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The Sexiest Baritone Hunks from Opera
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Barihunk Wes Mason, who just finished a successful run as Curly in Oklahoma! at the Utah Festival Opera, will be turning his attention to another American tale. On September 14th, he'll be singing the role of Bernie Madoff in a workshop of composer Luna Pearl Woolf's new opera The Pillar.

The opera is based on Diana Henriques’ bestselling book The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust. The opera tells the tale Ruth Madoff, who has dedicated her whole life to her husband, a pillar of the community. When Bernie Madoff falls into disgrace, she must finally confront choices—and consequences—of truly operatic proportions. The story digs beneath the surface of this contemporary scandal to uncover a timeless meditation on loyalty, corruption, and the nature of love.

Mason will be part of a workshop at the Opera America Center Recital Hall at 330 Seventh Avenue in New York where the audience can hear selection of the opera and offer feedback.

You can RSVP and reserve your seat by clicking here or by visiting:
 Wes Mason rehearsing Curly in Oklahoma!
We asked Wes about working on The Pillar and this is what he told us:
"It has been such a joy of a process rehearsing and discovering with Luna, David and everyone. When you are in a room with a top notch team of artisans that are able to share their insight and take direction from the creators of a work, you just light up with inspiration. The music, the words, and the interpretation of the other singers has moved me to tears. This is a fascinating work so far. Workshops are a real gift."
Upcoming performances include Ford in Nicoai's The Merry Wives of Windsor at Fargo-Moorhead Opera, Stanley in Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire at Kentucky Opera, Jonathan Reed in Dove's Siren Song with Hawaii Opera and the title role of Hamlet in the Ambroise Thomas classic at the Fort Worth Opera Festival.

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Craig Verm
The Dallas Opera is under new leadership this season, but fortunately some of our favorite barihunks are still on the roster.

The season is kicking off with one of Italy's best exports, bass-barihunk Mirco Palazzi who debuted with the company in 2010 as Leporello in Mozart's Don Giovanni. That performance was also his U.S. debut and the cast for that John Pascoe production featured three barihunks, with Paulo Szot as the Don and Ben Wager as Masetto.

We're thrilled that Dallas is bring him back to sing Figaro in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro in an all-star cast that features Joshua Hopkins, Nicole Car,  Emily Fons, Diana Montague and Kevin Langan. Performances will run from October 24 through November 9th.

On October 30th, bass-barihunk Greer Grimsley will make his company debut opposite the Salome of Deborah Voigt in Richard Strauss' masterpiece. The production in being directed by the queen mother of barihunks, Francesca Zambello.

That production will be followed by a double-bill of Catalani's rarely performed opera La Wally and the world premiere of Joby Talbot's Everest. We did an extensive feature on Everest, which featured barihunk calendar model Craig Verm.

Jonathan Beyer, Steven LaBrie and Alexander Vinogradov (L-R)
In March, the company brings another barihunk trio to the stage, when they present Puccini's La boheme with Alexander Vinogradov, Jonathan Beyer and Steven LaBrie.  We featured Alexander Vinogradov back in 2009 when we identified him as an emerging talent to watch.

The season wraps up with Tchaikovsky's Iolanta. Tickets and additional cast information is available on the Dallas Opera website

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Chris Carr
After a successful run as Billy Bigelow in Carousel at the Glimmerglass Festival, Iowa native Chris Carr returns to his home state for a recital called "Remembering WWI and its Meaning in Music." 2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of WWI, where over 16 million people across the globe lost their lives.  It was the first real instance of total war, where entire nations were pitted against each other; millions of men fought on land, at sea and in the air; modern weaponry caused mass casualties and civilian populations suffered hardships and came under threat of enemy attack.

The recital will be held on September 14th at the University Center in Quasqueton, Iowa.

In the first half he will be performing George Butterworth's A Shropshire Lad, Alban Berg's 4 Gesänge, Op.2, Britten's War Requiem arias, 3 French poplar songs, Korngold's Pierrots Tanzlied and the Soliloquy. After intermission, he will perform Léo Chauliac & Charles Trenet Que reste-t-il de nos amours, Les Feuilles mortes (Autumn Leaves) and Sous le ciel de Paris, made famous by Edith Piaf and Yves Montand.

Upcoming performances include The Polar Express with the Phoenix Symphony on November 30th, The Pilot in The Little Prince at the Washington National Opera in December, and Eugene Onegin with the Arizona Opera in February 2015.

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Seán Boylan
Irish barihunk Seán Boylan has won the 2014 Northern Ireland Opera’s Festival of Voice held in the historic village of Glenarm in County Antrim. The competition, is limited to singers aged 18-27 who were born in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. He is studying for his third year of his music degree at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.

Boylan has won a number of awards for his singing throughout Ireland and was a John McCormack Society scholar, as well as being named a ‘Rising Star’ of the Royal Dublin Society.

In opera, he has played the roles of Ben in Menotti's The Telephone, and Tancredi in Monteverdi's Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, as well as the title role in Mozart's Don Giovanni and scenes from his Magic Flute.

Boylan has performed throughout the U.K., including a recital at St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, the Clifden Arts Festival, the Drogheda International Classical Music Series, the Abbey Theatre, the Convention Centre, Dublin, the National Concert Hall, Dublin, the home of the Irish President and at the Léran music festival.

A talented pianist and organist (who studied under renowned pianist John O'Conor), Boylan has been the subject of several television and radio broadcasts in Ireland.

You can read in interview with Seán Boylan HERE.

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Shannon De Vine
Meet barihunk Shannon De Vine, who will be singing Claudio in the revival of Franco Faccio's Amleto (Hamlet) with Opera Southwest in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the Baltimore Concert Opera. The opera has not been performed since 1871 and this will be its U.S. premiere.

De Vine earned his Master's Degree from the Juilliard School, where he performed the roles of Demetrius in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Silvio in I Pagliacci. In 2007, he took 3rd Prize at the Licia Albanese – Puccini Foundation Awards, was a semi-finalist in the Marseille International Voice Competition in France, the International Voice Competition of Francisco Vinas in Barcelona, finalist in the Opera National de Paris de la Bastille International Voice Competition, winner of the MacAllister Awards, the Rosa Ponselle International Voice Competition and winner of the Verdi Concerto Competition at the Aspen Music Festival.

Last season, he was seen as Gerard in Giordano's Andrea Chenier with the Opera Orchestra of NY, Iago in Verdi's Otello at the Il Teatro Verdi and Ceccho del Vecchio in Wagner’s Rienzi at Avery Fisher Hall. He made his Houston Grand Opera debut as Morales in Bizet's Carmen, where he also sang Riolobo in Catan's Florencia en las Amazonas, Top in Copland’s The Tender Land and Guglielmo in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte.

Ivo Rizzi sings Claudio's aria from Faccio's Amleto:
In 1865, Verdi’s contemporary Franco Faccio wrote an opera about Shakespeare’s melancholic Danish prince, to a libretto by Arrigo Boito. Conceived as an anti-Verdi/pro-Wagner manifesto for the “music of the future,” Amleto was originally a critical and audience success, but setbacks at the 1871 La Scala revival propelled it into obscurity, where it languished for more than a century.

Since 2002, Maestro Anthony Barrese has painstakingly reconstructed the score of the opera based on historical documents and microfilm held by the Ricordi Archives. BCO will present the American premiere of this lost operatic treasure in collaboration with Opera Southwest, conducted by Maestro Barrese himself. Celebrated American tenor Alex Richardson will sing the title role, and soprano Abla Hamza will sing Hamlet’s doomed love Ophelia (Ofelia).

Performance in Baltimore are on October 2 and 5 and tickets are available online. Performances in Albuquerque are on October 26, 31 and November 2 and tickets are available online.

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Nicholas Courjal (left) and Benoît Arnould (right)

Opera de Vichy will be presenting Mozart's Die Zauberflöte on September 19 and 21 with Nicholas Courjal as Sarastro and Benoît Arnould as Papageno. The cast also includes the charming Tamino of Shawn Mathey, the thrilling coloratura soprano Burcu Uyar as the Queen of the Night, Camille Poul as Papagena and Raffaela Milanesi as Pamina. The Orchestre d’Auvergne will be conducted by Roberto Fores-Veses.

After this run, the French bass-barihunk Nicholas Courjal will appear in Rossini's Moise et Pharaon at Opera de Marseilles from November 8-16. In 2015, fans of  Courjal will get to see him outside of France, as he appears in Ravel's L’enfant et les sortilèges on February 12 at Festival Hall in London and then at the Royal Opera House from June 17-29 in Rossini's Guillaume Tell.

Benoît Arnould sings Fauré's Libera me domine:
Benoît Arnould, who is new to this site, graduated from the Conservatory in Metz and also received a Licence in Musicology from Sorbonne University.  In a short time, he has become recognized for his interpretations of baroque music and Mozart. He has performed Charpentier’s Médee Ascalaphe in Lully’s Proserpine, Christ in Bach’s Passions, Mozart’s Masses, Anténor in Rameau’s Dardanus and Requiem, and Lucifer in Handel's La Resurrezione. He has also recorded Les Grands Motets by Desmarest, Lully’s Proserpine and Missa Assumpta Est Maria de Charpentier, Cavalli’s Ormindo, Jesu Christi by Schütz, Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri  and Weckman’s Cantatas.

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Kwiecien as Mozart's Count Almaviva at Kraków Opera
© Ryszard Kornecki 2014
Kraków may not be one of the world's great opera centers, but it's Mariusz Kwiecien's home town and a true gem among Central European cities. Kwiecien loves going back to perform there. Its pull on him has been so strong that he recently bought a home on its outskirts among the forests and fields that lead to the scenic Tatra mountains. 
"Performing in Kraków is fantastic," he says. "You know, when I made my debut there, it was six years after my debut at the Metropolitan Opera. So when I came back to Kraków, I came as a small star. And I was very excited, more nervous even than when I sang at the Met. When I come to Kraków to sing now, I know it will be sold out within an hour after the tickets go on sale, because our opera house is rather small, around 700 seats only. I always try to do three or four performances, and my colleagues at the opera house are always fantastic. And it's wonderful to sing opera in Poland with an all-Polish cast! Everywhere else I go, I have to speak many languages at once — Russian, English, Italian, German — and when I come to Kraków, I just have my wonderful Polish friends to sing with."

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The following text is by Mathieu Sly, brother of barihunk Philippe Sly:

"Since 2001 when The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was released in theatres, my brother (Philippe Sly) and I (Mathieu Sly) have been relentless fans of both films and books. After seeing the first film, I pretended to be sick for a week of school just so I could read the volumes in their entirety.

When the extended DVDs came out I mined the special features as though for mithril. I didn't realize then that what I had found was in fact the Arkenstone from which I could not pull my gaze. I worshipped the artists of Weta Workshop.

My brother, for his part, in those young years the host to an enchanting falsetto, could conjure any of the distinctive melodies and themes painted by Howard Shore in those first three films that changed the course of our lives. Still we sing "Into the West" anytime we are reunited in the presence of a piano.

In our high school years Howard Shore brought the music and art of the films to our city of Ottawa to be performed in concert with our local symphony, slides of the film's conceptual art to be projected throughout. We were lucky enough, as young choristers, to take part; to finally, and truly, add our voices to the enduring life of the films - to be a part of the team.

Here we offer our voices again. We want to thank everyone who made those first films and inspired two young boys to imagine.

The poem is concerned with Bilbo's inner turmoil in this final chapter of the film saga."

'Live Or Die Tomorrow'

Through cloud, and rock, and mountains sharp
Now weary are my feet
If now I sleep and disappear
None will hear, none will hear

Though I will walk through fields alone
Winds will blow, rivers run
The sun will fall and stars will shine
And show the way by night

To waters of the Western Seas
Where none can die I'll hide
Over forests and through the dark
Metal, earth, and sorrow

A mountain rich with golden halls
Five armies there will meet
A battle fought, though I will not
The King will loose his seat

Now sun has fell and all is well
But stars they do not shine
I'll sing to warm my heart for now
Find my way tomorrow

What song to fill this night so dark?
Of deeds brave and noble
From dream of steel and death I wake
From loss, shadow, and ash

One star dim through the mist I see
It will fade, it will fade
What lies along this road I tread,
For none to see but me?

By cloud, and rock, and mountains sharp
I'll find my friends and fight
We'll fill the sky with stars so bright
Live or die tomorrow

Live or die tomorrow

poem by Mathieu Sly, music by Philippe Sly

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Sam Roberts-Smith and Pietro di Bianco
Just days after Placido Domingo's Operalia Competition completely eliminated any low male voices from their finals scheduled in Los Angeles today, the Paris Opera Competition announced that three baritones/bass-baritones have advanced to their finals. Xiaohan Zhai of China, Sam Roberts-Smith of Australia and Pietro Di Bianco of Italy will compete in the Competition's final gala concert on November 19th. 

After the gala 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. 

Joining the three in the final concert will be Carol Garcia of Spain, Marina Nachkebiya of Georgia, Daria Terekhova of Russia, Yujoong Kim of South Korea, Miriam Zubieta of Spain, Cristian Mogosan of Romania and Sarah Strauss-Zhai of Germany. 

Xiaohan Zhai sings Leporello's aria from Don Giovanni:  
Xiaohan Zhai was born in in Kaifeng, China in 1986. He went to France to study at the l'École Normale de Musique de Paris. In 2011, he took second place at the Concours de Clés d'Or and a year later finished third at the FLAME Competition. Last season, he performed Leoporello in Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Festival Saint-Cere.   

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. Pietro di Bianco sings Tamerlano's aria:   
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 (who was eliminated at Operalia!).  Sam Roberts-Smith sings "Sois immobile" from Rossini's William Tell:  Sam Roberts-Smith graduated with a Bachelor of Music and Graduate Diploma in Opera from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2008. After completing his studies he relocated to Sydney and joined Australia’s national company, Opera Australia.
 He is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards including the Joan Sutherland Society of Sydney Scholarship, the Rosina Raisbeck Award and winner of the prestigious 2009 Australian Singing Competition. As winner of the ASC, Sam was asked to perform at both Dame Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge’s 80th Birthday Galas.  In 2010, after performing the role of Morales in Francesca Zambello’s production of Bizet's Carmen and Yamadori in Puccini's Madama Butterfly, he was invited to join Opera Australia’s Young Artist Program.

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Mariusz Kwiecien
Barihunk Mariusz Kwiecien will be featured in the Lyric Opera of Chicago's annual "Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park" concert on Saturday, September 6 at 7:30 pm. The free concert at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion will feature previews of Lyric's upcoming 2014-15 season.

Kwiecien will be featured in one of his signature roles, that of the title character in Mozart's Don Giovanni. He will join sopranos Marina Rebeka and Ana María Martínez, and bass Andrea Silvestrelli in the final scene from the opera. For those of you unfamiliar with the history of this Barihunks site, it was inspired by a performance of Kwiecien as Don Giovanni. 

The program will also feature Wagner's overture to Tannhäuser, the Act One finale of Puccini's Tosca featuring baritone Mark Delavan and tenor John Irvin, the entire third act of Verdi's Rigoletto, and the chorus "Patria oppressa" from Verdi's Macbeth.

If you can't make the concert, you can listen to a live broadcast live on 98.7 WFMT or online at

Performances of Don Giovanni run from September 27 to October 29. Kwiecien will return to the Metropolitan Opera from December 4-20 as Count Almaviva in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro.

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