The spirits of four French composers visited Cincinnati last night. The event was arranged by Samuel Martin, a young musical entrepreneur, just now beginning the second season of his musical brainchild: Cincinnati Song Initiative. The Willis Music Store in Montgomery functioned as an informally assembled recital hall.

Sam’s mission is, in a few words, to resuscitate the all-but-lost art of art song singing. With that in mind he assembled a gifted trio of CCM vocalists: Simon Barrad, baritone, Erin Keesey, soprano, and Lauren McAllister, mezzo soprano, and collaborative pianists Kseniia Polstiankina Barrad and Ahyoung Jung. They shared as equal partners music-making in which the ones up front were Messieurs Honegger, Poulenc, Auric and Milhaud. Kenneth Griffiths provided insights into the songs and their composers in the narration that preceded each set.

The composers and their poets were present in spirit, and the spirit of their music was feted with Gallic panache by the five artists in the program, each and every one giving their very best to the songs of four members of the loosely knit group that was given the sobriquet of Les Six by Henri Collet, a French music critic.

Monsieur Collet decided to lump Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, Georges Auric, Arthur Honegger, Louis Durey and the single female member of the six-some, Germaine Tailleferre into a convenient musical catch all. True, all six members of Les Six were, each in his or her own way, turning their backs on the late Romanticism of Debussy and the exoticism of Maurice Ravel, all  the while searching for a new sound that elicited clarity, adopted straightforward harmonies, and mined worthy texts.

That new marriage of words and music necessitated new poetic sources: Jean Valmy-Baisse provided the mock-medieval texts to Darius Milhaud’s Three Troubadour Songs, and the Uruguayan poet Jules Supervielle gave the composer the gritty words to Trois chansons de négresse.

Arthur Honegger wedded the music of his Three Poems to Paul Claudel’s poetry, while Francis Poulenc, with one foot in the church and the other in the cabarets of 1920’s Paris opted for the sometimes naughty, sometimes bucolic, sometimes dead serious 17th century anonymous texts he put to use in his Chansons Villageoises. Poulenc then moved on to the Surrealism of Apollinaire in Bleuet and beyond that to the powerful Deux poèmes de Louis Aragon, that include C, one of the great French songs of the 20th century, and a mocking setting of Fêtes galantes. Georges Auric set to haunting music the words of Grindel, Supervielle and Aragon for Quatre chants de la France malheureuse (Four Songs of the Unlucky France.)

The three singers, displayed excellent French diction, style and rigorous musicality throughout. Simon Barrad, a lyric baritone with the perfect timbre and suppleness needed for the French canon gave an excellent reading of the Chansons villageoises and an impassioned interpretation of Auric’s Quatre chants de la France malheureuse

Lyric Soprano Erin Keesey floated her voice with ease in Milhaud’s Troubadour Songs and then again used her plangent sound to advantage in both Aragon’s heartrending C and Poulenc’s  Bluet. She then sang the tongue-twisting Fêtes galantes with impeccable diction and wicked humor.

Mezzo-soprano, Lauren McAllister’s fully inhabited both the raw realism of Milhaud’s Trois chansons de négresse and the variety of poetic ideas of Honneger’s Three Poems of Paul Claudel.

Pianists Kseniia Polstiankina Barrad and Ahyoung Jung shared the pianistic duties demanded by the expansive program, playing with both assertiveness and attentiveness to the needs of both singers and songs.

All in all this was an excellently crafted evening that surprised and delighted with some welcome discoveries.  Les Six will be the first concert this season. Visit the Cincinnati Song Initiative’s website ( for more on what’s up ahead.

Cincinnati Song Initiative: Survey of Les Six. Cincinnati, Ohio. Willis Music. September 23, 2017.

Darius Milhaud: Trois chansons de Troubadour and Trois chansons de négresse; Arthur Honegger: Trois poèmes de Claudel; Francis Poulenc: Deux poèmes de Louis Aragon; Bleuet and Chansons villageoises; Georges Auric: Quatre chants de la France malheureuse.

Simon Barrad, baritone; Erin Keesey, soprano; Lauren McAllister, mezzo soprano. Collaborative pianists,  Ahyoung Jung, and Kseniia Polstiankina Barrad.

Kenneth Griffiths, narrator

Rafael de Acha      www.Rafael’     All About the Arts.   9/23/17


Kara Shay Rhomson

Dayton Opera opens its Season 2017-2018 with Gian Carlo Menotti’s THE CONSUL

When: Friday, October 20, 2017 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, October 22, 2017 at 3 p.m.

Where: In the Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center, Dayton, Ohio.

What: Dayton Opera, under the leadership of Artistic Director Thomas Bankston, will present Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera The Consul.

Other information: Tickets – $28 to $94 at (937) 228-3630.  Senior, Student and Military discounts.  Website

Dayton Opera, as part of the Performing Arts Alliance effort to make Opera a tool for social change will partner with the University of Dayton’s Arts Immersion Initiative. Dayton Opera with also join several Dayton organizations in Building Peace Through the Arts 2017,

Cast and production team:  Kara Shay Thomson (Magda Sorel), Tyler Alessi (John Sorel), Cindy Sadler (The Mother), Kenneth Shaw (Secret Police Agent), Layna Chianakas (The Secretary), with Robert Norman, Thomas Hammons, Alexander Harper, Andrea Chenoweth,  Minnita Daniel-Cox and Ryu-Kyung Kim. Director: Gary Briggle. Conductor: Patrick Reynolds.

The Consul is an opera for our time. Its theme of the struggle against an oppressive regime that persecutes dissidents, and its stifling bureaucracy are as vivid as yesterday’s national and international news.

Sixty-seven years ago Menotti’s opera ran for eight months on Broadway, going on to win both the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Music and a 1950 New York Drama Critics’ Circle award.

The Consul is sung in English and it has a running time of approximately three hours.

Magda’s aria: To this we’ve come sung by Patricia Neway in a 1960 television broadcast of the complete opera:

Rafael de Acha   http://www.Rafael’  All About the Arts   September 23, 2017



In the case of the repertory for violin and violoncello duos the pickings are, sad to say, slim. Save for a lone Ravel here and a Scarlatti there, most of the music that is available comes from the rarified world of 19th century salon ditties. So it is all the more laudable that two young players of these instruments, Carmine Miranda and Boris Abramov, decided to collaborate on a CD of duos for violin and cello with most satisfying results. It was also fortuitous that the enterprising folks at Navona Records ( agreed to produce this GLOBAL MUSIC SILVER MEDAL award-winning album.

The parts originally written for viola in the two Mozart duos that open the CD are here played with a mellow singing tone by cellist Carmine Miranda. Violinist Boris Abramov undertakes the playing of the melody in all three movements of the G Major Duo, K. 423 and the Bb Major Duo, KV 424, conversationally sharing the musical dialogue with Miranda’s cello in a manner that makes for chamber music of the first order. Miranda is not a subservient accompanist but a collegial partner who provides a solid harmonic and contrapuntal riposte to Abramov’s violin.

The three Beethoven duos, originally conceived for two wind instruments – possibly bassoon and clarinet – are strongly classical in their formal sonata structure yet Romantic in their expansive melodic sweep. Except for the Bb major duo that carries only two movements, the other two: the C major and F major are typically early Beethoven, with opening Allegros, a middle cantabile movement, and an agile closing rondo that provides the prima voce with plenty of bravura filigree. There, again, Miranda and Abramov partner each other with refined elegance and unified musical ideas.

The CD is insightfully annotated by Miranda and lovingly produced by Navona Records’ Bob Lord. It makes for a fine addition to the library of any lover of chamber music.

The album is slated for release in November.

Rafael de Acha         www.Rafael’           All About the Arts




His vocal fiber was that of a dramatic baritone but his singing was at all times lyrical, never forced or overblown. He clearly sang in the grand old manner, having studied with the great Carlo Tagliabue. Without overly modifying his vowels, even when he “covers” on an E natural for the sake of coloring more than out of necessity, Bardelli never muddles the words, the vocal emission remaining pure, steady, unencumbered by trickery or manipulations.

In a recording that dates back to the 1950’s, he delivers a spectacular Nemico della patria from Giordano’s Andrea Chenier: In the same manner he rides the perils and potential pitfalls of the Prologue from I Pagliacci (NYC, 1965) without breaking a sweat, capping it with as good an Ab as this listener has ever heard:

Sadly, the MET wasted him in second-tier roles like Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana at a time when Merrill and Warren ruled the Verdi roost, occasionally throwing a Tonio in his direction. Other American and many European opera houses put Bardelli’s talents to better and more imaginative use. His 1966 Escamillo from Philadelphia is a case in point. With bravura by spades, handling both the high and low ends of the Toreador Song with equal ease, Bardelli is an Escamillo to the manner born.

The cantilena section in Rigoletto‘s Cortigiani: “Miei signori, perdono…” shows the kind of legato singing that is often absent from our stages these days: His Il ballen (, on the other hand, shows both the lyrical and heroic singing Bardelli could deliver back to back when he moves into the cabaletta that follows the aria.

Even though he grew up fast as a singer, debuting at age 27, Bardelli stayed vocally fresh though his retirement, singing a grueling and steady diet of Scarpias, the role becoming a signature of his. But he remained at heart and at his very core a true Verdi baritone: Ezios’ scena from Attila is a lesson in Verdian singing, bringing to life what Verdi called “lunga la linea”:

This might have just been one of the sturdiest baritone voices this listener ever heard: the longer he sang the better he got. His Scarpia, which he sang hundreds of times: justifiably earned Bardelli the sobriquet of Prince of Baritones: a well deserved, hard earned tribute.

Rafael de Acha www.                      Rafael’       All About the Arts




We recently set out to discuss the present state of singing among the rare vocal species known as “Verdi baritones” in a post of ours, Where Are The Verdi baritones?

To open up the discussion we put forward then the notion that there is a dozen or so fast-moving artists who just might be in line to collectively inherit a throne about to be left vacant by the scarcity of true-blue singers of the Verdi baritone roles. Major artists who have made Rigoletto, Simone, Di Luna and the rest of those parts theirs are approaching their sixties and winding down their careers. Others, mostly lyric voices who have attempted on their own terms to tackle the big Verdi roles have had varying degrees of success, but have failed to truly own those roles and to enter the international circuit singing the thirty six or so Verdi leading baritone roles.

We wrapped up our post with some questions and some wishes: “Are these fellows the new hope? I hope and think so. We need more young singers with the potential to keep the three dozen operas of Verdi in the repertory.”

Well. The post elicited a wide response from literally hundreds of fans coming from more than fifty countries. Among those who made sensible comments, the Americans raved about Quinn Kelsey, the Italians yelled “Bravo!” at the mention of Luca Salsi, and even a couple of Russians greeted the names of Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar and Amartuvshin Enkhbat with elation. None of that was surprising.

The nationalistic fervor made sense: who, in America is familiar with either one or both of the above mentioned Mongolians. And how many in Europe would recognize the name of the fast-rising Quinn Kelsey? That will hopefully change when and if the MET adds the names of Ganbaatar and Enkhbat to its Rolodex, and La Scala, Covent Garden or Hamburg or Vienna decide to issue Kelsey a contract.

Back in the days of the great baritone of the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s the MET boasted the likes of Americans Robert Merrill, Sherrill Milnes and Cornell McNeil. South Americans and Europeans Matteo Manuguerra, Jorma Hynninen, Leo Nucci, Nicolae Herlea and Ingvar Wixell sang the Verdi roles regularly in New York and abroad, along with their American counterparts. But in today’s world, which is getting smaller and more expensive, opera companies are tightening their budgets. That reflects in the increasing difficulty of hiring singers at the top of their game and keeping them around for a decent-length rehearsal period.

The absence of major international stars with their enormous fees on ours and Europe’s regional stages is a boon for early-career singers who are allowed to mature and blossom without the cruel exposure to the New York-London-Milan-Vienna public and critics.

So, back to Verdi baritones… Here are eleven singers whose names were suggested by several Opera-loving friends who visited www.Rafael’ to view our post. Two, with whose singing this listener is familiar were unwittingly overlooked in our original post. The other nine, one must confess, were not known by us.

These are the names we failed to mention. Click on the links. Enjoy. Comment.

Carlos Alvarez – O dei  ver’anni miei (ERNANI

Juan Jesus Rodriguez – Perfidi! All anglo…Pieta, rispetto, amore (MACBETH)

Dimitri Platanias – Alzati…Eri tu (Un ballo in maschera)

Stephen Powell – O Lisbonne (Dom Sebastien)

Nelson Martinez – Cortigiani, vil razza dannata (Rigoletto)

Jason Stearns – O dei  ver’anni miei (ERNANI (from 6:34)

Zachary Nelson – Nemico della patria (Andrea Chenier)

Simone Piazzola – Il ballen del suo sorriso (Il Trovatore)

David Wakeham – Alzati…Eri tu (Un ballo in maschera)

Scott Bearden – Di Provenza (La Traviata)

Marco Caria – Cruda, funesta smania (Lucia di Lammermoor)

Rafael de Acha  www.Rafael’ All About the Arts



The CCM Philharmonia opened the 2017-2018 Concert Season at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music with the Overture to Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The capacity audience at the recently-renovated and acoustically friendly Patricia Corbett Theatre greeted Mark Gibson’s impassioned conducting of what he called, in his own words, “the National Anthem of Classical Music” with an enthusiastic response.

Gibson’s crystal clear take on Mozart’s overture was evident from the iconic opening triple chords that begin the piece to the vertiginously agile allegro that ends it. The Maestro brought out the best of his sizeable ensemble, eliciting utter clarity in the back and forth dialogue between the higher and lower strings while keeping the enthusiastic brass section of the youthful Philharmonic Orchestra from drowning out the rest of the ensemble. It was interesting to note that Gibson likes to separate his first violins to his left and the violas and second violins to his right, an arrangement that allowed for the inner voices to have much presence throughout the evening.

The orchestra quickly rearranged its personnel in order to play Brahms’ Symphony no. 3 in F. The composer spoke of the recurring F-A (or Ab)-E theme as his coded “Frei aber einsam” (Free but alone) message. Gibson described it as a Doubt melodic motif which hesitates about whether to be tonally consonant or chromatically free.

Beyond that, in his introductory words to the Brahms symphony, Gibson attributed to the Brahms a questioning quality, which in the company of the joyful Mozart overture and the second half’s austerely assertive Mendelssohn Reformation Symphony formed a musical triumvirate that expressed deeply religious feelings that ranged from questioning one’s faith to firmly believing in it. It was a fascinating program which the CCM student orchestra played with the flair and technique of a professional ensemble.

Up next the Philharmonia tackles an all-Italian line up of Respighi, Berlioz and the first act of Puccini’s Tosca. Pencil in the date of Wednesday October 4th at 8:00 p.m. and secure your tickets from the CCM box office, for the performance will fill up just like tonight’s did.

Rafael de Acha http://www.Rafael’ All About the Arts


euclid quartet It’s not often that one encounters the music of a 19th Czech composer on the same CD as that of one of the foremost jazz trumpeters of today. But in the recently released Afinat Records CD AMERICAN QUARTETS (AR1701), the 19th century Romantic happens to be America-loving Antonín Dvořák and the music is that of his 1893 String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96, “American”, and the music of the 21st century musician is that of Wynton Marsalis’ 1995 all-American String Quartet No. 1, “At the Octoroon Balls”, and the players are the members of the Euclid Quartet.

From the very first track of this CD we are quite aurally assured of being in the good company of kindred spirits.

Dvořák found the inspiration to compose his “American” quartet in the bucolic surroundings of Spilville, Iowa, where a Czech immigrant community lived and thrived. There, as a guest of the family of his secretary, Josef Jan Kovařík, the Czech master found the quietude to finish his string quartet in less than two weeks. The composer was so at peace with the stillness of his surroundings that, when the insistent song of a scarlet tanager kept distracting him, he incorporated the pentatonic melody of his winged visitor into the molto vivace third movement of his work in progress.

One can speculate as to whether the many melodies in his quartet have Native American or African American origins, just as much as those in Dvořák’s New World Symphony may or may not have come from those folk sources; after all, both the American quartet and the New World Symphony were written during the three years that the composer spent in the United States.

Whatever the provenance of its melodic ideas, the F Major quartet is an enduringly mature composition that has become a staple of the string quartet repertoire. It is given in this CD an exuberantly played performance that on repeated playbacks continues to delight the listener. The Euclid Quartet has a limpid sound, a faultless technique and both musicianship and musicality – all qualities that honorably serve the music of the Czech master.

With an equal mix of precision and panache, the Euclid takes on the jazz-inflected, freely polytonal musical language of Wynton Marsalis’ At the Octoroon Balls. Marsalis’ quartet – his first – comes from a world of music in which African-American rhythms and melodic motifs comingle with Mississippi River Delta banjo tunes, New Orleans blues, Cuban Contra dances and Creole zydeko. Marsalis brilliantly spices up his multi-ethnic musical gumbo, creating a vibrantly rhythmic composition that provides the Euclid Quartet with an opportunity to successfully show their virtuosic versatility.

The Euclid Quartet will be donating their proceeds from worldwide sales of this album to the Raclin School of the Arts String Scholarship Fund at Indiana University South Bend, where the quartet has been in residency since 2007.   This CD is now available exclusively through the Afinat Store ( and will become available from most major music retailers in physical and digital formats on October 6.

Rafael de Acha           http://www.Rafael’     All About the Arts






In a boldly self-asserting move, the young Australian cellist Richard Narroway has recorded all six of the Johann Sebastian Bach Cello Suites. The double CD (SLE-70010) is being released later this month by Sono Luminus

The Six Cello Suites come carrying some good, some odd musical vibes. They have caused much discussion among musicologists, much of it pointless. Their provenance has been questioned. They have been distorted beyond recognition in versions for piano, string instruments, marching band, euphonium and tuba. They have been transcribed for orchestra. It wouldn’t be surprising if one of these days we encounter a section from one of them playing in the background, while someone tries to sell us something on TV. Or have they already?

It is refreshing to have all of that bad baggage offset by the impassioned cellist Richard Narroway, a purposeful Australian musician who, with his wide musical vision neither plants his flag in the overworked ground of the historically accurate performance camp nor on the safe opposite side of that musical fence. By that we mean that he plays the music decisively, elegantly, accurately, respectfully but searching not for the “right way” but for his own way of playing six works written nearly three hundred years ago.

Ornamentation and style are observed by Narroway, executing long slurs whenever the music’s long cascades of notes  calls for slurring with the bow with which he plays his 1930 Carl Becker cello. He never errs on the side of caution but neither does he slip up by using too much vibrato. Most importantly Narroway’s playing is always infused with a perfect mix of a warm hearted musicality and a cool head, an indispensable combination much needed to tackle these six monumental works.

Narroway’s technique never calls attention to itself, not even when he is called upon to negotiate daunting technical hurdles planted along the way by a composer who knew what he was up to, except that he did not give much thought as to how the future interpreters of this music would go about playing it.

Was it perhaps that Bach was writing for a different instrument, the so called “voloncello da spalla”, a hybrid not anchored between the player’s legs upon the floor but an oversized contraption to be held on the player’s lap and played with a huge bow with which one could go hunt wild game? Go figure.

The Bach cello suites have become a calling card for the greats of the cello since Casals disinterred them early in the 20th century. Since then the Catalan poet of the cello passed on the mantle to Tortellier, he to Janigro, he to Rostropovich and they in turn willed it to Du Pre and she to Lynn Harrell and Harrell to Yo Yo Ma. Look up Johann Sebastian Bach Cello Suites on line and you shall find dozens of recordings, most of them very good. Here we have not merely another fine one, but a very fine one by an immensely gifted young musician soon fit to keep company with some of the greats that preceded him.

Rafael de Acha  www.Rafael’ All About the Arts




Thank the gods of Valhalla, here they are, alive and singing well in recent pirated performances caught on You Tube.

greer grimsley Greer GrimsleyDas Rheingold: Abendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge A late bloomer, Grimsley hung out in the regions until the MET finally caught on to this singer being one of the great Wagnerians of our time. In addition to singing like a god in Wotan’s address to his rank and file before entering Valhalla, this singer is a terrific actor.

Evgeny Nitikin Evgeny NitikinO du, mein holder Abendstern from Tannhäuser OK, so he should have had his notorious swastika tattoo removed from his chest before showing up for a costume fitting in Bayreuth a few years ago, which caused his contract to be “terminated” (to be polite.) But he is still singing and singing very well in the Russian rough and ready tradition at the MET and other places but nicht in Deutschland.

René Pape René Pape Leb’ wohl… (Die Walküre) – Pape is more of a basso cantante than a true-blue Heldenbariton. Wagner asked for a “Hoher Bass”, which we suppose is more or less what Pape is.  But should he decide to plant his flag on Wagner Land to the exclusion of all the Italian and French roles in his resume, that will be his call. For now we are glad he is mixing it up.

Falk Struckmann Falk StruckmannWehvolles Erbe from Parsifal – Like some other singers, Struckmann is of the more is more school of singing. His take on Amfortas’ Wehvolles Erbe is raw and dramatic and compelling. He is also a very good Telramund and a first rate Pizarro – both villains, which is Struckmann’s strong suit.

Bryn Terfel Bryn Terfel – In Was duftet doch der Flieder from Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg,  Bryn Terfel sings with the lyricism that has been a hallmark of his singing throughout a 25 year career that is still going strong. His Sachs will get better and better with age.

Michael Volle Michael VolleWahn, wahn from Die Meistersinger von Nüremberg (start at 5:00) – Like that of his predecessor, Paul Schöffler who also sang both Wagner and Italian roles, Volle’s beautiful lyric voice lies a bit higher than those of most bass-baritones. That equips him to comfortably handle the high tessitura of many long passages in Die Meistersinger von Nüremberg

Mark Delavan, Richard Paul Fink, Gordon Hawkins, Alan Held, James Johnson, Eric Owens and Alfred Walker are at different stages of careers that have encompassed Wagnerian roles, among them, Wotan, Hans Sachs, Telramund, Amfortas, Klingsor, Dutchman, Kurwenal, and Colonna. The other roles with which several of these singers have come to be associated include Pizarro, Orest, Jochanaan, Barak, Mandryka, the Four Villains in Les Conte d’Hoffman, Athanael, William Tell, Amonasro, Iago, Falstaff, and Scarpia. But it is in Wagner that time and again they prove their mettle.

Retired or deceased or slowly winding down their fine careers are Theo Adam, Tom Fox, Jerome Hines, Sir Donald McIntyre, Sigmund Nymsgern, Thomas Stewart and Sir John Tomlinson, all of whom successfully sang many of the Wagner bass-baritone roles.

Among some of the great Wagnerian bass-baritones of the immediate past we single out the four artists below. Their singing sets the bar high for singers of today. And that is a good thing.

Hans Hotter Hans Hotter singing Wahn, wahn…from Die Meistersinger von Nüremberg in a 1956 Bayreuth performance ( )  is a thing of wonder, producing a firm column of inky sound not often heard these days.

George London George London’s complete mastery of text and technique are in evidence in this recording of Sach’s Wahn, wahn…from Die Meistersinger von Nüremberg: London first sang the major Wagnerian roles in Bayreuth in 1951, at age 31. He ended his singing career fifteen years later, due to a paralyzed vocal cord.

James Morris James MorrisLeb’ wohl… (Die Walküre) One of the finest Wotans of his generation, Morris here sings Wotan’s Farewell from Die Walküre  His absolutely flawless technique is in evidence in his seamless legato and effortless singing from pianissimo to fortissimo which allow the voice to retain its placement even in “killer” phrases like the notorious “Wer meines Speeres Spitze fürchtet, durchschreite das Feuer nie!”

Paul Schöffler Paul Schöffler – More baritone than bass, a rock-solid artist and a refined vocalist, Schöffler’s lyrical delivery of Hans Sach’s Wahn, wahn…from Die Meistersinger von Nüremberg ( ) is a worthy reminder of the glory days of Wagnerian singing in the post-war years when yelling never took the place of singing.

So, the news is good and the future of Wagnerian singing looks bright, thanks to a new generation of Wagnerians busy traveling from New York to San Francisco to Chicago to Washington and on to and from Europe to keep the Wagnerian flame alive.

Rafael de Acha  www.Rafael’                 All About the Arts


Quinn Kelsey

The MET lists 26 baritones in its roster of artists. Of the two dozen or so middle-voiced male singers listed therein this listener could single out a total of six who could feasibly be called Italian baritones not by passport but by virtue of their voice type. The fact that four of those happen to be Italians by birth and by training is no mere coincidence, but a significant fact.

We will in no way disparage the artistic accomplishments of invaluable artists such as Sir Thomas Allen, Dwayne Croft, Gerald Finley, Rod Gilfry, Nathan Gunn, Mariusz Kwiecien, Alexey Lavrov, Lucas Meachem and Michael Volle, most if not all of whom have made occasional forays at different stages of their careers into the Verdi roles that make up the bulk of the Italian operatic repertoire, even though their areas of specialization lie elsewhere.

By the same token, young newcomers already inducted into the artistic roster at the MET should not be expected to nor will they be likely to undertake any Verdi roles anytime soon. But our concern and the title of this post is Where Are The Verdi baritones?

George Gadnidze and Zeljko Lucic have been heard at the MET in recent years in the major Verdi roles: Rigoletto, Macbeth, Nabucco, Amonasro… But they are mature artists nearing the beginning of the end of their careers. Tragically, the extraordinary Dimitri Hvorostovsky may have already arrived at that critical turning point, due to his bout with a brain tumor.

Over the past several seasons the MET has been trotting out the beloved tenor Placido Domingo in a series of baritone roles: Boccanegra and Nabucco to name but two. This listener’s response to the Spanish tenor’s incursions into the domain of baritones has been one of both concern and disappointment. Once more, Domingo will appear in the crucial role of Miller in the upcoming production of Luisa Miller later on this season.

We have not mentioned the name of Ludovic Tezier, He is a favorite of ours who inexplicably will not be returning to the MET this year.

The temptation to take on the glory roles of the Verdi canon is great. In his time, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau did and failed. So have both Simon Keenlyside and Thomas Hampson fallen short of expectations when enticed to try their vocal chords on Germont or  Rodrigo, both the lightest of the Verdi lot. Hampson, a very fine lyric baritone has even been ill advised by management or by his own unbridled ambition to undertake Macbeth and Boccanegra at various times with questionable results.

Two names come to mind, two big-voiced, intelligent artists to watch: Quinn Kelsey, an American, and Luca Salsi, an Italian. Kelsey has been stealthily and steadily moving up the ranks, first singing primarily in the smaller American regional opera companies, then moving into the big houses here and abroad and, finally into the big roles. This season he sings Peter in Hansel and Gretel and Enrico in Lucia, both at the MET. No, not Verdi, but watch him closely: he has already stopped the show in San Francisco and in Chicago as Rigoletto. In the link below listen to his goosebumps-inducing handling of the famous phrase: Avrai tu l’universo. Resti l’Italia a mè!

Luca Salsi, a bit older than Kelsey, I surmise has already made a run of the big houses in Europe. For me, and along with Kelsey, he is The Real Deal. A plumy voice, with tremendous stamina, an unending top, musicality, acting chops, musicianship, elegant in demeanor, looks, great diction, Salsi seems to have it all, including holding the promise of singing a great Miller (in Luisa Miller), which happens to be the role with which he will be making what I believe will be his MET debut later this season. Listen to his singing of the big scena from Verdi’s La Forza del Destino in the link below. Salsi takes no prisoners.

But a word to the wise: Peter Gelb should keep his ears and telephone lines open. There are a couple of baritones out there to follow. Their names challenge my spelling skills while amazing my ears: Amartuvshin Enkhbat, a 29-year-old baritone from Mongolia (you heard me right) was one of the finalists in this year’s Cardiff Singer of the World and took home the Audience Favorite trophy and the Art Song Prize.

Another Mongolian, Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar, also 27 then, now 29 (is it something in the yak’s milk?) won First Prize in the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 2015. Both he and his fellow countryman are big, burly fellows with big, burly voices.

Ganbaatar is, to our ears, the more refined singer of the two. Enkhbat is the bravest. Are these fellows the new hope? I hope and think so. We need more young singers with the potential to keep the three dozen operas of Verdi in the repertory.

Rafael de Acha   http://www.Rafael’  All About the Arts

Ezio-Attila Duet from Verdi’s Attila : “Tardo per glI anni”, with Quinn Kelsey and Ildar Adbrazakov

Luca Salsi – Morir, tremenda cosa…Urna fatale from Verdi’s La Forza del Destino

Amartuvshin Enkhbat – Cortigiani, vil razza dannata from Verdi’s Rigoletto

Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar – Il balen del suo sorriso from Verdi’s Il Trovatore

  • photographs, from L to R: Quinn Kelsey…Luca Salsi… Amartuvshin Enkhbat… Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar.