Tag Archives: baritone

keys to a classy recital: a how-to from bari Andy Stuckey

Baritone Andy Stuckey's April 28 recital at Share Hall

A rigorous solo recital may have been a requirement for his doctoral degree in musical arts from Rutgers University, but baritone W. Andrew “Andy” Stuckey transformed an academic expectation into a labor of love for him and (especially) for the audience.     

It was a stunning evening of vocally challenging music which showcased Mr. Stuckey’s  facility in a range of pieces, including perfectly appointed selections from rare baroque arias to quirky contemporary tunes, all masterfully sung.     

First, Mr. Stuckey has a powerful voice and exceptional control, soundly tested in a Veracini piece, “Se main piagato la morte,”  replete with run after run. The other pieces of early music presented included “Ah! Si vien Morte” from Nicola Porpora  and “Pensa a chi geme d’amor piagata” by George Frederic Handel.     

Joining Mr. Stuckey for the Baroque portion of the program were  Andrew Kirkman, violin;  Mira Kang, cello; and Allison Brewster Franzetti, harpsichord–all accomplished musicians. Then the stage was reset and Mr. Stuckey was accompanied by Ms. Franzetti on piano for the balance of the program.     

My favorite pieces were the Brahms selections, “Vier ernste Gesänge,” which were ideally suited to his range, his velvety rich baritone, and the intensity he projects in performance. (Mr. Stuckey talks at length about the Brahms’ selections later in this post.) He concluded the program with two of Paul Verlaine‘s poems set to music by Stravinsky and three of E.A. Robinson’s poems set to music by J. Duke. I hadn’t heard the poem “Richard Cory” for decades–literally.  Duke’s selections dripped with irony, as startling as the first time I heard them recited–expertly interpreted and sung by Mr. Stuckey. The encore, which Mr. Stuckey called a potboiler, was the perfect ending to a first-rate program.     

Andy Stuckey and his accompanist Allison Brewster Franzetti were ideally matched--both gifted professionals.

Stuckey and his accompanist Allison Brewster Franzetti were ideally matched--both gifted professionals.

 

Besides being a polished performance, the entire program was such a well conceived event that I was full of questions for Mr. Stuckey, which he gamely answered below.     

How did you select the program (who selected the program)?
It was a collaboration between me and my teacher at Rutgers, Professor Eduardo Chama.  In my career, I have found that the opportunities to sing recitals are few and far between so I am delighted to do the recital as part of the Doctoral degree requirement.     

I consider the Brahms “Four Serious Songs” to be a milestone set for my voice type.  They are at the absolute height of song repertoire and are challenging in every way.  In these songs the range is broad both tonally and emotionally, the subject is complex and deep, and the intensity required is breathtaking.  The challenge of performing music like this is what I relish about being a singer.  It is an honor to perform them.  The Stravinsky are interesting as they are a somewhat unique representation of his style.  They also happen to be orchestrated which will hopefully make them useful to me in future orchestral engagements.  The trio of John Duke vignettes are pieces that I’ve wanted to perform for quite some time.  I find the poetry fascinating and effective and the music quite illustrative. They are simply fun!  The Baroque arias were added in part, to fulfill the chamber music requirement of the degree.  I had performed them at Rutgers in concert with the original instrument group Musica Raritana.  In fact the violinist in my recital, Dr. Andrew Kirkman, is the conductor of that group. The trio of arias represent a sort of picture of the London opera scene in 1735.  It happened that one of Handel’s singers, Signor Montagnano had “defected” from Handel’s theater to a rival.     

Is it customary for the recitalist to translate what he is singing?
Generally, it is considered an important courtesy to provide the audience with a translation of the works in the recital.  A recital is SO much about the setting of poetry and prose to music that it really enhances the experience if all who are there understand the text.  Because the meaning is paramount, translation is a necessary part of the process for any recitalist.     

How long did you rehearse for this?
I started learning the repertoire last Fall and have been working like crazy ever since.  A recital is a HUGE undertaking.  Understand that the largest opera role, say Falstaff or Scarpia in my case, might be onstage for an hour.  However, the character would certainly not be singing the entire time.  In a recital of 50 minutes, it’s just the singer and a pianist. There is usually a more dense concentration of text and multiple styles which make the recital a hugely challenging art.     

What was the name of the encore piece?
 The encore was “And This Shall be for Music” by George Cory.     

Did you have a favorite piece that you performed?
The third Brahms song, “O Tod, wie bitter bist du”, is a song that has changed my view of life.     

You sang the Brahms beautifully. Do you agree with NY Times critic Anthony Tommasini who named Brahms to his top ten classical composers list?
Thank you!  Interesting list.  My initial impression of the list is that it is well done.  I might have included Monteverdi rather than Brahms but I see why Brahms was included.  Brahms is easy to overlook because to our ears it is an awful lot of pretty.  There is no doubt that he was one of the great composers of Western Classical Music though so I wouldn’t quibble too much.     

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You can follow Andrew Stuckey on Twitter @wastuckey or friend him on Facebook. He was also featured during Baritone Month earlier this year on this blog.

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Meet bari ‘Andrew’ Stuckey

I love when opera lovers recommend artists to be profiled on “Operatoonity.” Usually that means the performer has a following.

Such is the case with the accomplished baritone
W. A. “Andrew” Stuckey, whose career has whisked him around the world several times over, which explains his recommendation from “a voracious seeker of good opera and classical music” from Valencia, Spain.

Welcome to “Operatoonity,” Andrew!

Q: Where did you grow up and how did it affect your life choices?
A: I grew up in the Midwest, Missouri and Kansas.  I received my undergraduate from Kansas State University and my masters from the University of Kansas.  I’m very thankful to have grown up in the Midwest and still value the friends I have from that time.

Q: When did you know that you were destined to become an opera/classically trained singer?
A: I certainly didn’t grow up wanting to become and opera singer.  The career was really a result of my love for music combined with my proclivity for the challenges of opera.  One must have the voice, a love for language and travel, the rehearsals, and the challenge of the art.  By challenge of the art I mean the unique combination of drama, character development, musical proficiency and high performance standards (hopefully).
 
Q: How would you describe your voice?  
A: This is an interesting question because I’ve found that my own impression may not be entirely accurate.  The term that I consistently hear from others is that it’s a beautiful voice–which is a great thing.
 

Q: What is it about your voice that makes you so successful singing Verdi baritone roles?
A: Generally, it’s a combination of timbre, range and tessitura.  The Verdi baritone should have a powerful voice capable of singing in all dynamic ranges, a brilliant high range, and the ability to sustain a tessitura that is demanding.

Q: You’ve been described as equally adept at Italian, French and German
opera. Do you prefer one to the others?
A: I have more experience in the Italian language, though I must confess an irresistible preference for the sound of spoken French.  Italian for singing is THE language without a doubt.  The vowels are mainly open and easy to maintain and the consonants are, for the most part, a part of the legato.

“Baritone William Andrew Stuckey, in the role of Enrico, has a leonine voice of dark, smoky sonority and a stage presence to go with it.”
Chuck Klaus, Syracuse Post-Standard

Q: Time for some faves. Favorite composer? Favorite opera? Favorite role?  Favorite venue?
A: My favorite opera composer is without a doubt is Verdi.  His writing for the baritone is unmatched.  It is challenging and rewarding.  He really has a sense of drama that is spot on and the melodic genius is seemingly unending. 

My favorite opera is Rigoletto though I haven’t had a chance to perform it yet!!

My favorite role to sing thus far has been Scarpia.  It is a role that is so intense that when it is performed well, the audience really responds.  It is challenging beyond measure, but very memorable.  In a comedic vein, Falstaff has given me the same pleasure.  By the end of the opera, the characters’ spirit becomes a part of the audiences life (or should).  I also feel that Verdi is speaking through the character of Falstaff in an intimate way.  Leaving the world with a wink and a smile.  Love it!!

As far as a favorite venue goes, I don’t really have a preference.  There are some really fantastic theaters which are not in large cities.  I just did fantastic Pirates of the Penzance in, of all places, Trenton, New Jersey, with Boheme Opera.  The cast was fantastic and the theater in Trenton is a real jewel.  A perfect size.  But for me, it’s more about with whom I’m performing and the spirit of the production. 

Q: What goes through your head when you are called in to sing a role on
only a few hours notice? How have you done this successfully?
A: What goes through my head is sheer panic!  I’ve been called upon to do this three times in my career.  The first was at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City at the beginning of my professional career.  I was singing Wagner in Faust and chorus for the rest of the show.  When I arrived at the theater, the stage director was pacing outside and asked my to go to the conductor’s (who was also artistic director) dressing room immediately.  My first thought was that I had been sent to the principal’s office and was in trouble!  I knocked on the dressing room and entered into a cloud of smoke.  He asked me how well I knew Mephistopheles and I said not very.  He explained that the singer (with whom I am still in touch) who was singing Mephistopheles didn’t think he could make it through the show.  Well, I sang my role in act 2.  He made it through the next act while I coached the role backstage in a stairwell with an electric keyboard.  We made it through the rest of the opera twice.  Then, still in costume for Wagner, I went to the orchestra pit and sang the role.  It was quite the experience! 

The second time was with the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  I was singing Yamadori and was an understudy for Sharpless.  The principal artist got sick and I went on.  The Lyric in Chicago does an excellent job of preparing the understudies so I felt very ready to go on. 

The third was with Washington National Opera in Washington, D.C.  I was an understudy for Jon Sorel.  I ended up being called at 5 o’clock for an 8 o’clock start.  Not much rehearsal and no costume fitting there so it was a good thing that he and I were about the same size. 

Thankfully, they were all successful.

Q: According to your resume, you’ve been traveling for 13 years all
around the country and around the world. Still traveling? What were the great takeaways from your itineracy?

Brittany, 500 km from Paris, largest of Breton Islands

A: I still enjoy traveling though I don’t travel as much due to my school obligations.  My favorite job was with the Festival Lyrique-en-mer in France.  It takes place on an Island called, appropriately enough, Belle-ile during the summer from early July to mid-August.  It is truly beautiful and during my second year there, I was able to bring my daughter, who was seven at the time, with me.  We had such a fantastic time there.  I hope to go back soon.

 Q: What would you like to be doing in five years? Ten years?
A: I am in my first year at Rutgers University DMA program.  I would like to continue to have a performing career but feel that I am ready to teach as well.  I suppose that in five years and ten years I would like to be doing what I am doing, but maybe getting paid a LOT more.  🙂

Andrew's Twitter pic

Q: When did you embrace social media and how has it impacted your career or visibility. Or has it?
A: We singers really needed Facebook.  Let me explain.  Our job entails traveling and rehearsing for 2-6 weeks, depending on the company.  We get to know some fantastic people and before Facebook, it was not easy to keep in touch as our homes were all scattered throughout the world.  For me, Facebook has been a wonderful way to re-connect with my colleagues and keep in touch.

The potential of Social Media in opera fascinates me.  It is absolutely necessary for singers to have some sort of online presence.  It doesn’t have to be anything special or over the top, but it is necessary.  I have used Facebook and Twitter and have my own domain- www.wastuckey.com – where I have been able to maintain my own website for some years now.  In fact, I wouldn’t have been referred to you had we both not been on Twitter.  My former agent listened to a recording on my website and that helped inform her decision to work with me.

For instance- We just finished a show at Rutgers.  Consider this.  Every student in the show who is on Facebook conservatively has 500 friends.  So let’s say twenty students publicize the show on their Facebook account.  That’s 10,000 people who now know about the show and it is a narrowly targeted audience.  The numbers are huge.  Now, realistically, the percentages are not great.  But social media absolutely is a great way to communicate with people who may be interested in what we do.  In fact, the paradigm has shifted.  Now people EXPECT to be able to interact with the artists they see or admire.  I think that’s really cool and why shouldn’t it translate into our world of classical music?

Q: What is something most people don’t know about you, something not on your resume?
A: I’m really into baking bread and brewing beer.  I generally think yeast is amazing.

Q: Where can we see you performing in 2010?
A: Just check out www.wastuckey.com

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Follow Andrew on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wastuckey
Friend him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/wastuckey

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bari steals show in COC’s delightful ‘Flute’

How many people watch The Magic Flute and wonder why Mozart wrote such a lighthearted, whimsical character as Papageno for the baritone voice? Anyone besides me?

In many cases, too many to mention here, baritones are opera’s bad boys, villains, tragically flawed protagonists,  womanizers, and drunkards.  

And then there is Papageno, the spritely birdcatcher–a part in a class all its own–who always seems to steal the show, no matter who produces the show.  

According to the professional reviews and audience reactions on the Canadian Opera Company‘s Facebook page, in the COC’s new production of The Magic Flute running through February 25, Papageno, the bird-catching bari, strikes again, capturing the heartshare of operagoers and critics alike. The review from the Toronto Star said:  

“The star of this production is Russian baritone Rodion Pogossov, who lit up the stage whenever he appeared. He not only sang beautifully but was a paragon of comic flippancy as Papageno, the bird-man who only wants a nice wife and something good to eat and drink.” — John Terauds  

Rodion Pogossov as Papageno / photo by Michael Cooper

Congratulations to the COC on another hit! Enjoy more of the photographs taken during dress rehearsal.  

Michael Schade as Tamino/photo by Michael Cooper

Lisa DiMaria as Papagena and Rodion Pogossov as Papageno /photo by Michael Cooper

 For remaining performances and tickets, visit the COC website. Production credits: Conductor Johannes Debus, director Diane Paulus, set and costume designer Myung Hee Cho and lighting designer Scott Zielinski.

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Sherrill Milnes . . . a ‘bari’ microtale

Since we are basking in bass-baritones this month on “Operatoonity,” it’s the ideal time to recognize the contributions of Sherrill Milnes, an American baritone most famous for his Verdi roles, who made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1965 and continued appearing there through 1997. 

Sherrill Milnes as Rigoletto

 

In an English-language adaptation of Rigoletto produced by Russian conductor and impresario Boris Goldovsky, a young Sherrill Milnes was singing the title role in English. Nearing the end of one of Rigoletto’s monologues, Pari siamo, instead of “it is an evil omen; ah, no, it’s madness,” Sherrill sang, “It is an oval eeman.” Then realizing his mistake, he ad libbed, “Ah, no. It is a round one.” 

  

(adapted from Opera: Aria Ready for a Laugh by Stephen and Nancy Tanner)

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rising Canadian star makes Opéra Comique debut . . .

Phillip Addis, Canadian baritone

 

One of Canada’s fastest rising opera stars, baritone Phillip Addis, makes his double debut Monday, June 14, in the title role of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande and his Paris debut at the legendary Opéra Comique where the work had its premiere more than 100 years ago, on April 30, 1902.   

How exciting that must be for an opera singer to perform at the world-renowned Opéra Comique!  Addis speaks to the sense of history he felt preparing for such a famous role in the  acoustically live atmosphere where Debussy’s work was heard for the first time:  

I have been preparing this role for many months but it wasn’t until I arrived in Paris and began rehearsals that I felt the weight of history of this incredible opera. To be standing on the stage where it was first premiered over 100 years ago is magical, daunting and exciting.”   

Praised for his creamy, bright voice as much as for his daring, yet sensitive interpretations, Phillip Addis has performed in opera, concerts and recitals throughout Canada, the United States, Europe and Japan.  

His vocal quality is both creamy and dreamy. Listen to his rendition of La Ballade de la Reine Mab from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette:  

La Ballade de la Reine Mab [MP3 2.5 MB, 2:44]  

Isn’t his baritone voice smooth– ideal for French repertoire!  

Phillip Addis as the Count in 'The Marriage of Figaro,' Opera Atelier

 

Addis looks forward to another major debut in the 2010-2011 season when he takes on the title role of Massenet’s Werther mounted by L’Opéra de Montréal in the rarely performed baritone version.  

Interestingly, he is equally comfortable tackling the challenges of contemporary roles as he is in singing standard opera repertoire.  In September 2010, he sings the role of Jaufre Rudel in Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de loin at the De Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp in the Fall.   

This past season included a number of firsts for Addis, among them, his New York debut as Roderick Usher in Debussy’s The Fall of the House of Usher with Opéra Français de New York, his first performances as Belcore in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore with Atlanta Opera, and his role debut as John Brooke in the Canadian premiere of Mark Adamo’s Little Women with Calgary Opera.  

Pelléas et Mélisande is a new production staged by Stéphane Braunschweig with French soprano Karen Vourc’h as Mélisande, conducted by Maestro Sir John Eliot Gardiner, The performances run June 14, 16, 18, 22, 24, 27 29. Additional performance information and ticket availability can be found at www.opera-comique.com
 
 

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