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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."
[READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE AT www.OperaNews.com]

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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 wfmt.com.

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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Liudmyla Monastyrska and Simon Keenlyside (left, photo: Clive Barda); Alex Esposito (right)
 The Royal Opera House is taking three of the most popular barihunks in the works on a tour of Japan in September 2015. The company had a successful tour in 2010, the last time that they toured the island nation.

The company will perform Phyllida Lloyd's production of Verdi's Macbeth with Simon Keenlyside in the title role alongside soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska as Lady Macbeth, Greek tenor Dimitri Pittas as Macduff, and American bass Raymond Aceto as Banquo.  

Alex Esposito looking bari-hunky
Kasper Holten's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni will feature the Italian barihunk duo of Ildebrando D'Arcangelo in the title role and Alex Esposito as Leporello. They will be joined in the cast by mezzo-soprano (and honorary barihunk) Joyce DiDonato as Donna Elvira, tenor Rolando Villazón as Don Ottavio, soprano Albina Shagimuratova as Donna Anna, soprano Julia Lezhneva as Zerlina, and bass Matthew Rose as Masetto. 

Both productions will be conducted by ROH Music Director Antonio Pappano.  Macbeth runs for four performances in Japan beginning September 12th, with Don Giovanni running for three performances beginning September 13th. Information about tickets and venues will be announced shortly.

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We have mentioned Irish-American barihunk Emmett O’Hanlon twice on our blog, but have never featured him individually.  The New York native is going to be touring with the popular all-guy group Celtic Thunder. First up is his solo show on the Celtic Thunder Cruise, which sails from Miami on Nov 8th-12th stopping at Nassau in the Bahamas and at the secluded private island of Thunder Bay. He'll be performing songs from Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles, as well as performing arrangements of Melody Gardot, Michael Buble and Zac Brown Band.  

O'Hanlon is classically trained and received his Bachelors Degree in Voice from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, where he also performed as a soloist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He continued on to Julliard, where he is currently completing a Masters Degree in Voice. Last season, he performed in both productions in  Julliard Opera’s double bill of Britten’s Curlew River and Vaughan Williams’ Riders to the Sea, as well as in this season’s Metropolitan Opera workshop production of The Sorrows of Frederick. At present, he is preparing for the role of Onegin in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. He was also in the Bel Canto Young Artist Mentoring Program at Caramoor.

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Emmett first met Celtic Thunder producer Sharon Browne in New York City, where she invited him to audition for the show. The Very Best of Celtic Thunder Tour” kicks off in Orlando, Florida in February 2015 and features an eclectic collection of the group’s best-loved and most popular songs. The tour will take them throughout the U.S. and Canada. Check their website for a concert near you.

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Despite 11 of the 40 competitors being baritones in this year's Operalia competition, not a single baritone made it to the final round. Many felt that a top prize winner could have come from the talented field of low voices that included Igor Bakan, Aleksey Bogdanov, Alexandre Duhamel, Dan Kempson, Alexey Lavrov, Alex Lawrence, Shea Owens, Damien Pass, Pavel Shmulevich, Anatoli Sivko and Ivan Thirion.

In what has been dubbed the "Golden Age of Baritones," it was a bit of shocker to see a complete blackout of baritones. Baritones have been winning top prizes at almost every major vocal competition in recent years, including the thrilling two runner-up finishers at the Mirjam Helin Competition, Croatian baritones Matija Meic and Leon Kosavic. Jonathan Beyer alone has won no less than 18 competitions. The Lotte Lenya Competition has a distinguished roster of low-voice winners that includes Doug Carpenter, Lucas Meachem, Liam Bonner, Zachary James, Cooper Grodin and Justin Lee Miller. Other examples include Gordon Bintner who won two prizes at the Canadian Opera Company Competition, Scott Conner who won the Loren L. Zachary Competition, Brandon Cedel who won the George London Competition, Jongmin Park taking two prizes at the Neue Stimmen Vocal Competition, Ukrainian Baritone Andrei Bondarenko Wins Cardiff Song Prize and Dominik Köninger winning the prestigious Wigmore/Kohn Competition.

At the Queen Sonja Competition last year, a full third of the finalists were baritones, including American Brandon Cedel, Turk Kartal Karagedik, Croatian Krešimir Stražanac and Moldavian Oleg Tilbulco. And the list goes on, which makes the "Baritone Blackout of 2014" at Operalia all the more shocking!

The finalists at the Operalia Competition will be tenor Joshua Guerrero - USA/Mexico, mezzo Alisa Kolosova  - Russia, soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen - USA, mezzo Carol Garcia -Spain, countertenor Andrey Nemzer - Russia, tenor Abdellah Lasri - Morocco, tenor Yi Li - China, soprano Amanda Woodbury  - USA, countertenor John Holiday - USA, soprano Sicilia Mariangela - Italy Anaïs Constans - France, tenor Mario Chang - Guatemala and soprano Christina Poulitsi - Greece.

You can watch the finals on Medici.tv at 10 PM EST/7 PM PST.

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Barihunk Michael Mayes who has been called the definitive Joseph de Rocher in Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking is taking on a new role from the composer. From September 27-October 4, he'll be singing the role of Charlie in Three Decembers at Urban Arias. Mayes will be joined by Janice Hall and Emily Pulley. Tickets are available online.

The chamber opera tells the story of family secrets that are uncovered over the course of three Decembers, each a decade apart. Glamorous actress Madeline Mitchell and her two adult children, Charlie and Bea, struggle to reconcile the truth and lies about their lives and relationships. The story is based on a short play by Terrance McNally with a libretto by Gene Scheer.

Kathyrn Bates and Jesse Blumberg in Ricky Ian Gordon's "Green Sneakers"
A number of barihunks have taken on the role of Charlie including Keith Phares in San Francisco and Houston, and Matt Worth in Chicago and Fort Worth. Keith Phares will be singing the role again on December 5, 6 and 7 at the Des Moines Metro Opera. Jesse Blumberg will sing the role with the Atlanta Opera on May 29, 30 and 31 of 2015.

The Dallas Opera has announced the commission of Heggie's next opera, Great Scott, with a libretto by Terrence McNally, set for a premiere on October 30, 2015. It will also star Michael Mayes.

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Stéphane Degout
French barihunk Stéphane Degout and British pianist Simon Lepper teamed up at the Edinburgh Festival to perform a recital of Gallic songs and miniature operas. You can listen to the entire recital HERE for the next seven days. The program is as follows.

Schubert: Der Zwerg D771
Loewe: Edward 1
Schumann: Belsatzar Op 57
Lizst: Die drei Zigeuner
Weill: Die Ballade vom ertrunkenen Mädchen
Wolf: Der Feuerreiter
Debussy Images
Faure: Automne in B minor Op 18 No 3
Faure: L'Horizon Chimérique Op 118
Liszt: Three Petrarch Sonnets

Degout will be in recital in Brussels on September 12th at La Monnaie. He'll be performing the Mörike-Lieder of Wolf and lieder by Richard Strauss. Tickets are available online.

You can see him on stage again from October 16-29, when he takes on Oreste in the revival of Gluck's Iphigénie en Aulide at the Theater an der Wien opposite the stunning  Iphigénie of Véronique Gens. Tickets and additional information are available online.

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