Monday, July 25, 2016

Benson Wilson wins 2016 Lexus Song Quest

Benson Wilson
Benson Wilson has won the Lexus Song Quest at today's Grand Final Gala at the Auckland Town Hall. Benson will receive a cash prize of $20,000 and a Study Scholarship of $27,000, plus economy international travel up to the value of $3,000. Benson said he was “blessed to receive this honor and was ready to step up to the challenge.”

Second place was awarded to Auckland tenor Filipe Manu, third place went to Hamilton soprano Madison Nonoa, and Auckland bass-baritone Tavis Gravatt took fourth place. The Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation scholarship ‘for the singer who shows the most promise’ was also awarded to Madison Nonoa.

The four finalists each performed three pieces in front of a live audience, one accompanied by pianist Terence Dennis, and two arias alongside the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Edo de Waart.

Reader Submission: Aussie Barihunk Nathan Lay

Baritone Nathan Lay (Photo on right by Leesa Needham)
Australian barihunk Nathan Lay is currently singing Mr Mayor in Richard Mills' opera The Pied Piper at the Victorian Opera in Melbourne. The children's opera is based on Robert Browning’s classic poem The Pied Piper of Hamelin. There are performances on July 28, 29 and 30 and tickets and additional cast information is available online.

He has been a regular at the Victorian Opera where he recently completed his second year in their young artist program. During his time with the company, he has performed Baron Douphol in Verdi's La traviata, the Father in Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, Sir Riccardo Forth in Bellini's I Puritani and the quartet in Weill's The Seven Deadly Sins.

Lay recently won the 2016 Australian International Opera Award Scholarship, which is valued at $54,000. The prize includes all of the expenses for one year of full time academic study at the Wales International Academy of Voice under the guidance of its internationally tenor and director Dennis O’Neil CBE. He will commence his studies in September 2016.

Nathan Lay sings Britten's "Look! Through the port..." from Billy Budd:

Nathan completed his Bachelor of Music at the Melba Conservatorium of Music in 2008. He has since established his career in the Melbourne opera and oratorio scene. In 2010, Nathan won the National Liederfest, and Australian Music Events’ “Opera Scholar of the Year”. In 2013, he won the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Aria competition, and also received 3rd Place in the prestigious Herald Sun Aria competition at Hamer Hall.
In 2013, he made his first appearances with Opera Australia in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera and Aida. He also played Guglielmo in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte for Melbourne Opera.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Introducing German Barihunk and Model Roman Grübner

Roman Grübner
Roman Grübner began his musical studies at age seven at the the Balettausbildung Staatstheater Schwerin studying piano and voice. At 16, he won the second prize of an all-German youth competition. He continued his studies at the Academy of Music "Hans Eissler" and the Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach Gymnasium of Music in Berlin.

From 2007 to 2009, Grübner was an ensemble member at the Mecklenburg State Theatre in Schwerin, where he sang Tolomeo in Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Mercutio in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, Papageno in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Figaro in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Morales in Bizet’s Carmen. He been a featured guest artist at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden and part of the ensemble at the Stadttheater St Gallen, where he performed Harlekin an Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, Roberto in Mozart's La finta giardiniera, Papageno in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte and Pappacoda in Johann Strauss’ Eine Nacht in Venedig.

Roman Grübner
In 2009, he made his debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio conducted by Roy Goodman. The following year, he returned to perform Bach’s St Matthew Passion. At the Berlin Philharmonic, he’s performed Rossini’s Stabat Mater, Puccini’s Messe di Gloria and Mendelssohn’s Paulus.

His songs repertoire includes more than 350 songs by Schubert, Wolf, Richard Strauss, Mahler and Grieg. He can be seen on the DVD of  Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos starring Renee Fleming and conducted by Christian Thielemann.

Grübner has also worked as an actor and model. He'll also be appearing in our 10th Anniversary "Barihunks in Bed" commemorative calendar.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Barihunk Sextet in Lakes Area Music Festival's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Barihunk sextet Eric Broker, Andrew Lovato, Sam Parkinson, John Taylor Ward, Rodolfo Nieto and Benjamin Sieverding (Clockwise from top left)
Last year we had our first barihunk sextet posting when Hamstead Garden Opera in the U.K. double cast Mozart's Don Giovanni with six barihunks. Now we have our first barihunk sextet all performing on the same night in the Lakes Area Music Festival's production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream on August 13 and 14.

The "dream" cast includes John Taylor Ward as Bottom, Andrew Lovato as Demetrius, Rodolfo Nieto as Theseus, Benjamin Sieverding as Quince, Eric Broker as Starveling and Sam Parkinson as Snug. John Taylor Ward not only performs in the opera, but he serves as Associate Artistic Director of the company and he wrote the program notes.

John Taylor Ward sings Schumann's "Du bist wie eine Blume"

On August 11, there will be an open rehearsal at the Tornstrom Auditorium, which includes a discussion with soprano Abigail Dueppen and countertenor Daniel Moody at 1:30 PM. The will also be a pre-concert lecture 30 minutes before each performance featuring Minnesota Public Radio host John Birge, conductor Andrew Altenbach and director JJ Hudson. Tickets and additional cast information is available online.

The Lakes Area Music Festival was founded in 2009 and puts on six free concerts annually, which include chamber music, symphonic works and opera. They utilize 140 artists from ensembles and conservatories such as the Minnesota Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, New World Symphony, Metropolitan Opera, Minnesota Opera, Juilliard School, Eastman School of Music and the Curtis Institute.

Italian Barihunk Franco Cerri at Torre del Lago Festival

Italian Barihunk Franco Cerri
Barihunk Franco Cerri is at the Torre del Lago Festival through August 13th in Puccini's hometown where he's performing Sciarrone in the composer's Tosca, as well as Tartaglia in the Ferruccio Busoni version of Turandot. Last season, he performed Guccio in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi at the Festival. 

Busoni’s Turandot is based on same subject that Puccini set to music by Puccini, but has a more ironic fairytale style than the better known work. Busoni has been fascinated by the fairy tale by Carlo Gozzi before Puccini and wrote his own libretto. Busoni’s Turandot, premiered at the Municipal Theatre in Zurich on May 11, 1917 and remains among one of the most significant works of his rich artistic productions  It took Busoni 100 days to write the Turandot score, a record time but, needed to not miss the opportunity that the Theatre of Zurich had offered him to host his composition.

There are various oddities in Busoni's libretto which recall the play's Commedia dell'arte roots: characters with Italian names like Truffaldino,  Pantalone and Cerri's character Tartaglia; Allah is praised in China; and there are references to Venice, St. Mark's, and gondolas. The spoken dialogue harks back to Mozart's operas, especially The Magic Flute. In comparison to Puccini's opera on the same subject, Busoni retains the intimate, unreal atmosphere of Gozzi's pla.y Busoni's princess Turandot is not quite so implacable; her heart is readier to melt.

Barihunk Franco Cerri backstage at Torre del Lago (left) and in rehearsal (far right)
The opera is often performed as part of a double bill with Busoni's earlier one-act opera Arlecchino, a tradition which began at the premiere (the Festival is not performing Arlecchino). The first performance in Italy (without Arlecchino) was on November 29, 1936 in Rome, conducted by Fernando Previtali. Previtali, a Busoni champion, who went on to conduct performances in other Italian cities and conducted the premiere of the opera at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires in 1964.

Tickets for Tosca and Turandot are available online.

Born in Genoa, Italy, Cerri  began his studies with piano, drama and ballet dancing. While at the Conservatory, he studied singing with the great Italian baritone Silvano Carroli. In 2012, he won the Città di Alcamo International Singing Competition.  

Franco Cerri sings Rossini's "Resta immobile" from William Tell:

He made his professional debut as a bass, singing the Bonze in the Puccini's Madame Butterfly and the title role in Rossini's Mosè in Genoa. His debut as baritone was with the role of Marcello in Puccini's La boheme followed by the role of Silvio in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci.

He has performed Riccardo in Bellini's I Puritani in Licata, Madama Butterfly and The Barber of Seville at the Arena Alpe Adria of Lignano, Germont in Verdi’s La Traviata at the Trentino Opera Festival, Manzitti’s Les Invisibles at the Great Palazzo Ducale in Genoa and Belcore in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore at the Festival Illica Castell'Arquato.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Introducing "Foxy" Barihunk Scott Ballantine

Scott Ballantine
Barihunk Scott Ballantine will be singing the title role in Tobias Picker's Fantastic Mr. Fox at the Emerald City Opera in beautiful Steamboat Springs, Colorado on August 12 and 13. He'll be joined on the podium by the equally foxy conducter Andres Cladera, who also led a performance with barihunk John Brancy in San Antonio. Tickets are available online.

Ballantine received his Master’s of Music in Voice Performance from The Boston Conservatory in 2015 and a Bachelor’s of Music in Voice Performance from Northern Arizona University in 2013. Previous credits at NAU include the title role in Gianni Schicchi and Guglielmo in Mozart's Così fan tutte. He was most recently seen as the Mercutio Gounod's Roméo et Juliette with Opera51 in Concord, MA.

Other recent credits in Boston include, John Brooke in Mark Adamo's Little Women with MetroWest Opera, Schaunard in Puccini's La bohème with NEMPAC Opera, Oreste in Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride, Taddeo in Rossini's L'italiana in Algeri and Junius in Britten's The Rape of Lucretia with The Boston Conservatory and Sid in Britten's Albert Herring with Boston Opera Collaborative.

Ballantine placed first in the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Vocal Competition four years consecutively and was a finalist in the Classical Singer Competition. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Zachary James in free performance of "the little match girl passion"

Zachary James, Karim Sulayman, Anne-Carolyn Bird and Brennan Hall
Bass-barihunk Zachary James will be featured in R. B. Schlather performance installation of American composer David Lang’s Pulitzer Prize-winning the little match girl passion at Jack Shainman Gallery in Kinderhook, N.Y. He'll be joined by soprano Anne-Carolyn Bird, countertenor Brennan Hall, tenor Karim Sulayman, percussionist Michael Zell and music director Amanda Crider.

Composer David Lang earned the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for the little match girl passion. The ground-breaking piece is scored for four solo voices and percussion, and tells Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of a poor young girl struggling with abuse and poverty, but retaining faith, hope, and ultimately redemption. The story is suffused with opposites; a beautiful past with a bitter present, the struggles of poverty and the redemption of hope.

The performance is a continuation of R.B. Schlather’s practice of installing opera and vocal chamber music as an exchange between visitor, musician, and architecture, investigating questions about presentation, duration, and access.

This August 20th performance is free and open to the public. It begins and noon and runs for five hours.