Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Zachary Gordin's hot pix from Dead Man Walking

Zachary Gordin preparing for Dead Man Walking

On April 23, Zachary Gordin reprised his successful performance of convicted killer Joseph De Rocher at the Shreveport Opera, which he performed the previous year at the Dayton Opera. We caught him to ask him about performing the role and got him to agree to share some amazingly hot pictures of him getting tattoed for the performance. He's not only got a killer body and amazing voice, but he proves himself to be smart, insightful and thoughful, as well.

Upcoming performances for Zachary Gordin include Orff's Carmina Burana on May 28th with Chora Nova in Berkeley and a recital of Schumann's Dichterliebe at St. Joseph's Basillica in Alameda, California.

Other upcoming performances of Dead Man Walking include Michael Mayes at the Washington Opera, David Adam Moore at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Daniel Okulitch at the Vancouver Opera.

1. What does it mean for this to be performed in the state where the alleged crime actually happened? 
ZG: Louisiana, and specifically Caddo Parish (where Shreveport is) has been notorious for the death penalty, and executions. While there hasn’t been an execution carried out in Louisiana since 2010 (and before that, 2002), there is definitely a strong history for capital punishment there. What’s exciting as an opera singer, is that it’s almost impossible for us to be part of telling a story with local, living roots. There were people on both sides of this production being mounted in Shreveport: lots of excitement to support it, as well as the flip side… I heard a few remarks from local residents that there were people boycotting the production because they took personal issue with Sister Helen, and her political stance. It hadn’t crossed my mind, being from the San Francisco Bay Area, that there would be some strong opposition. You never encounter these personal, sometimes heated, stories when you’re doing operas composed by Verdi, or Mozart, wether or not the story/characters have a historical basis. That really increases the weight and stakes of the production, and ultimately adds to the work’s depth and power. 
Zachary Gordin in Dead Man Walking (Photos by Clint McCommon)

2. What does this role mean to you and how has it changed for you with subsequent performances? 
ZG: It started out as a daunting journey, January of 2015, when I got the eleventh-hour call from Dayton Opera to learn and perform it. Before that I never considered it, partly because of the darkness of the character, and partly because it’s incredibly intense for the voice. There’s a lot of shouting/screaming, having to do push-ups and go right into an aria, and so on… I read the story, looked over the score, and I was hooked! I knew it would be a good fit, and wanted the challenge of a character who had done some truly monstrous things. I had a month before staging rehearsals began in Dayton to learn the opera, and had the great opportunity to work with Jake Heggie to prepare it. A lot of energy in the first production I did was spent on getting it “right” - making sure I was faithful to the score (the music isn’t easy! Huge thanks to Maestro Jerome Shannon for getting me through it), and being as honest as I could about telling Joe’s story (with the help of Gary Briggle, our stage Director). Even that whirlwind first time left me with the sense that I was participating in something that was so much bigger than me. That was deeply meaningful, and made the weight of taking on that character a little lighter. 

The second time around, with the Shreveport Opera production, I knew the music inside-out and didn’t have to think pitches/counting as much. The amount of freedom THAT gives a singer is incredible. I knew “my Joe” already, and was prepared for what that head space would feel like. Everyone else in that cast was in the opera for the first time, so it felt great to be able to encourage and support my cast mates having been through it all and come out the other side changed for the better. It’s always a deeply emotional, and spiritually penetrating experience to work on this opera - no matter what role you’re in. Showing up for each other, and being present in the stories of these characters really bonds a cast. I’ve made some very dear friends through this process. 
Gillian Lynn Cotter and Zachary Gordin in Dead Man Walking
(Photos by Clint McCommon)

3. What is the core message of this opera for you. 
ZG: Love! There are so many aspects of love, and what love can make manifest in people: the young love of the two victims, the love of their parents who are experiencing such a tragic loss, the love of Joe’s mother for a son who did some horrific things and will die, the love Joe was seeking and not getting which drove him to the drugs/alcohol that influenced him in his heinous act, the love of Sister Helen for Joe and his soul, and God’s love for us all… There are big themes of forgiveness, redemption, and the value of human life.  
Zachary Gordin in Dead Man Walking
(Photos by Clint McCommon)

4. Did you have a chance to meet the real Sister Prejean? How do you play off of that character when performing?
ZG: Yes, several times. She’s one of those special people who raises the temperature of whatever room she walks into. To talk with her, and hear her stories first-hand is such a gift. A real, living, and down-to-earth example of someone who is living their purpose. Knowing how her first few meetings went with Patrick Sonnier gives a lot of info to use in the body language, inflection, and feel of the scenes we do in the opera. Again, in opera we almost NEVER get to talk to the source material. It takes the mystery away, but it also raises the stakes of your responsibility as an artist. I always want to be faithful to the story.
Zachary Gordin in Dead Man Walking
(Photos by Clint McCommon)

5. What aspects of your own personality come out in your portrayal of Joseph de Rocher?
ZG: The similarities in the story of Joe’s childhood and my own are a good starting point. It was a rough start for both of us, and I can see how with a series of different choices my path could look very similar to his. There’s a lot of sympathy for him in that realization. Joe had to cultivate a tough exterior in life, and in prison. For me, it was growing up in the ghetto of Oakland that toughened me up. Joe loved music, tried to stay groomed and presentable, what people thought of him must have mattered… I can relate. The white supremacist element of this character is probably the one thing I struggled with and gave up on. I couldn’t really let that in - so I left it in the hands of my makeup team to add that element. Keep in mind, Joseph De Rocher is based on a combination of people, so there’s wiggle room for interpretation. Every Joe I play will be slightly different based on the production. While I’ve never raped or murdered anyone offstage, we’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t… As an actor, or storyteller, we have to dig into the pain and discomfort of the situations we’re presented with, and be totally transparent about it. It’s a difficult edge to ride the wave of emotion while having to function vocally/physically. Taking it over the edge in rehearsals helps identify how far I can go as an actor without making the singing suffer.    
Zachary Gordin getting tattoed for Dead Man Walking

6. Do you like sporting tattoos? Do you find them sexy on others?
ZG: I don’t have any of my own, but these experiences with Joe have made me curious… It was fun being covered in “ink” (apart from their meaning) and getting reactions to it, but then being able to remove it with a team of two people and a pile of alcohol swabs (that was cold!). I think tattoos are hot on the right people… I wouldn’t say it’s a fetish, but they definitely catch my eye and draw me in. If I do go ahead and get some, I’ll be sure to have BARIHUNKS post the pics! ;-)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Reader Submission: Miles Wilson-Tolliver aka "Pork Chop"

Miles Wilson-Tolliver
Our latest Reader Submission is barihunk Miles Wilson-Tolliver, who will be singing Dancaïre in Bizet's Carmen and Bill Calhoun in Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate this summer with Opera Theater of Pittsburgh. Additional information is available online.

We asked Miles if he'd be willing to answer a few questions, so readers could get to know him a little better. Read it to find out why he's called "Pork Chop."

1. What drew you to a career in opera? 
I am sure, just like many others, I was a complete Musical Theatre kid in high-school. I did a lot of singing in church and some choral work in the classical tradition, but never opera. Sarah Armstrong, my high-school music teacher heard something different in my voice and asked me to study privately with her. My interest in opera just grew from there and by senior year I was looking and auditioning for opera Programs around the country. I always have to add that the very first opera I saw in person was Wagner's Der Fliegender Holländer! And at 17, I was ready to sing Wotan! LOL.

2. You're singing in both Carmen and Kiss Me, Kate this summer. Do you have a preference singing opera or musicals?
I prefer to sing opera. I find it opera more challenging for me, and I think it is the most gratifying art form. I always love giving it my all!

Miles Wilson-Tolliver
3. What are your thoughts about singers taking care of their bodies as well as their voices? Do you have a routine to stay in shape?
Taking care of my body and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, has become the only way to sing to my fullest potential at all times. I don't know how to stress it enough. It is so vital to be healthy, physically, mentally and spiritually. I go to the gym about five or six times a week. And I follow the Men's Health fitness routine. Monday is Chest and Triceps. Tuesday is Back and Biceps. Wednesday is abs and cardio, Thursday is shoulders. Friday is lower body and core strength. Saturday is rest day. Sunday is church, which in my opinion is an exercise in and of itself. Especially going to a southern black Pentecostal church. LOL

4. Are there any roles in particular that you really hope to get to perform someday?
I would love to play Wolfram in Tannhäuser! But we'll see not quite there yet!

5. What other passions do you have aside from music?
I love to cook. My mom and her mom taught me how very young. I make a mean southern home-cooked meal. I fry so many pork chops that "Pork Chop" has become my nickname, given by my best friend. My favorite meal to cook: Fried pork chops, southern baked mac and cheese, and green beans with pork fat. MMMMMM

Miles Wilson-Tolliver
6. What do you listen to other than opera?
I often listen to gospel, Kim Burrell is my favorite singer, I love country music and hip hop and R&B.

7. Tell us something about yourself that has nothing to do with opera.
I am pretty handy. I have spent summers working as an all around handy man. It's something I'm good at because I pick up fast and I'm good and trial and error. However, I don't get enjoyment out of it. I also am a member of Phi Delta Theta!

8. Do you have any idea who submitted you to Barihunks or is it a surprise?
I know who submitted me. Thanks Joele! :)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

TRIFECTA: André Courville wins his third major vocal competition

Chloe Moore, André Courville and Marie Natale
Bass-barihunk André Courville, won his third First Prize when he took home top honors at the 28th Annual Violetta DuPont Vocal Competition. He previously won the 2015 Loren L. Zachary National Vocal Competition and the 2014 Giargiari Bel Canto Competition. The competition was held at Lenfell Hall in the Mansion at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey.

Courville took home $5,000 as the winner of competition. The $3,000 Second Prize went to soprano Marie Natale and the $1,500 Third Prize to soprano Chloe Moore. The winners were winnowed down from 114 candidates, which resulted in 18 finalists.

Each finalist performed an aria of his or her choice to be judged by a panel of renowned opera figures and jurists based on voice quality, technique, intonation, diction, interpretation, and stage presence. The judges included Gerda Lissner Foundation President Stephen DeMaio, Maestra Eva Quelar, Artist Manager Robert Lombardo, retired soprano Barbara Ann Testa, and arts patron James Thurmond Smithgall.

Last year's winner, tenor Alasdair Kent, performed "Fantaisie aux divins mensonges" from Leo Delibes' Lakme as the judges deliberated.
Courville can next be heard on May 6th as the bass soloist in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis with The Cecilia Chorus of New York at Carnegie Hall. The West Coast can hear him on May 22 in concert with the Opera Associates of Los Angeles at the 36th Church of Christ, Scientist in Studio City, California.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Christopher Burchett in Edgar Allan Poe double-bill in Fort Worth

Christopher Burchett and Maren Weinberger in Buried Alive (photos: Brandon Wade)
Back in 2014, we posted about barihunk Christopher Burchett performing in composer Jeff Myers and librettist Quincy Long's Buried Alive at the Fargo Moorhead Opera. He's reprising the role, in which he appears in various states of undress, at the Fort Worth Opera Festival, which is currently underway.

Buried Alive was written specifically for Burchett, and he has been with the project since the first workshops with the American Lyric Theater in 2010. As part of the Poe Project, the goal was to create an opera that Poe himself might have written, although it's based on the author's The Premature Burial. The opera is directed by Lawrence Edelson, who heads up the American Lyric Theater.

The Fort Worth Opera is presenting Buried Alive at the Scott Theatre at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, which is a more intimate space than Bass Hall where they perform their standard repertory pieces. It's part of a double-header with Embedded, based on The Cask of Amontillado, and previewed at Fort Worth Opera's Frontiers showcase for new works in 2013. The stagings include twelve TV monitors with special effects and a large eyeball that ogles the crowd. Burchett also appears as the Producer in Embedded.

Christopher Burchett
Buried Alive tells the story of Victor, a painter whose nightmares of death begin to become real. Alternating realities are juxtaposed and culminate in a final gruesome ending. 

Embedded revolves around an aging American news anchor who finds herself on the wrong side of the headlines. Desperate to prove her value while being pushed out of her job by a young rival, she is tricked by a notorious terrorist into traveling to see him for an exclusive interview. The opera takes an unexpected twist and ends with a moment of triumph in face of death.

There are five remaining performances on April 26, 29 and 30, and May 3 and 7. Tickets and additional cast information are available online.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Reader Submission: Austrian Barihunk Rafael Fingerlos

Rafael Fingerlos
An eagle-eyed reader introduced us to barihunk Rafael Fingerlos, who he noticed was singing the world premiere of Thomas Adès' The Exterminating Angel at the Salzburg Festival this summer with fellow barihunk David Adam Moore, hunkentenor deluxe Ed Lyon and  the legendary baritone Sir Thomas Allen. The all-star cast also includes Anne Sofie von Otter, Sally Matthews, Charles Workman, Iestyn Davies, Eric Halvarson and Audrey Luna with performances running from July 28-August 8.  

The Exterminating Angel is inspired by the 1962 film El ángel exterminador by the famed surrealist Luis Buñuel. The Salzburg performances will be followed by productions at The Royal Opera in London and the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in 2017. Buñuel’s film, a parable on the ‘bourgeois condition’, sees a collection of society’s grandees trapped in a room; in no time at all their veneer of sophistication cracks.

Barihunk David Adam Moore and Hunkentenor Ed Lyon are both appearing in Salzburg
Fingerlos hails from Mariapfarr in the Salzburg region of Austria, so music is in his blood. In 2013, he graduated with honors from his master’s program in solo vocal performance at the private Conservatory of Vienna and won the “Musica Juventutis” auditions at the Wiener Konzerthaus in Vienna.

He also won the  Brahms singing competition and received first prize as well as the public’s choice prize at the International Franz Schubert Lied Competition held in Steyr. As a participant in the Young Singers Project at the 2015 Salzburg Festival, Rafael sang the part of Figaro in Der Barbier von Sevilla für Kinder. 

 Rafael Fingerlos sings Brahms' "Wie rafft' ich mich auf":  

This Fall, he will alternate the title role in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Vienna State Opera with fellow barihunk Alessio Arduini. His Rosina will be Isabel Leonard and Almaviva will be sung by hunkentenor Pavel Kolgatin. 

He has released a solo CD of romantic German Lieder and one of Bach’s cantatas.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

JFK opera debuts in Fort Worth with barihunk duo

Daniela Mack and Matthew Worth in JFK (Photo: Allison V. Smith NY Times)
The Fort Worth Opera, in collaboration with the American Lyric Theater, debuted JFK tonight, about the final twelve hours of President John F. Kennedy's life. The opera will star two of the world's most popular barihunks in the lead roles: Matthew Worth takes on JFK and Daniel Okulitch portrays LBJ. Worth shares both the good looks and New England charm of our 35th President, while Okulitch matches the Vice President's 6' 4" frame.

LBJ (left) and Daniel Okulitch in Brokeback Mountain
Joining them in the cast will be the amazing mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack as Jackie Kennedy, Talise Trevigne as hotel maid Clara Harris, hunkentenor Sean Panikkar as JFK's secret service agent and confidant Henry Rathbone, Cree Carrico as Rosemary Kennedy and Katharine Goeldner as Jackie Onassis. The opera was written by composer David T. Little and librettist Royce Vavrek, who collaborated on the critically acclaimed opera Dog Days in 2012. Additional performance will be on May 1 and 7 and tickets are available online.

 "Spin, Measure Cut" from a workshop for the opera JFK:  

The Fort Worth Opera is a fitting setting for the premiere of JFK, as it's the last place that the President slept before being gunned down in Dallas. JFK left the Hotel Texas (now the Fort Worth Hilton) on the rain-soaked morning of November 22, 1963, and spoke to thousands who had waited in the rain to hear him speak. Those remarks were to be his final public speech.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Nederlandse Reisopera's tall order producing "Der Kaiser von Atlantis"

Wiard Witholt rehearsing Der Kaiser von Atlantis
They only time that Wiard Witholt has appeared on Barihunks was in 2010 when we were trying to figure out who the tallest barihunk was in the world. The Cardiff Singer of the World Competition listed him at 6' 7½" which is a little over 2 meters tall, making him the second tallest after Olivier Laquerre (but the tallest to ever compete at Cardiff).

He's now performing the title role in Czech composer Viktor Ullmann's Der Kaiser von Atlantis at the Nederlandse Reisopera from May 4-13 in Amsterdam, Enschede, Apeldoorn, Maastricht and Leiden. The Netherlands Opera presented the world premiere of the opera December 16, 1975, at the Bellevue Centre in Amsterdam. The opera was performed at Theresienstadt on May 25, 1991, fifty-one years after the initial rehearsal.The opera has had numerous performances worldwide in recent years, including in Kassel, Long Beach, Hamburg, Linz, Boston, Lyon, Vienna, Dijon and a U.K. tour. Other upcoming performances will be in Madrid with Alejandro Marco-Buhrmester and in Vienna with Matteo Loi.

Wiard Witholt studied at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and the New Opera Academy in Amsterdam, graduating in 2005. In 2008, he made his debut at the Royal Theatre La Monnaie Brussels as Le Berger in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande. In the 2009-10 season, he became a full-time member of the Opera House in Dessau. He created Schemariah, the principal character in Hiob, Erich Zeisl's opera based on the novel by Joseph Roth. Last season he sang the Messanger in the world première of Pascal Dusapin's Penthesilea at the Royal Theatre La Monnaie and Dusapin's Passion at the Sydney Festival 2016.

Viktor Ullman and his librettist Peter Kien wrote Der Kaiser von Atlantis while interned at the Nazi concentration camp of Theresienstadt (Terezín) around 1943. The opera received a rehearsal at Theresienstadt in March 1944, but the Nazi authorities interpreted the work's depiction of the character Kaiser Overall as a satire on Adolf Hitler and did not allow a performance.

Both of Viktor Ullmann's parents were from families of Jewish descent, but had converted to Roman Catholicism before his birth. Ullmann remained active musically at Theresienstadt, where he was a piano accompanist, organized concerts, wrote critiques of musical events, and composed, as part of a cultural circle including Karel Ančerl, Rafael Schachter, Gideon Klein, Hans Krása, and other prominent musicians imprisoned there. Both the composer and the librettist died in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The Netherlands Opera presented the world premiere of the opera December 16, 1975, at the Bellevue Centre in Amsterdam. The opera was performed at Theresienstadt on May 25, 1991, fifty-one years after the initial rehearsal.