Is barihunk a fach?
Of all the fads that have developed recently in the opera world, I have to admit that the emergence of barihunks is one of my favorites.
What exactly is a barihunk? It’s exactly what it sounds like: a hunky baritone. According to the original website, a barihunk is “any hunk who sings in the baritone and bass/baritone range. Singers must be professional, semi-professional or serious students with real potential.”
Even though this may seem like a simply superficial endeavor, the Barihunk Blog does not just provide shirtless pictures of handsome opera singers for the adoring public. They work hard to promote the careers and artistry of these singers. Last year, they put together a Barihunks Calendar to raise money to support young artists. They provide updated information on new CDs, performances, and projects that these baritones are involved with.
The first barihunk that I became aware of was Nathan Gunn. His beautiful tone and impressive acting skills caught my interest initially, but then I realized that he had a huge “barihunk” reputation on the internet. The thing that I really love about Nathan Gunn is that he excels in many different types of theater. He does well in traditional opera, such as Papageno in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles (excerpted below), contemporary opera, and musical theater. I love his rendition of “If Ever I Would Leave You” from Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot.
A more recent addition to my barihunk knowledge is Jesse Blumberg. His repertoire covers a plethora of concert work as well as opera. I had the honor of singing in a Bach St. John Passion where he sang the role of Jesus. He brought a deep passion and beauty to the role and it moved me. But he’s not only a great singer and performer; his business savvy and passion for chamber music led him to found the Five Boroughs Music Festival. He is now the artistic director of the group which aims to bring chamber music to all parts of New York City.
All this barihunk talk might seem silly, but I think that it illuminates the distinct change that has occurred in the aesthetic of opera. The image of the stereotypical overweight opera singer has always been an exaggeration. Today, that may be true more than ever: many leading opera singers are fit and healthy, sometimes even hunky. I think that the ever competitive industry and the increasing knowledge of health and nutrition has led to more fit singers. It’s always important to embrace all body types, but I think this is a good change as long as it’s truly healthy, since a singer’s body is his or her instrument. The healthier the instrument, the better the voice.
It’s fun to watch opera change and improve with time. If that change brings us more barihunks, you’ll get no argument from me.