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Promo for When Adonis Calls
It's not often that we can feature an opera that has an all-barihunk cast, but that seems to the case with When Adonis Calls. Written by composer Clint Borzoni and librettist John de los Santos, the opera chronicles the tumultuous correspondence between an established writer and an eager young admirer. The piece is scored for two baritones, string quartet, percussionist, and two dancers.

The opera was recently selected for Fort Worth Opera's third annual Frontiers workshop, which features eight works in development by emerging composers and librettists. Borzoni is no stranger to writing for low voices. In 2010, he was commissioned to write a song cycle for bass-baritone Tim Hill and several songs for bass-barihunk Randal Turner. Turner’s songs appear on his CD, “Living American Composers” and were performed at the 9/11 tribute at the U.S. embassy in Sweden. He also recently completed a two act opera titled “Antinous and Hadrian,” which features a baritone lead.

John de los Santos, the librettist, is actually one of opera's hottest and most talented young directors and choreographers. In 2011, we named him the "Best Director" in our "Best of the Year" feature for his brilliant work on Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado. He subsequently has been featured on the site for his work directing Piazzolla's tango opera Maria de Buenos Aires in Lexington with barihunk Luis Alejandro Orozco and Ricky Ian Gordon's Green Sneakers in both San Francisco and San Antonio with barihunk Jesse Blumberg, and Bizet's Pearl Fishers in Fort Worth with barihunk Lee Poulis.
John de los Santos (left) and Jesse Blumberg in Green Sneakers (right)
De los Santos constructed his innovative libretto from the poems of Gavin Geoffrey Dillard, who has written texts for Peter Allen, Chanticleer, Sam Harris, Jake Heggie, Glen Roven, Ralph Edwards and Disney Studios. His classical art songs ("Of Gods and Cats") were featured at Lincoln Center by mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore. His infamous Hollywood tell-all book, IN THE FLESH: Undressing for Success, chronicles his life as a gay porn star, high-paid male escort, his exciting long-term-relationship, and eventually his search for self through poetry and Asian religion.

When Adonis Calls will be featured at Frontiers during the Fort Worth Opera Festival on May 7 & 8, 2015. Post-performance discussions and open rehearsals will be part of the showcase. Frontiers began during the 2012- 2013 season as an opportunity for composers and librettists to showcase up to twenty minutes of their new works in front of artistic directors of opera companies, artist managers, classical music publishers, funding organizations, and conductors.

The singers have not been selected for the work, but we'll be sure that our readers are the first to know. We'll also be in attendance for the workshop in Fort Worth. as well as their performances of Verdi's La traviata, David T. Little's Dog Days and Thomas' Hamlet, featuring barihunk Wes Mason in his first performance of the title role. Visit their website for tickets and additional information.


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Christian Tschelebiew and Mark Omvlee
Charles Wuorinen's operatic adaptation of Brokeback Mountain, based on the 1997 Annie Proulx's story of a cowboy love affair that became an Oscar-winning film is set for a revival on December 7th at Theater Aachen in Germany. German bass-barihunk Christian Tschelebiew will play the role of Ennis Del Mar, which was portrayed by Heath Ledger in the 2005 movie adaptation and Dutch tenor Mark Omvlee will will play the Jake Gyllenhaal role of Jack Twist. In the smaller role of Bill Jones is Stefan Hagendorn, who we've featured on this site twice before.

Brokeback Mountain was originally commissioned for a 2013 premiere by Gerard Mortier while he was at the embattled New York City Opera. When he became the head of the Teatro Real, Mortier decided to revive the work and present it there in 2014. Annie Proulx wrote the libretto.

Christian Tschelebiew and Mark Omvlee
Christian Tschelebiew trained at Staatliche Hochschule fur Musik Stuttgart. He has been a resident artist in Mainz, Augsburg, Erfurt und Gießen and at the Komishce Oper Berlin. He has also been a regular at the Bayreuth Festival where he has performed in Parsifal and Lohengrin.

In the world premiere, Ennis Del Mar was performed by Daniel Okulitch and Jack Twist by Tom Randle.

Performances in Aachen will run through January 22 and tickets and additional cast information are available online.


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Kelly Markgraf
The 15-time GRAMMY Award–winning San Francisco Symphony has been nominated for yet another award for their recording of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas. The recording features barihunk Kelly Markgraf as Bernardo, Cheyenne Jackson as Tony and Alexandra Silber as Maria and was nominated for Best Musical Theater Album.

This is the first-ever complete concert performance of the entire score from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.

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Dan Kempson and Naxos' L'Orestie d'Eschyle

Darius Milhaud's trilogy L'Orestie d'Eschyle on the Naxos label has been nominated for Best Opera Recording by the GRAMMY Awards. The recording features two singing who have appeared regularly on this site, Dan Kempson in the critical role of Orestes and Sidney Outlaw sang Apollo. The recording features the University of Michigan Choirs and Symphony Orchestra and required 350 musicians.

Part of the great French musical tradition and a member of Les Six, Darius Milhaud was an important avant-garde figure in early 20th-century Paris. The Oresteia of Aeschylus trilogy arose from his lifelong interest in Greek mythology and drama, inspired by the expressive, syncopated rhythms of Paul Claudel’s poetic texts. The trilogy consists of Agamemnon, Op. 14, Les choephores, Op. 24 and Les eumenides, Op. 41.

Sidney Outlaw
In addition to innovative rhythmic elements, the trilogy exhibits complex harmonic techniques, particularly polytonality, which Milhaud believed gave him more varied ways of expressing sweetness in addition to violence.

The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards telecast will be held on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015.

Dan Kempson will be singing the role of Stanley in Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire for Townsend Opera on February 15 and with Fresno Grand Opera on February 15.  Sidney Outlaw will perform Handel's Messiah with the Oratorio Society of New York City at Carnegie Hall on Saturday, December 20th.


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Malte Roesner (left) as Nick Shadow and Arthur Chen (right) as Tom Rakewell
German-American baritone, Malte Roesner came to our attention when a reader in Germany pointed him out as the Nick Shadow in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress at the Staatstheatre Braunscwhweig.

Roesner began his musical education when he was five years old and took violin lesson.  He then performed with the Hanover Boy’s Choir in Germany, before continuing his studies at the University of Hamburg and at the Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media, where he majored in both musicology and in opera performance. He was awarded scholarships from both the German National Academic Foundation and the Richard-Wagner-Foundation.

Malte Roesner in Mascagni's Isabeau (left)
He has been a member of the ensemble at the Staatstheatre Braunschweig since 2006, where he has performed more than fifty roles. In addition to most of the major baritone Mozart roles, his operatic repertoire includes Enrico in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, Pasquale in Haydn’s Orlando Paladino, Ping in Puccini's Turandot, Schaunard in Puccini's La Bohème and Sharpless in Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Dr. Falke in Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus, Paolo in Simone Boccanegra, Heerrufer in Lohengrin, Masaniello in the German premiere of Carlos Gomes’ Salvator Rosa and in the world premiere of the operatic version of Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle.

In the opening-production of the 14th Munich Biennial for Modern Music Theater 2014 he sang Marco Polo in Marco Nikodijevic’s Vivier. Ein Nachtprotokoll. Other roles in Braunschweig this season include Manfred in For a Look or a Touch by Jake Heggie, Silvano in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte and Belcore in L’elisir d’amore.

Tenor Ray Wade Jr & Malte Roesner sing "All'Armi!" from Salvator Rosa's Carlos Gomes: 
As Joe Gillis in the musical Sunset Boulevard, his first major musical part, he attracted a great deal of positive attention from the German press.

Roesner’s lied and art-song repertoire span the works of Schumann, Wolf and Haydn to those of Ibert, Mahler and Coplnd. In his most recent series of recitals in Zurich, he presented the song-cycle Die schöne Magelone by Brahms. Prior to that he had done a program with songs of death by Schubert, the Hölderlin-Gesänge by Fortner and the Neue Alexanderlieder by Rihm. In the ballet Schattengänger at the Brunswick National Theater, he appeared as a vocal soloist performing Schumann’s Liederkreis op. 39, Dichterliebe and Kerner-Songs.

Malte Roesner as Papageno
There are additional performances of The Rake's Progress this year on December 12 and 23 and tickets are available online. He is also performing in Die Zauberflöte and The Elixir of Love

The Staatstheater Braunschweig, which was rebuilt in the 19th century, goes back to the first standing public theatre in Germany, founded in 1690 by Duke Anthony Ulrich of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Goethe's Faust premiered at the theatre on January 29, 1829.

Donovan Singletary
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Liam Bonner

Barihunk Liam Bonner is having a busy week, starting with a performance of the National Anthem at tonight's L.A. Clippers-Orlando Magic basketball game.

On December 6th, he will perform at the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Los Angeles Music Center. Bonner will perform the role of Richard Nixon in the Act 1 finale and banquet scene of John Adam's Nixon in China. The opera had its Los Angeles premiere at The Music Center on the stage of The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in 1990. Bonner will be joined by Gordon Hawkins as Chou En-lai, Richard Paul Fink as Henry Kissinger and So Young Park as Pat Nixon.

The performance will feature the L.A. Opera Orchestra conducted by Los Angeles Master Chorale Artistic Director/LA Opera Resident Conductor Grant Gershon, and a chorus of 48 singers from the Los Angeles Master Chorale and LA Opera.

Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham will perform an aria as part of a special tribute to the LA Opera with a video tribute from LA Opera Eli and Edythe Broad General Director, Plácido Domingo. The star-studded 90-minute show will honor The Music Center and highlight the accomplishments of the past 50 years.


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Michael Mofidian
We were asked the other day where we find our endless supply of barihunks. Most come from opera companies, colleagues, and friends and family. Our latest came from a tweet from Joseph Ford Thompson Photography, who wrote "Check out my latest photoshoot.  I think we have a new member of the #Barihunk family."
 
He was talking about Scottish bass-barihunk Michael Mofidian, who recently began his Master of Arts program in Vocal Performance at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He started his studies as a youth playing the violin and piano, before beginning formal instruction in harmony and counterpoint at St Mary’s Music School, where he was the recipient of a piano scholarship. Michael then read Music at Jesus College, Cambridge, graduating in 2014 with first-class honours.

Michael Mofidian
His studies are being funded by an Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music Scholarship and a Help Musicians UK Fleming Award. He is especially interested in 20th-century and contemporary music. His operatic roles have included the Ferryman in Britten's Curlew River, Parson/Badger and Harasta in Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen, and the Father-in-law/Le pauvre matelot and Adorno in the UK première of Act II of Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten.  He recently created the role of God in Joshua Borin’s new chamber opera CAIN.


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The warning label for Don Giovanni at La Monnaie
Krzysztof Warlikowski's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni at La Monnaie, which opens tonight, comes with a warning about its sexual content. Warlikowski best known as a stage director, is becoming known for his provocative directing of operas, as well. Some of his best received operas have been The Rake's Progress at the Staatsoper Berlin, Médée and Lulu at Monnaie, and Iphigénie en Tauride in Paris.

Two scenes from Don Giovanni at La Monnaie
Krzysztof Warlikowski's production of Die Frau ohne Schatten in Munich
We haven't had a chance to preview the opera, but you can watch it for free on live streaming from Monnaie beginning January 7th and running through January 27th. Click HERE to watch,

The opera features Jean-Sébastien Bou in the title role, Andreas Wolf as Leporello, Jean-Luc Ballestra as Masetto, Barbara Hannigan as Donna Anna and Rinat Shaham as Donna Elvira.

Tickets are selling fast and are available online.

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Lauri Vasar in Berlin (Photo- Hans Jo¨rg Michel)
Today we celebrate the anniversary of Benjamin Britten's opera Billy Budd, which premiered on December 1, 1951 at the Royal Opera House in London. Britten originally planned on having Sir Geraint Evans sing the title role, but the great baritone felt that the role sat too high for his voice. Britten opted for blond heart thrrob Theodor Uppman as his replacement. The opera received 17 curtain calls and Uppman was acclaimed as a new star. Evans remained in the cast as Mr Flint.

Billy Budd received its United States première in 1952 at Indiana University with Jack Gillaspy in the title role. Gillaspy went on to have a career primarily in Germany under the name John Gillas.

Theodor Uppman
The libretto was written by the English novelist E. M. Forster and Eric Crozier, and is based on the short novel Billy Budd by Herman Melville. The book was first published posthumously in London in 1924. Melville began writing the work in November 1888, but left it unfinished at his death in 1891. The novella was discovered in manuscript form in 1919 by Raymond M. Weaver, who was studying Melville's papers as his first biographer.

It was acclaimed by British critics as a masterpiece when published in London, and quickly took its place among the canon of significant works in the United States.

Jacques Imbrailo at Glyndebourne & Amsterdam
In 1960 Britten revised the score substantially in preparation for a BBC broadcast, and compressed it into two acts. Vere's first appearance after the prologue had been originally the Captain's Muster, in which he addresses the crew at the end of Act 1; Britten cut this, explaining to his librettist Eric Crozier that he had never been happy with that scene, so making Vere's first appearance on the ship a private moment alone in his cabin. Britten changed some of the structural balance from the contrasting Acts 3 and 4. The original version in four acts is still occasionally revived, such as at the Vienna State Opera in 2001 and 2011, and has been recorded at least twice.

The opera was produced on November 6, 1970 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, with Uppman reprising the title role; the cast also included Richard Lewis as Vere, Geraint Evans as Claggart, Bruce Yarnell as Redburn, Raymond Michalski as Flint, and Arnold Voketaitis as Ratcliffe.

Lucas Meachem, Craig Verm, Liam Bonner and John Chest
The opera has become a calling card for barihunks, as Herman Melville described Billy Budd as a fine physical specimen at age twenty-one, renowned for his good looks and gentle, innocent ways. It was recently performed in Berlin with John Chest in the title role, who we once described as a Brad Pitt lookalike. Other recent barihunk portrayals include Liam Bonner at the L.A. Opera, calendar model Craig Verm in Santiago, Jacques Imbrailo at Glyndebourne and in Amsterdam, Lauri Vasar in Berlin, Lucas Meachem in Paris, Teddy Tahu Rhodes in Sydney and Santa Fe, and Daniel Belcher in Houston. Other famous barihunk Billy Budd's include Simon Keenlyside, Peter Mattei, Nathan Gunn, Rod Gilfry, Bo Skovhus and Thomas Hampson.

Teddy Tahu Rhodes in Santa Fe & Sydney
The author E. M. Forster had an interest in the novella, which he discussed in his Clark lectures at Cambridge University. Having admired Britten's music since attending a performance of The Ascent of F6 in 1937, he first met the composer in October 1942 when he heard Peter Pears accompanied by Britten perform the Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo at the National Gallery. In 1948, Britten and Forster discussed whether Forster might write an opera libretto, and by that November, Britten seems to have mentioned Billy Budd as a possible work to be adapted. Forster agreed to this project, and worked with Eric Crozier, a regular Britten collaborator, to write the opera's libretto.

The next scheduled Billy Budd is at the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genova in April 2015 with Philip Addis in the title role. 
Pietro di Bianco, Michael Hewitt & Michael Scarcelle
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Georg Nigl as Jakob Lenz
One of the hits of Oper Stuttgart's season has been Wolfgang Rihm's one act chamber opera Jakob Lenz starring Georg Nigl. It has one more performance on December 12th, which is completely sold out. Lenz, who along with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, formed the “Sturm und Drang” (Storm and Stress) movement in German literature which made German authors the cultural leaders of Europe during the 18th century.

The opera is based on the novella "Lenz" by Georg Büchner which deals with an incident in the life of the German poet. The source of Büchner's material comes from the diaries of the social reformer and priest Johann Friedrich Oberlin, which detail the activities of his house guest, who was clearly suffering from mental illness at the time.  The suicidal poet stayed with Oberlin in a small village in the Vosges Mountains near the German-French border in the hope of recovering from his depression. 

Georg Nigl as Jakob Lenz
Büchner's opening pages describing the mountain landscape and hinting at Lenz's inner state with the single sentence "he did not feel at all tired, only it sometimes annoyed him that he could not walk on his hands instead of his feet" are reduced to a stage direction, but the rest of the libretto roughly follows Büchner's outline. A key element of the libretto deals with his trauma around the death of a small child whom was he was unable to resuscitate.

The opera was first performed at the Hamburg Staatsoper in 1979 with the late English baritone Richard Salter in the title role. It has subsequently been performed at the Wiener Festwochen with Georg Nigl, Teatro Comunale di Bolgna with Tomas Möwes and the English National Opera with Andrew Shore. 

Watch a preview with Georg Nigl from Stuttgart:
Watch the entire opera with Tomas Möwes from Bologna:  
At the end of Lenz's life he lived with Goethe's brother-in-law, Johann Georg Schlosser, where he lived in poverty.  After years of increasingly poor physical health and debilitating mental problems, Lenz died on the streets of Moscow 1792.

Austrian baritone George Nigl began his singing career with the famed Vienna Boy's Choir. He went on to study as a baritone and an actor, performing with the Vienna Burgtheater. He has gone on to sing at many of the major opera houses in Europe, including La Scala in Milan, Staatsoper Unter den linden in Berlin, Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, Bolshoi in Moscow, the Festival Aix-en-Provence, the Salzburg Festival and the Wiener Festwochen.

A number of contemporary composers have written works for him, including Pascal Dusapin, Wolfgang Rihm, Friedrich Cerha, Georg Friedrich Haas, Olga Neuwirth, Salvatore Sciarrino, Wolfgang Mitterer, and Peter Eötvös. 

Michael Scarcelle, Vittorio Prato and Ernesto Petti
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