Tag Archives: baritones

when does the baritone win the girl?

Nathan Gunn in Camelot

Baritone Nathan Gunn gets the girl in Glimmerglass’s ‘Camelot’ | photo by Karli Cadel

When he’s not in an opera–of course!

Take that same operatic baritone and give him a principal role in musical theater? All of sudden the villain, the rake, the tortured king/prince/swami is raking in the babes instead of handing them off to the precious tenore to have and to hold.

“Sure I get the girl. But only fleetingly–for a few seconds. Then she’s off to a monestary,” American baritone Nathan Gunn said, after an artist Q&A presented yesterday at 2013 Glimmerglass Festival, NY, following the matinee of Camelot. Gunn plays Sir Lancelot du Lac, extramarital love interest of Guenevere.

When it comes right down to it, I’m not entirely sure why baritones rarely get the girl in the world of opera. Or who decided baritones constituted the leading man vocal part in musical theater.

It would be awfully nice to show operatic baritones a little more love. What say you, composers? Turn this classic art form on its head. Stop making perfectly good baritones look for love in all the wrong places (like great musical theater roles). Start giving baritones some cred (and a fighting chance to bed).

Change it up a little, for pity’s sake. The tenor doesn’t always deserve the girl anyway, whereas the baritone always knows what to do. He’s got swag and swagger. He’s been looking on at the climactic love scenes unfolding before him while hiding in the wings. He’s been practicing for centuries.

Whaddya say? Put him in, coach. He’s ready to play.



Comments Off on when does the baritone win the girl?

Filed under Classic Opera, opera and romance

Singer Sunday with Jonathan Estabrooks, vlogging virtuoso

Baritone Jonathan Estabrooks

The official line on baritone Jonathan Estabrooks is that he is an emerging, classically trained artist based in NYC, originally from Ottawa, Canada.

Unofficially, he is a captivating singer/entertainer across disciplines, a compelling host, a gifted actor, a director, and visionary who speaks both English and French, and whose joie de vivre is, well, infectious.

He is also an avid opera vlogger, make that a vlogging virtuoso, of his show “A Singer’s Life”– a delightful series. Each episode is a pastiche of mini-interviews, backstage banter, and rehearsal and performance clips from numerous locations edited and underscored for maximum impact.

While his vlogs showcase all the artists around him, they also reveal a multi-talented, versatile artist who is as much a keen observer of his environment as he is an entertainer.

Here’s a show he filmed at the International Vocal Arts Institute Final Concert Gala in Virginia that *I’m certain* you will enjoy watching:

YouTube Preview Image

If a behind-the-scenes world of a performer trained in the classical arts interests you,   there are many, many other wonderful episodes of “A Singer’s Life” on Jonathan’s YouTube channel.

Can you tell me a little about your childhood? How did you grow up and how did it affect your decision to sing opera?
I guess I could say that my childhood was pretty normal, aside from how busy I was. Both my brother and I were very active  both in terms of activities (gymnastics, skiing, track and field, swimming) but even more so in the arts. From the age of 8, I was a member of a local boys choir affiliated with Opera Lyra Ottawa, and soon joined a thriving musical theatre company called the Company of Musical Theatre. We also spend hundreds of hours each year performing at various charity and fundraising events known then as the Estabrooks Brothers. I learnt so much about collaboration but more importantly, how to interact and communicate with an audience. Through simply doing, I that realized what it took to step out in front of any audience, large or small and communicate a message through music. I guess it was sort of a natural progression to study music, and classical voice seems like the strongest base to allow for healthy singing in any genre.

A map, in case, like me, you're wondering where is Ottawa anyway?

When did you decide to relocate to New York and why?
After completing my Bachelor of music at the University of Toronto, I applied to a number of schools not knowing where I would be accepted. I was open to a new city and a new adventure. When I was accepted into Juilliard, I took the leap and moved to the Big Apple.

What has been the greatest thrill in your career thus far? Greatest challenge?
It’s hard to choose just one thrill because if I wasn’t constantly thrilled and challenged, I would find another career. I would say that there have been a few. Singing for then President Bill Clinton (1999) was certainly one, and my debut with The National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa under the baton of Pinchas Zukerman. Then there are the less showy moments like having the chance to touch someone through music. Perhaps thrilling is too big a word, but bringing meaning to a special moment for even one audience member has to be up there. We are privileged with the ability to share great art and with that comes great responsibility. Not to sound cliche, but without a doubt, it remains a thrill and an honor to connect with and touch someone even for a moment.

The challenges are ever present from the constant turning wheel of auditioning, performing, learning new music and PR, but there is never a dull moment that’s for sure. Sometimes the traveling can be tough, but then I think about how blessed I am to work with such incredible artists and travel the world. It sure beats the 9-5; for me at least.

Jonathan in performance | The Elixir of Love

Do you have any favorites? Composer? Opera? Baritone role(s)? Venue?
I would say that among my favorites are Rossini and Mozart roles (Figaro, Papageno The Count, Guglielmo), though Pelleas was also a thrilling role to perform, because of its high tessitura and the fact that for once, the baritone was the romantic lead! I will be making my Carnegie Hall Stern Auditorium debut in November, so I am extremely excited to perform in that venue.

Do you miss Ottawa? Any desire or need to go abroad to sing?
I do miss Ottawa but surprisingly, I have returned quite a bit in the last few years to perform so I get my fix. My parents live outside of the city, so I enjoy seeing them, but most of my friends are in Toronto, Montreal, New York or abroad. It is a global world we live in, but thanks to Facebook and the Internet, it makes staying in touch a whole lot easier.

(Here is a fun little clip all about Jonathan produced by a TV show in  Ottawa prior to his opening in Pagliacci:)

YouTube Preview Image

Why and when did you start vlogging?
I have always had an interest in video production and how the camera can capture moments, whether performances or short films. There is something very intriguing about the power of the editor to share and shape how a  viewer experiences an event. This lead to a hobby in video making at a young age and has remained with me. It seemed like a natural move to use my interest and skill with video to share my life as a singer and the many intriguing people I continue to work with. ‘A Singer’s Life” on YouTube has certainly been a labor of love.

sitting by the Hudson River with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background

What do you think of the increasing numbers of big-screen Simulcast operas around the world produced by the Met and others?
You know the discussion of Opera in movie theaters has come up a great deal in recent years and even weeks. It is a two-edged sword. I think there is no denying that these broadcasts are bringing a new audience to the art form and hopefully peaking their curiosity enough to attend a live performance, but I worry that when they do see a live performance that there will be a let down because they don’t have the luxury of a close up, a wide shot and a sweeping camera crane shot at that most dramatic musical moment. My hope is that they will attend the live performance and continue coming.

The other challenge is on the performers because singing and acting for the stage vs camera are very different. It is certainly a balancing act but certainly more positive than negative.

Where would you like to be in five years? In ten years?
In 5 years I would like to be booked 3 years in advance performing world wide in a variety of traditional Opera roles, new works, concerts, pops concerts and even film/music collaborations. I am open to interdisciplinary art, making and breaking down the boundaries between genres. It is so hard to plan so I say bring it on! I am excited to see where my artistic life will take me!

What is something most people don’t know about you, something not on your professional bio?
Well, like most singers, I love food and cooking when I get the chance. My favorites are my mom’s recipes often involving some sort of comfort food, be it Shepherd’s Pie or her signature-ish honey/dijon/curry chicken and rice. And how can I forget apple pie! All this talk of food. I think I need a snack!

* * *
Jonathan has some great upcoming gigs at Carnegie Hall with the Oratorio Society of NY this November and with Toronto Symphony and pops conductor Steven Reineke in October. For more of his wonderful “A Singer’s Life” vlogs, visit his YouTube channel.  Though his website is currently under construction, you can like his Fan Page on Facebook. You can also follow him on Twitter @estarp.


1 Comment

Filed under Baritones, Careers in opera, Interviews, Opera and food, Opera and humor, opera and technology, opera challenges, Opera vlogging, Performers, Q&A, Singer Sunday

Singer Sunday: a baritone hits the books


Baritone and doctoral student Andy Stuckey

Editor’s Note: What makes a classically trained performer go the academic route? Baritone W.A. “Andy” Stuckey talks about the challenges involved in taking his talent back to school for a doctoral degree, a primer for talented singers considering the same path.

Welcome back to Operatoonity, Andy. When did you decide to pursue a Doctor of Musical Arts?

Well, the initial process was more of an exploration that led to a decision.  For many reasons, I was not feeling that the career was providing enough satisfaction to continue full-time.  I love singing and performing but I was starting to become conflicted about not contributing more financially to my family and was feeling some internal pressure to pursue other avenues of employment.  As I really started to distill my strengths and my passions I realized that while I may not have achieved the level of success that I wished for myself, I have accumulated a bank of knowledge and experience that is singular and perhaps somewhat valuable.

This realization uncovered a need to start to pass the knowledge on to a new generation by moving into a teaching career.  Up until this point I had not maintained a vocal studio and had been focused on raising my children and fostering my solo career.

What made you pursue academia, and how did you choose your graduate school. In other words, why a DMA?

Because I had not maintained a vocal studio I did not feel comfortable jumping into the academic world directly.  Although I have my Master of Music degree, I had been solely focused on my solo career and felt that in order to make the transition to teaching effectively, I needed to re-immerse myself into the academic world and the DMA, or Doctor of Musical Arts, was the avenue that seemed best for me to do so.  Also, from doing research, a DMA is almost a requirement in the current job environment due to the competitive nature of Voice Faculty positions.

Rutgers University offered me a nice scholarship and that was really the determining factor.  I knew that I was not willing to put the financial health of my family at stake in order to complete this degree so the scholarship to Rutgers was a real and somewhat unexpected blessing.


Andy as Baron Scarpia in Tosca

How much more do you have to do to obtain your terminal degree?

I am on schedule for a 3 year degree completion and have completed 1.5 years officially.  However there are many obstacles and challenges that await me.  Because it is a terminal degree the standards are rigorous and demanding.  There are a series of written and oral comprehensive exams that are not at all a “sure thing”.  In fact, it is not unusual for the DMA to take much longer to complete. Let’s hope this won’t happen in my case!

Do you hope to combine teaching and performance someday?

Absolutely.  I will always be a performer and the realization that the two are not mutually exclusive was an important facet to this pursuit.  That being said, it is a VERY tenuous balance and I would have serious problems leaving young students for too long.  Continuity is so important when helping a young student build their technique.  I will be a better teacher if I continue to perform though.

Are you teaching as well as studying?

As part of the degree, there is a small pedagogical requirement that involves real teaching. Surprisingly, I haven’t been able to start teaching much because of the demanding nature of the academic classes and my already hectic regular
schedule.  It’s a busy time.

What kind of classically trained singer might enjoy the route you’ve taken?

A DMA isn’t for everybody. It’s a rigorous pursuit.  In spite of appearances, (HA!) I tend to be rather bookish and enjoy learning so it suits me well.


Another shot of Andy in performance

Any challenges? Regrets? Unexpected opportunities or bennies as a result?

I am challenged every day by singing.  Some days it’s a great reward and some days the burden becomes stifling.  I keep experiencing amazement at the talent of the great singers around me and that I hear on recordings.  I have a very deeply held feeling that music and art are immensely important to our culture and a testament to the fulfilled potential of our beautifully imperfect humanity.  It’s a humbling privilege to be able to bear a small banner for it.

No, not too many regrets thankfully and there have been many benefits from returning to the academic milieu.

The most surprising discovery has been the wonderful relationships that have developed with my voice teacher, academic faculty members, and my fellow students.

Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

This may sound strange, but a key concept that led me down this road was when my “Why?” turned into “Why not?”.  If you’re considering a change of almost any sort, as you carefully weigh the options ask yourself “Why not?”.  It makes a difference!  Why not?!?

* * *

If you’d like to talk further with Andy about his career choices, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wastuckey or friend him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/wastuckey. You can read more about Andy at this Operatoonity profile.



Comments Off on Singer Sunday: a baritone hits the books

Filed under Interviews, opera education, Q&A, Singer Sunday

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.     

* * *     

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Performers, Recitals, Reviews

bari, bari good baritones

Walter Berry, D. Fischer-Dieskau, Hakan Hagegard, Sherrill Milnes, Hermann Prey, Bernd Weikl. 

With the exception of Sherrill Milnes, the names of these great baritones might not be household words, but they are arguably on par with well-known opera greats such as Marilyn Horne, Renata Scotto, Beverly Sills, Leontyne Price, and Montserrat Caballé.

Here are some clips of these great baris. All very different.

Which is your favorite?

We’ll start with a clip of Walter Berry from Beethoven’s lone opera Fidelio.

YouTube Preview Image

Listen to D. Fischer-Dieskau in this 1960 clip from Strauss’s Arabella, which I’m seeing this weekend in Philadelphia.

YouTube Preview Image

And now for something completely different, here’s Hakan Hagegard, from the film The Magic Flute directed byIngmar Bergman:

YouTube Preview Image

Next up is Sherrill Milnes in Pagliacci singing “Si Puo” from 1978:

YouTube Preview Image

Now a clip from Hermann Prey singing the ever popular “Largo al Factotum” from The Barber of Seville:

YouTube Preview ImageLastly, a clip of Bernd Weikl (1994) as Wolfram von Eschenbach in TANNHÄUSER.

YouTube Preview Image


Filed under Best of Operatoonity, Performers, Poll