Category Archives: Baritones

FRANK GUARRERA, Baritone * 03 December 1923, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States + 23 November 2007, Bellmawr, New Jersey, United States;

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The American baritone Frank Guarrera sang for 28 seasons at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. His large repertory was mainly Italian, though his most popular role, Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen, was French and he was also a notable Valentine in Gounod’s Faust during the early years of his career. He sang frequently in San Francisco, Philadelphia and other US cities, including Seattle and Los Angeles. His summers were spent at Cincinnati Summer Opera and Colorado Central City. Though his voice was not huge, it was well-focused and always stylishly used, while with the years he became a very good actor.

Frank Guarrera, son of Sicilian parents, was born in Philadelphia in 1923 and Frank obtained a scholarship to study at the Curtis Institute there. His studies were interrupted by service in the Navy during the Second World War. In 1947 he made his début at the New York City Opera as Silvio in Pagliacci. Early in 1948 he sang in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air; his audition aria was Ford’s Monologue from Verdi’s Falstaff and not only did he win the competition, but he received a phone call from the great conductor Arturo Toscanini, asking him to audition at the NBC studio.

As a result of Toscanini’s intervention, Guarrera sang in two operas at La Scala, Milan that summer, as Zurga in Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles (or rather, I pescatori di perle) in August and Manfredo in L’amore dei tre re during October. Earlier, on 10 June, the 30th anniversary of the death of Arrigo Boito, he took part in a concert at La Scala, conducted by Toscanini, of excerpts from Boito’s operas; Guarrera sang Fanuel in Act III and Act IV, scene 2 of Nerone.

Guarrera made his Metropolitan début on 3 December 1948 as Escamillo in Carmen. His other roles included Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, Figaro in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, Marcello in La Bohème, Ping in Turandot and Ford in Falstaff. He also sang Ford in the NBC broadcast of Falstaff conducted by Toscanini in 1950, which was issued as a greatly admired recording.

Guarrera first sang at San Francisco in 1952, as the Count di Luna in Il trovatore. He appeared there nearly every year until 1960, singing many of his Met roles, but also Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, Rodrigo in Verdi’s Don Carlo and Manfred, his second role from La Scala.

On 4 March 1960 the baritone Leonard Warren was singing Don Carlo in Verdi’s La forza del destino at the Metropolitan when he collapsed and died on stage. Guarrera took over another of Warren’s great Verdi characterisations, the title role of Simon Boccanegra, on 15 March and was warmly applauded for his courage, but he did not really have a large enough voice for the part.

Other Verdi roles included Amonasro in Aida, which he sang at the Met and in Los Angeles; Giorgio Germont in La traviata, at the Met and in Philadelphia; and Macbeth at Cincinnati, where he also sang Scarpia in Tosca, which was not a great success. However, Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte later the same season was a triumph, and became one of the best interpretations of the second half of his career.

In Philadelphia during the Sixties he sang Valentine in Faust, Tonio in Pagliacci and, in 1972, Scarpia again, this time with more success, with his ability as an actor making up for any vocal deficiency. Guarrera continued singing until 1976 and after his retirement became a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Biography by Elizabeth Forbes


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Posted by on December 3, 2017 in Baritones


TONI BLANKENHEIM, Baritone * 12 December 1921, Cologne, Germany + 11 December 2012, Hamburg, Germany;

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Toni Blankenheim (12 December 1921 – 11 December 2012) was a German operatic baritone.[1] He notably sang major roles in the operas of Alban Berg: the title role of Wozzeck, produced for television in 1970 (later issued on DVD), and the role of Schigolch in the 1981 recording of Lulu which won a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. He is also on record singing the role of Alberich at Bayreuth. His memorable Beckmesser in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg with the Hamburg State Opera has been preserved and is available on DVD. This performance is evidence of Blankenheim’s charismatic stage presence and acting gifts.

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Posted by on November 27, 2017 in Baritones


ERNEST BLANC, Baritone * 1 November 1923, Sanary-sur-Mer, France + 22 December 2010, Entre-Deux-Mers;

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Ernest Blanc (November 1, 1923 – December 22, 2010) was a French opera singer, one of the leading baritones of his era in France.

Born in Sanary-sur-Mer, Ernest Blanc studied at the Music Conservatory of Toulon with Sabran, from 1946 to 1949. He made his debut in Marseille, as Tonio, in 1950. He then sang throughout France in the French and Italian repertories.

In 1954, he made his debut at the Palais Garnier in Paris, as Rigoletto, he sang there as first baritone for 25 years in a wide repertoire (Rameau, Mozart, Gounod, Bizet, Massenet, Verdi, Puccini, etc.). He also appeared often at the Opéra-Comique, and was a regular guest at the Aix-en-Provence Festival.

His career took an international turn in 1958, with debut at the Bayreuth Festival, followed by debuts at La Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera House in London, the Glyndebourne Festival, the Vienna State Opera, the Salzburg Festival, La Monnaie in Brussels, the Grand Théâtre de Genève, the Monte Carlo Opera, the Teatro Nacional Sao Carlos in Lisbon, the Liceo in Barcelona, the Berlin State Opera, etc.

He also enjoyed considerable success in America, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the San Francisco Opera, the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, etc.

Notable roles included; Don Giovanni, Valentin, Zurga, Escamillo, Golaud, Germont, Renato, Amonasro, Scarpia, Riccardo in I puritani, opposite Joan Sutherland, Alfonso in La favorite, Wolfram, Telramund, etc.

A stylish singer and a fine musician, he possessed a beautiful voice with a brilliant upper register and impeccable diction, one of the few post war French singers to have enjoyed a truly international career. After his retirement he taught in Paris.

Selected recordings
1958 – Gounod – Faust – Victoria de los Angeles, Nicolai Gedda, Ernest Blanc, Boris Christoff – Choeurs et Orchestre de l’Opéra de Paris, André Cluytens – (EMI)
1959 – Bizet – Carmen – Victoria de los Angeles, Nicolai Gedda, Janine Micheau, Ernest Blanc – Choeurs et Orchestre de la RTF, Thomas Beecham – (EMI)
1960 – Bizet – Les pêcheurs de perles – Janine Micheau, Nicolai Gedda, Ernest Blanc, Jacques Mars – Choeurs et Orchestre de l’Opéra-Comique, Pierre Dervaux – (EMI)
1962 – Saint-Saëns – Samson et Dalila – Jon Vickers, Rita Gorr, Ernest Blanc, Anton Diakov – Choeurs René Duclos, Orchestre de l’Opéra de Paris, Georges Prêtre – (EMI)

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Posted by on November 24, 2017 in Baritones


DMITRI HVOROSTOVSKY, Baritone * 16 October 1962, Krasnoyarsk, Russia + 22 November 2017, London, United Kingdom;


Dmitri Aleksandrovich Hvorostovsky PAR (Дми́трий Алекса́ндрович Хворосто́вский, 16 October 1962 – 22 November 2017) was a Russian operatic baritone.

Early life and education
Hvorostovsky was born an only child in Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. He studied at the Krasnoyarsk School of Arts under Yekaterina Yofel and made his debut at Krasnoyarsk Opera House, in the role of Marullo in Rigoletto. He won First Prize at both the Russian Glinka Competition in 1987 and the Toulouse Singing Competition in 1988.

Hvorostovsky came to international prominence in 1989 when he won the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, beating local favorite Bryn Terfel in the final round. His performance included Handel’s “Ombra mai fu” and “Per me giunto…O Carlo ascolta” from Verdi’s Don Carlos. His international concert recitals began immediately (London debut, 1989; New York 1990).

His operatic debut in the West was at the Nice Opera in Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades (1989). In Italy he debuted at La Fenice as Eugene Onegin, a success that sealed his reputation, and made his American operatic debut with the Lyric Opera of Chicago (1993) in La traviata.

He subsequently sang at virtually every major opera house, including the Metropolitan Opera (debut 1995), the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, the Berlin State Opera, La Scala and the Vienna State Opera. He was especially renowned for his portrayal of the title character in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin; The New York Times described him as “born to play the role.”

In 2002, Hvorostovsky performed at the Russian Children’s Welfare Society’s major fund raiser, the “Petrushka Ball”. He was an Honorary Director of the charity. A tall man with a striking head of prematurely silver hair, Hvorostovsky achieved international acclaim as an opera performer as well as a concert artist. He was one of People magazine’s 50 most beautiful people, a rare occurrence for a classical musician. His high, medium-weight voice had the typical liquid timbre of Russian baritones.

A recital programme of new arrangements of songs from the World War II era, Where Are You My Brothers?, was given in the spring of 2003 in front of an audience of 6,000 at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow, and seen on Russian Television by over 90 million viewers. The same programme was performed with the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra for survivors of the Siege of Leningrad on 16 January 2004.

In later years Hvorostovsky’s stage repertoire almost entirely consisted of Verdi operas such as Un ballo in maschera, La traviata and Simon Boccanegra. In 2009 he appeared in Il trovatore in a David McVicar production at the Metropolitan Opera with Sondra Radvanovsky.

In June 2015 Hvorostovsky announced that he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and canceled all his performances through August. Family representatives said that he would be treated at London’s cancer hospital Royal Marsden. In spite of his illness, Hvorostovky returned to the stage at the Metropolitan Opera in September as Count di Luna in Il trovatore for a run of three performances opposite Anna Netrebko. He received strong reviews from both critics and audiences for his performance.

Hvorostovsky died on 22 November 2017 in London after a two-and-a-half-year battle with brain cancer.

Hvorostovsky made many CD recordings, first with Valery Gergiev for Philips and then with Constantine Orbelian for Delos, and had a number of performances recorded on DVD.

Light music
Hvorostovsky’s interest in Russian light classical and traditional song led to several recordings including:

I Met You, My Love 2002
Where Are You My Brothers? 2003

Courtesy: Wikipedia

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Photo courtesy:

Photo courtesy:

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Litrato ni Kostas Dotsikas.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky as a baby 1962

Litrato ni Gerhard Santos.

Young Dmitri Hvorostovsky


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Posted by on November 23, 2017 in Baritones


RON BOTTCHER, Baritone * 11 May 1940, Sandpoint, Idaho, United States + 12 April 1991, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City, New York, United States;

Ron Bottcher (11 May 1940 – 12 April 1991) was an American operatic baritone who was actively performing with both the New York City Opera (NYCO) and the Metropolitan Opera during the 1960s. A native of Sandpoint, Idaho, he earned music degrees from the University of Montana and the Curtis Institute of Music. He made his debut at the Santa Fe Opera in the summer of 1961, where he portrayed the roles of Leopold in Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, Marcello in Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème, and the Head waiter in Paul Hindemith’s Neues vom Tage. His roles at the NYCO included Escamillo in Georges Bizet’s Carmen and Sharpless in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly among others. At the Met he created roles in the world premieres of Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra and Marvin David Levy’s Mourning Becomes Electra. He died at the age of 50 at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan of AIDS related illness.

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Posted by on November 21, 2017 in Baritones


RENÉ BIANCO, Baritone * 21 June 1908, Constantine, Algeria + 23 January 2008, Charbonnières-les-Bains, France;

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René Bianco (1908–2008) was a French operatic baritone who performed at the Opéra Comique and the Paris Opera in a wide variety of leading roles.

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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Baritones


MAURIZIO BENSAUDE, Baritone * 13 February 1863, Ponta Delgada + 22 December 1912, Lisbon;

Maurício (Moisés) Bensaúde (also known professionally as Maurizio Bensaude) (13 February 1863 in Ponta Delgada – 22 December 1912 in Lisbon), was a Portuguese operatic baritone. He arrived in Lisbon in 1884, where he received vocal training for a short time, and then made his debut in the same year at the Teatro da Trindade in Lisbon, in the operetta La petite mariée by Charles Lecocq. He then worked in another operetta at the Portuguese capital, in the Teatro de D. Maria, where he appeared in operettas and musical comedies. However, he continued to take singing lessons, and began to take on operatic roles as well at the end of the 1880s. He quickly became a success, and went on to have extensive international guest appearances.

In 1896, he sang at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome, playing Riccardo in Bellini’s I Puritani in 1897, and playing Gunther in Twilight of the Gods. In the 1893-94 and 1898-99 seasons, he was engaged at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, where he served as Amonasro in the debut of Aida. In 1899, he performed at the Teatro Regio in Turin, and in 1900, he performed at the Covent Garden Opera in London as Amonasro and as Figaro in Barber of Seville. He also had other guest appearances at the Berlin Court Opera, the Teatro Argentina in Rome, Paris and Milan, at the Odessa Opera, and in Zagreb. He also toured through Brazil and the United States.

In 1910, he gave up his stage career. At times he worked as the head of an opera troupe, with whom he held opera performances in Portugal. He worked as a teacher and was active in the management of the Teatro de São Carlos in Lisbon, but he died two years after his farewell stage.

Bensaude was married to the opera singer Julia de Fano. His repertoire for the stage included Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, Germont in La Traviata, Lescaut in Manon by Massenet, the Escamillo in Carmen, Marcello in Puccini’s La Boheme, and Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana.

US career
Although Bensaude was primarily active in Europe, he had more than a passing career in the United States. He made his debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera on November 23, 1894, as Amonasro in Verdi’s Aida, and his debut in Philadelphia on the following December 18 in the same role. he would remain a member of the Metropolitan company for the remainder of the season. At least at first he made little impression in New York, where critics described his voice as “pleasant” or “tolerable,”; The New York Times, in a generally mixed review of the production, indicated the artist “lacks distinction, both vocally and dramatically.” Perhaps Bensaude was overshadowed by other developments; the Aida soprano Libia Drog was attempting to erase memories of her own unsuccessful New York debut two days earlier in Rossini’s William Tell, when she was so stricken by stage fright that she froze onstage and was unable to perform, and the Rhadames, Francesco Tamagno, drew critical reproval for “bawling” his part over the footlights.

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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Baritones

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