu Rhodes

We thought it made sense to follow up the oft-shirtless Daniel Okulitch with the oft-shirtless Teddy Tahu Rhodes. The New Zealand bass was recently part of "The Ship Song Project," which reinterpreted Nick Cave's iconic song. The project included a number of well-known artists from different musical worlds, including Neil Finn, Kev Carmody The Australian Ballet, Sarah Blasko, Martha Wainwright, Katie Noonan, the Sydney Symphony, Temper Trap, Daniel Johns, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, John Bell, Angus and Julia Stone, Paul Kelly and the Bangarra Dance Theatre.

Here is a video of Teddy Tahu Rhodes discussing the project followed by the video.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Menotti's "The Last Savage" at Santa Fe Opera

Daniel Okulitch as the Last Savage
Daniel Okulitch seems to be shirtless more than Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Nathan Gunn combined. It appears that the bass-baritone has recovered from the serious car accident that he was involved in earlier this year. We're thrilled that he's back on stage. He is part of the revival of Gian Carlo Menotti's virtually forgotten comic masterpiece "The Last Savage."

Here is the review from the Santa Fe New Mexican:

From the moment Santa Fe Opera announced its 2011 lineup more than a year ago, one wondered if The Last Savage, a featherweight comic opera by Gian Carlo Menotti, just might be the sleeper hit of the season — and, by golly, it turned out to be precisely that. [Read the entire review HERE].

Tickets are still available at the Santa Fe Opera box office. You can also find video and audio clips at the site.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Chris Herbert Mini-Concert (with Thomas Bagwell, piano)

Chris Herbert

"Reine des mouettes" by Poulenc 

"Reine des mouettes" by Poulenc by ChristopherDHerbert

"Epipalinodie" by Jacques Leguerney 

  "Epipalinodie" by Jacques Leguerney by ChristopherDHerbert

"Le jardin mouillé" by Albert Roussel

  "Le jardin mouillé" by Albert Rouseel by ChristopherDHerbert 

"Le départ" by Albert Roussel 

  "Le départ" by Albert Roussel by ChristopherDHerbert 

Ständchen by Erich Korngold 

  Ständchen by Erich Korngold by ChristopherDHerbert 

Korngold's "Gefasster Abscheid"

  Gefasster Abschied by ChristopherDHerbert 

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Merola Concerts Tonight and Sunday (and Birthday Greetings to Jordan Shanahan)

Phillipe Sly & Mark Diamond

If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area don't miss tonight's Schwabacher Summer Concert featuring the latest class of participants. The concert will feature works by great  Italian composers, as well as a little Tchaikovsky. The concert will feature scenes from "Don Carlo," "I Capuleti e i Montecchi " "Lucia di Lammermoor," "Rigoletto" and "Eugene Onegin." The scenes concert will be directed by renowned stage director Peter Kazaras, who currently serves as Seattle Opera's Artistic Advisor and Principal Artistic Instructor of the Young Artist Development Program, and was recently appointed Director of Opera and Music Theater at UCLA.

Two Merola participants are of particular interest to us this year, as they have already created a buzz in the opera world for their amazing singing talent and barihunk good looks: Phillipe Sly and Mark Diamond. Both singers have also won major vocal competitions, with Diamond taking first place at the Eleanor McCollum Competition at the Houston Grand Opera and Sly winning the Metropolitan Opera's National Council Auditions Competition.

Mark Diamond
Diamond has already been scooped up by the Houston Grand Opera and he'll be joining their esteemed young artist program after Merola. Houston has engaged him to perform Fiorello in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Marchese d’Obigny in La Traviata. He will be studying the roles of Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Tarquinius in The Rape of Lucretia, and Rodrigue in Don Carlos. You can hear his sound clips HERE.

Phillipe Sly in performance
We've featured Phillip Sly prominently on this site since he first came to our attention. You can hear his sound clips HERE. A little trivia about Sly: he originally started out as a countertenor (like fellow barihunk Zachary Gordin). Here is Sly singing Schubert's Der Erlkönig, which we've previously posted, but we can't get enough of.

Both singers will appear in the Merola performances of Rossini's "Barber of Seville" this year. Diamond as Figaro and Sly as Bartolo. Performance are on August 4, 5, 6 and 7 and tickets can be purchased HERE. For those who can't make tonight's concert, there will be a FREE version of the concert at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Park on Sunday, July 24th at 2 PM.

Birthday boy: Jordan Shanahan
We'd also like to wish Jordan Shanahan a HAPPY BIRTHDAY today. Shanahan and his wife soprano Luna recently won the Barihunks "Favorite Opera Couple" poll. We've been trying to find a video of the popular couple singing together and we promise to post one when it becomes available.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Celebrating Hermann Uhde's Birthday

Hermann Uhde

Two great baritones in history have a lot in common, although one is sadly less known. The life and career of Hermann Uhde has much in common with the great baritone Leonard Warren. The two men were born just three years apart and both died tragically young during performances of opera just five years apart. Both men also had huge successes singing Verdi and Wagner.

Warren's death in 1960 is well-known in opera lore, having died shortly after singing the  line "Urna fatale del mio destino." In 1965, Uhde died onstage of a heart attack during a performance of Niels Viggo Bentzon’s Faust III in Copenhagen.

Born in Bremen to a German father and an American mother, Hermann Uhde's training and career was primarily in Germany. He made his debut as a baritone at the “Deutsches Theater im Haag” in 1942. In 1945 he was taken as a  prisoner-of-war and did not return to the stage until 1947. He subsequently appeared at the opera houses of Hamburg, Vienna and Munich where he became a member of the ensemble.

He gained great success in roles such as Mandryka, Gunther and Telramund, in which he was particularly admired. The artist was regularly invited to the Bayreuth Festival from 1951 to 1960 where he became one of its most important members, appearing as Holländer, Klingsor, Gunther, Donner, Wotan in Rheingold, Telramund and Melot.  He was also a guest at the Salzburg Festival and performed a superb Wozzeck  at the Met in English opposite Eleanor Steber.

He created several roles, including Creon in Orff’s Antigonae, the baritone roles in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia and Wagner-Régeny’s Das Bergwerk zu Falun.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Great Hector Berlioz

René Pape, Robert Massard and Ettore Bastianini
We've received a few emails about composers who were left off of our Greatest French composers list. Some that we missed were defensible (Lalo and Meyerbeer), but probably not Hector Berlioz, who was one of the titans of French music and historically significant in a number of ways. It only seems fair to highlight some of his music, although much of the great vocal music, outside of "The Damnation of Faust," is for voices other than baritone and bass.  We did find a few selections that we thought you'd enjoy.

Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts (Requiem). Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works; as a conductor, he performed several concerts with more than 1,000 musicians.[2] He also composed around 50 songs. His influence was critical for the further development of Romanticism, especially in composers like Richard Wagner, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Franz Liszt, Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler and many others.

His operas include Benvenuto Cellini, Les Troyens, Béatrice et Bénédict and The Damnation of Faust.

Robert Massard sings "Ah, qui pourrait me resister?" from Berlioz's "Benvenuto Cellini":

Ettore Bastianini singing the Italian version of "The Damnation of Faust" from 1964:

René Pape sings "Voici des roses" from "The Damnation of Faust"

Monday, July 18, 2011

NY Times: Cornell MacNeil, Verdi Baritone at the Met, Dies at 88

Cornell MacNeil (AP)
Cornell MacNeil, one of the great postwar American baritones, best known for his roles in Verdi operas, died on Friday in Charlottesville, Va. He was 88.

His death was announced by his wife, Tania. Mr. MacNeil had been living in an assisted-living facility in Charlottesville.

A pure baritone with power from low to high notes, he was considered the equal of Leonard Warren and Robert Merrill, the other stellar American Verdi baritones during the second half of the 20th century.

From 1959 to 1987, he sang 26 roles in more than 600 appearances at the Metropolitan Opera alone. But he reached his peak in his Verdi performances.

“The larger and more complex the part, the better he was,” James Levine, the Met’s longtime conductor, said of Mr. MacNeil’s Verdi roles in a 2007 interview with Opera News. “Boccanegra, Rigoletto, Macbeth, Nabucco, Falstaff, Iago — a lot of these parts could be said to be the most challenging and varied.” Referring to characters in “Aida” and “Tosca,” Mr. Levine continued, “He sang lots of Amonasros and Scarpias marvelously well, but those more complex ones were where he was at his best.”

Though not known as a temperamental artist, Mr. MacNeil was remembered for a spectacular public outburst when he stormed off the Parma Opera stage in Italy on Dec. 26, 1964. It happened during “Un Ballo in Maschera,” when the Parma audience, notorious for rude displays of disapproval, hissed at the soprano Luisa Maragliano just as Mr. MacNeil was about to sing the aria “Eri tu.”

“I was getting more and more angry as the rumbling and noise got worse,” he told The New York Times the following day. “I couldn’t stand it any longer. ‘Basta, cretini!’ I shouted and walked off the stage.” (His words meant “That’s enough, you idiots!”)

The situation grew worse in his dressing room, where the stage director warned him to return to the performance because he had his family’s safety to consider. Refusing to go back onstage, Mr. MacNeil sent his wife and children to their hotel. But when he made his way to the back entrance, he was assaulted by theater employees. “During the scuffle, I got socked on the jaw,” Mr. MacNeil said, displaying a bruised chin during his Times interview. The following day the MacNeils fled Parma.
Cornell MacNeil was born on Sept. 24, 1922, in Minneapolis, where his father was a dentist and his mother a singer who had studied with the celebrated contralto Ernestine Schumann-Heink. Though interested in an operatic career from an early age, Mr. MacNeil suffered from asthma until he was 20. It was severe enough to get him rejected by the military draft during World War II. He took a wartime job as a lathe operator, and then, on his mother’s advice, studied with the retired baritone Friedrich Schorr at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford.

Before the war ended, Mr. MacNeil joined the Radio City Music Hall Glee Club and also did backstage announcements. It was his sonorous baritone that announced the news to Radio City audiences of both the German and Japanese surrenders.


Mr. MacNeil made his opera debut when, after a brief vocal audition, the composer and director Gian Carlo Menotti immediately decided to cast him as the male lead in “The Consul,” which opened on March 1, 1950, at the Shubert Theater in Philadelphia. “The Consul,” the first full-length opera composed by Menotti, won the Pulitzer Prize in music that year. Still a raw talent, Mr. MacNeil took voice lessons over the next two years while working nights at the Bulova Watch factory in Queens.
In 1953 Mr. MacNeil made his New York City Opera debut, as Germont in “La Traviata.” Though acclaimed for his sumptuous singing in that performance, he also committed a memorable faux pas that began the occasional carping by critics about his acting abilities.

In a 2007 interview with Rudolph Rauch for Opera News, Mr. MacNeil recalled making hand gestures in the aria “Di Provenza” that didn’t agree with the music, and he acknowledged he had been unaware of the meaning of the words he was singing. “It seemed like the hand was out there for about half an hour, and it began to shake,” he said. “I finally got it back in, and I decided then I was not going to sing any more Italian operas until I really knew the language.”

His Italian improved, though his acting continued to draw sporadic barbs from critics. Commenting on his performance as the villain Scarpia, the villain in a 1985 performance of Puccini’s “Tosca” at the Metropolitan Opera, Donal Henahan of The Times wrote, “Cornell MacNeil, the Scarpia, sang mellifluously, but his wooden acting could fool nobody into believing him a sadistic tyrant.”
In 1959 Mr. MacNeil moved to Rome with his first wife, Margaret Gavan, and their five children. That March 5 he made his debut at La Scala in Milan as Carlo in Verdi’s “Ernani.” “His rich, flexible baritone soared and swelled with enormous power,” Time magazine wrote. He impressed La Scala’s manager, Antonio Ghiringhelli, enough that he offered him a contract.

But Mr. MacNeil signed instead with the Met after making his debut there on March 21, 1959 — barely two weeks after his La Scala debut — as the lead in Verdi’s “Rigoletto.” He would go on to sing that role at the Met more than 100 times.

Mr. MacNeil scored numerous successes in other roles as well. Commenting on his first Met appearance as Renato in Verdi’s “Ballo in Maschera” on March 7, 1962, Alan Rich wrote in The Times, “This superb American baritone may very possibly have had his finest hour.”

He sang Scarpia more than 90 times at the Metropolitan following his debut in the role on Nov. 2, 1959. His final performance at the Met was in that role, on Dec. 5, 1987. He retired from the opera a year later after medical tests showed he had a possible blockage of the carotid artery.

Mr. MacNeil occasionally sang in Wagnerian operas, including the roles of the Dutchman in “Der Fliegende Holländer” and the Herald in “Lohengrin.” But the consensus was that his talents were best on display in Italian operas.

His marriage to Ms. Gavan ended in divorce. He is survived by his second wife, the former Tania Rudensky, and five children from his first marriage: Walter, of New York; Mary Ellen MacNeil of Greenwood, Va.; Dennis, of Sag Harbor, N.Y.; Susan Keuter of Florence, Ore.; and Katherine Mary Dariani of Eau Gallie, Fla.; as well as two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A few years before leaving the stage, Mr. MacNeil gave a straightforward assessment of the opera world to his friend and Met colleague Jerome Hines, the well-known bass, who interviewed him for a 1982 book “Great Singers on Great Singing.”

“Opera is an excessive art form populated by excessive people,” Mr. MacNeil said. “We make it more excessive than necessary. Singing is really a very simple thing.”

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Two Great Singers as Pelleas: Jacques Jansen & Francois Le Roux

Jacques Jansen

Bastille Day got us thinking about French music and it prompted some great emails. One suggested that we explore Pelléas, which has had some great barihunk exponents. The reader’s email was prompted by his memories of seeing Fracois Le Roux in the role and thinking that he had to be the greatest Pelleas ever. When he told his voice teacher, the elderly man said, “I would agree,  except that there was Jacques Toupin and the role sounded like it was written for him.”

Of the people involved with this site, only one of us had ever heard of him, but after hearing him sing, we can understand the voice teacher’s point.

Jacques Jansen was born in Paris in 1913 and died there in 2002. He became associated with the role of Pelléas like no other singer in history, as his light, high-baritone was perfectly suited for the role. He spent thirty years performing the role around the world and critics marveled at his crystal clear enunciation of the text.

He also made quite a mark in operetta, singing Eisenstein in “Die Fledermaus,” Duparquet in Reynaldo Hahn's “Ciboulette,” and Count Danilo in Léhar's “The Merry Widow,” which he performed nearly 1,500 times. His original dream was to be an actor, and during World War II, he was featured in a number of movies, including  Sacha Guitry's “La Malibran.” He  dubbed the singing voice of Alain Cuny in Marcel Carné's “Les Visiteurs du soir” and Jean Marais in “Le Lit à colonnes.”

In 1942, he recorded what many consider to be the classic version of Pelléas, sung opposite the Mélisande of Irène Joachim and conducted by Roger Desormière.  After World War II, he performed outside of France, including roles in Vienna, Dublin, Amsterdam, London’s Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and Milan’s La Scala. After his retirement, Jansen taught voice until his retirement in 1982.

Francois Le Roux as Pelléas in Lyon
Francois Le Roux, who we’ve been featuring in our survey of French music, has been dubbed as the greatest Pelléas of this generation. He has performed the role over a 100 times since his debut in 1985 and recorded the role under the baton of Claudio Abbado. In recent years, he switched to the role of Golaud. We couldn’t find a clip of Le Roux singing Pelléas, so here he is as Golaud under the baton of Georges Prêtre.

Le Roux is considered both one of the leading exponents of French music, as well as one of the foremost experts. In the same way the Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has been an advocate for German music and Thomas Hampson for American music, Le Roux has been in the forefront of promoting French music. He is the author of the book “Le Chant Intime,” which is the seminal work on interpreting French song. He is artistic Director of the "Académie Francis Poulenc in Tours", where young singers learn about the interpretation of French Song. He also organized the "French Song Concert Season of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France" in Paris between 1997 and 2002.

His recording of French music are a must for any serious lover of the artform. He has recorded the complete songs of Faure and Duparc, as well as selections by Saint-Saëns, Séverac and Durey. Many consider him to be the successor the the great Gerard Souzay.

A reader asked if it's true that Francois Le Roux was the first male opera singer to appear completely nude onstage. We believe that to be true. He stripped off his clothes in Birtwistle's "Gawain" and had buckets of blood poured over his body. There is a pirate DVD of the opera if anyone is interested.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

More French Music: Your Bottom Three

The magnificent French baritone Gérard Souzay

Yesterday we featured music by Francis Poulenc who is leading our poll of your favorite French composers. Today we thought we'd feature the three composers at the bottom of the poll. Apparently, early music isn't particularly popular with readers as both Lully and Charpentier at the bottom along with the 19th century composer Ernest Chausson.  We hope that these clips will introduce some new music to readers. As we so often do when we feature French music, the first two clips are from our beloved French barihunk Gérard Souzay. If you've never heard Souzay sing Lully's "Je ne puis en votre malheur," you're in for quite a treat.

Gérard Souzay sings Ernest Chausson's "Le Colibri":

Le Colibri (The Hummingbird)
The hummingbird, the green prince of the heights,
feeling the dew and seeing the sun's clear light
shining into his nest of woven grass,
shoots up in the air like a gleaming dart.

Hurriedly he flies to the nearby marsh
where the waves of bamboo rustle and bend,
and the red hibiscus with the heavenly scent
opens to show its moist and glistening heart.

Down to the flower he flies, alights from above,
and from the rosy cup drinks so much love
that he dies, not knowing if he could drink it dry.

Even so, my darling, on your pure lips
my soul and senses would have wished to die
on contact with that first full-fragrant kiss.

Gérard Souzay sings Jean Baptiste Lully's beautiful "Je ne puis en votre malheur" from "Persée":

Here is an excerpt from Marc-Antoine Charpentier's "Magnificat" with countertenor Dominique Visse, tenor Michel Laplénie and bass Philippe Cantor:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Francois Le Roux sings Poulenc

Francois LeRoux
The early results of our latest poll show that Francis Poulenc is the favorite French composer of Barihunks readers. Francois LeRoux, who we featured in yesterday's Bastille Day post, has dedicated himself to preserving French song. In August, his Académie Francis Poulenc will a ten day exploration of French song focusing on Poulenc, Charles Bordes, Emmanuel Chabrier and Henri Dutilleux.

Francois Le Roux
Here is Le Roux performing Poulenc's 1948 song-cycle Calligramme based on seven poems by Guillaume Apollinaire.

UPDATE: A reader asked if it's true that Francois Le Roux was the first male opera singer to appear completely nude onstage. We believe that to be true. He stripped off his clothes in Birtwistle's "Gawain" and had buckets of blood poured over his body. There is a pirate DVD of the opera if anyone is interested.

Celebrating Bastille Day. Vive la France!!!

Celebrating Bastille Day
We couldn't find a good baritone version of Le Marsellaise, so we'll break all of the rules and celebrate Bastille Day with a tenor. Here is the always entertaining Roberto Alagna singing the spirited anthem of France. 

What better way to celebrate than with some French barihunks singing French music. Let's start with Gerard Souzay singing Ravel's "Don Quichotte" and Gabriel Fauré's Après un rêve:

François Le Roux
Here is François Le Roux singing Henri Duparc's "Chanson triste"  and Charles Gounod 's "Le Soir":

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Award-winning composer Glen Roven

One of our favorite composers in the world today is Glen Roven and we'd like to wish him a rousing HAPPY BIRTHDAY ! ! !

Glen Roven is an Emmy Award-winning composer, lyricist, and conductor. One of his notable compositions include a violin concerto based on the children’s book The Runaway Bunny. Another notable composition is “Goodnight Moon, An Aria for Singer and Orchestra” which Lauren Flanigan performed in Central Park May 9, 2010 for an audience of 10,000. It was subsequently performed at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall and the Kimmel Center. He is the Artist Director of “GPR Records” where he conceived and produced “Poetic License 100 Poems/100 Performers” where artists such as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Patti LuPone, Jason Alexander, Cynthia Nixon, etc. perform their favorite poem. The CD has become the best selling Poetry CD of all time. “Pandora’s Box”, for which he wrote music and lyrics, will be performed at the NYMF Festival October 8 starring Kerry Butler and Deidre Goodwin.

Here is Randal Turner singing two Glen Roven songs from the set "Four Melancholy Songs, Opus 16, No. 1" based on poetry by William Butler Yeats. The perforfance is from Turner's live concert in San Francisco last year. 

"The Lake Isle of Innisfree"

"When you are old"

Also, we'd like to wish a Happy Birthday to another barihunk, Jesse Blumberg, who can scroll down and listen to.

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Nathan Gunn Interview on Eve of Debut

Nathan Gunn (Enquirer, Joseph Fuqua II)

Tomorrow is opening night for Nathan Gunn's first "Eugene Onegin," which we've been talking about for a year. The Cincinnati Enquirer recently ran this interview with the "original barihunk.":

It's hard to ignore opera baritone Nathan Gunn's movie star looks, ideal for the Metropolitan Opera's "Live in HD" series, in which he has appeared in movie theaters around the world.

One of opera's most dashing leading men, the South Bend, Ind., native has attracted fans not only for his rich, warm baritone - winning acclaim for roles such as Billy Budd at the Metropolitan Opera - but also for a few of his shirtless costumes. [Continue reading HERE].

Nathan Gunn
Tickets range from $26-$165 and can be purchased by calling 513-241-2742 or visiting Here is a preview of the opera by General Director Evans Mirageas.

You can also listen to Anne Arenstein's intelligent interview with Gunn by clicking HERE

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Jesse Blumberg video from Boston Early Music Festival

Jesse Blumberg as Polifierno
Video has finally surfaced of Jesse Blumberg's performance as Polifierno in Agostino Steffani’s opera, Niobe, Regina di Tebe. The opera recounts a story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses about the Queen of Thebes whose pride earns her family the vengeance of the gods. Here he is with the wonderful countertenor Matthew White singing the role of Creonte.

Blumberg's next performance will be on July 16th at the Midsummer Fundraising Event for the Five Boroughs Music Festival, which the New York-based singer founded. For more information visit the festival website. Or click HERE to purchase tickets.

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Barihunk Switch at Glimmerglass

Michael Todd Simpson as Escamillo

Michael Todd Simpson has been asked to step in for fellow barihunk Keith Miller as Escamillo in the current run of Bizet's "Carmen" at Glimmerglass. Simpson recently sang the role at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, China. 

Simpson takes over on July 15 for Miller who decided to withdraw from the production. Performances run through August 23 in the Alice Busch Opera Theater in Cooperstown, New York. Visit for tickets and information. 

We recently blogged about another barihunk in the production, the Morales of barihunk Wes Mason.

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