Götterdämmerung & Das Rheingold at Lyric Opera of Chicago cancelled due to COVID-19

Brian Mulligan’s upcoming performances in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s thrilling Ring cycle have regrettably been canceled because of coronavirus concerns. Mulligan was set to make his highly anticipated role debut as Wotan in Das Rheingold and to return to the role of Gunther in Götterdämmerung. 

Marking the Lyric’s fourth time to present Wagner’s epic four-opera saga, director David Pountney placed the production in a darkly imaginative future. Music Director and Principal Conductor Sir Andrew Davis was set to conduct the expanded Lyric Opera Orchestra and an all-star cast. The extraordinary creative team included set designer Robert Innes Hopkins (expanding original designs by the late Johan Engels), costume designer Marie-Jeanne Lecca, lighting designer Fabrice Kebour, and choreographer Denni Sayers. Statement regarding COVID-19 cancellations from Lyric Opera of Chicago:

“At a press conference on Thursday, March 12, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a State and City mandate that all large-scale events exceeding 1,000 individuals be canceled for the next 30 days as a preventive measure to stop the spread of COVID-19 disease (coronavirus). Additionally, the State and the City encouraged that community events of 250 people or more should be canceled until May 1. This encompasses the time period of our long-planned and highly-anticipated Ring cycle. With great regret, we have no option but to cancel all three Ring cycles and the preceding two performances of Gotterdammerung.” For more information, click here.



‘Fidelio’ with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

On January 24 & 26, Brian Mulligan stars as the malevolent Don Pizarro in concert performances of Beethoven’s Fidelio with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. In tribute to Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th anniversary of his birth this year, the PSO presents Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, under the baton of Manfred Honeck.

Mulligan shares the stage with a spectacular roster of soloists, including Eric Cutler as the title role, Nicole Chevalier as Leonore, Alexander Elliott as Don Ferrando, Wei Wu as Rocco, Rachele Gilmore as Marzelline, David Portillo as Jacquino, Thomas Shivone as Prisoner, and Don Marinelli as the narrator. For more information, visit the pittsburghsymphony.org

Puccini’s ‘Le Willis’ now available on CD

Opera Rara’s new recording of Puccini’s Le Willis, featuring Brian Mulligan as Guglielmo, is now available on CD format via Opera Rara and Amazon. Based on the new Ricordi critical edition, and reconstructed by musicologist Martin Deasy, the studio recording was taken at London’s Henry Wood Hall in November 2018. The original one-act version of Puccini’s first opera was successfully premièred at Milan’s Teatro Dal Verme but was never published and has not been heard since 1884. This marks Opera Rara’s first venture into the musical world of Puccini and its second verismo project.

Based on the short story Les Willis by French novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr – based in turn on the legend of the Vila who appear in the ballet Giselle – Le Willis was composed for a competition in 1883. While Puccini’s work did not even earn an honourable mention, his supporters helped fund its first production the following year in Milan. This, in turn, won the 24-year-old composer – already hailed as Verdi’s successor – a contract with Italy’s leading publisher, Ricordi. At Ricordi’s request, Puccini set about revising the work, creating a two-act version with additional arias for the soprano and tenor; and this is the form in which the work has been performed ever since.

Returning for her second collaboration with Opera Rara, Ermonela Jaho sings the role of Anna. Armenian tenor Arsen Soghomonyan will make his UK debut as her lover Roberto, and Brian Mulligan sings the role of her father Guglielmo. Opera Rara’s Artistic Director Sir Mark Elder conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Debut in Enescu’s rarely performed ‘Oedipe’ at the Salzburg Festival

This month, Brian Mulligan makes his debut as Créon in George Enescu’s rarely performed work, Oedipe, featuring a new production by Achim Freyer at the Salzburg Festival. Oedipe tells not only the oedipal tragedy but also the whole life cycle of this tragic-mythical figure, musically placing it at the center. Ingo Metzmacher conducts the Vienna Philharmonic, the Vienna State Opera Chorus, and the Salzburger Festspiele und Theater Kinderchor for this rare masterwork of the 20th century.

On August 11, 14, 17 & 24 at the Felsenreitschule, Mulligan shares the stage with a world-class ensemble including Christopher Maltman as the title role, John Tomlinson as Tirésias, Vincent Ordonneau as Le Berger, David Steffens as Le Grand Prêtre, Gordon Bintner as Phorbas, TIlmann Rönnebeck as Le Veilleur, Boris Pinkhasovich as Thésée, Michael Colvin as Laïos, Anaïk Morel as Jocaste, Ève-Maud Hubeaux as La Sphinge, Chiara Skerath as Antigone, and Anna Maria Dur as Mérope. On August 17, Oe1 will broadcast the recorded performance from August 11, beginning at 7:30 PM. For more information about the broadcast, click here.

© SF/Monika Rittershaus

‘Old Fashioned’ named a Critics Choice by Opera Now and Opera News

Brian Mulligan’s second solo recording Old Fashioned, featuring beloved songs of the early twentieth century, was selected as a Critics Choice by Opera Now in May, and by Opera News in August. Released by Bridge Records, Mulligan and pianist Craig Rutenberg curated this program to represent a breadth of composers and musical styles, honoring an incredible period of music in America. Purchase links and more information about Old Fashioned is available via Brian’s Recordings.

“The home page of Brian Mulligan’s website highlights a review stating that he possesses ‘a voice that rich, secure, and really, really big’, and I am happy to concur – it is indeed a very generous and at times noble baritone. This recording is very forward in its sound, but I can confirm that heard live (as in Puccini’s Le Villi a few months ago in London), Mulligan’s voice is indeed pretty sizeable. In Old Fashioned he performs songs made popular by the great American baritones of the 20th century, such as Nelson Eddy, Lawrence Tibbett and Leonard Warren, sailing through them from a whisper to a roar. He sounds very comfortable in this repertoire, from the ardent romanticism of d’Hardelot’s Because to the goonish On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine, famously performed by Laurel and Hardy. So it is not claiming to hit the intellectual heights, but it is hugely enjoyable. Mulligan is abetted by his skillful pianist, Craig Rutenberg, who as well as providing endless spread chords also makes his own spontaneous vocal exclamation of joy in one song – how Mulligan keeps singing I don’t know; it certainly made me laugh out loud.” ~Opera Now

“The CD presents a fine selection of the kind of concert song that has long since vanished from the active repertory, with a style floating somewhere between popular and semi-classical. These numbers predate the universal use of microphones and require good, solid technique.

Modern audiences have heard a few of these numbers in concerts by Thomas Hampson or Nathan Gunn, but Mulligan offers a more oaken and substantial timbre, recalling American singers such as Richard Bonelli and Robert Weede…Mulligan’s baritone is generally firm and up to the challenges of dynamics and range this repertory demands.

The sentimental “Roses of Picardy” (1916) stands out for effective intimacy, as does the familiar stanzaic Romberg chestnut.

Mulligan delivers the words with admirable clarity; the texts are available on his website. Ironically, his nostalgic project should prove a welcome novelty for many listeners.” ~Opera News

Golaud at the Dutch National Opera

This month, Brian Mulligan sings Golaud in Olivier Py’s new production of Pelléas et Mélisande (Debussy), part of the 2019 Holland Festival at the Dutch National Opera. Based on a symbolist play by Maurice Maeterlinck about a vicious love triangle entangling two brothers and one woman, Debussy’s work is regarded as an impressionist masterpiece and it is the only opera the composer completed.

Performances will take place on June 5, 8, 12, 16, 18, 23 & 27, with Mulligan joining a starry cast including  Paul Appleby and Elena Tsallagova in the title roles, Peter Rose as Arkel, Gregor Hoffmann & Maximilian Leicher as Le Petit Yniold, Michael Wilmering as Le médicin, Katia Ledoux as Geneviève, and Frederik Bergman as Le berger. Stéphane Denève leads the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

Sharpless in Amsterdam

From April 23 until May 13, Brian Mulligan sings Sharpless in Robert Wilson’s staging of Puccini’s heartbreaking Madama Butterfly at the Dutch National Opera.

The role of Cio-Cio-San is sung by Elena Stikhina, Suzuki by Enkelejda Shkosa, and Pinkerton by Gianluca Terranova (DNO debut). Jader Bignamini conducts.

Bachtrack sung his praises for his performance as Sharpless at the Opernhaus Zürich:

“…the evening’s strongest performance was Brian Mulligan’s Sharpless, who cautions the headstrong and irreverent Pinkerton that it is a “great sin to … break a trusting heart”. Sharpless is moral standard, cultural interface and master of diplomacy all in one – an easy fellow to like anyway – but Mulligan sang the role with authority and bravado.”

‘Old Fashioned’ Album Release launching 2019

Brian Mulligan’s second solo album, Old Fashioned, consists of songs from the early part of the 20th century, made popular through renditions by great American baritones of the past, including Nelson Eddy, John Charles Thomas, Lawrence Tibbett, and Leonard Warren. Released by Bridge Records, the album is currently available for pre-order and will be released worldwide on January 4, 2019.

Mulligan collaborates with acclaimed pianist Craig Rutenberg on the album, creating a thoughtfully curated program to represent a breadth of composers and musical styles, honoring an incredible period of music in America. More information about the album and links to purchase are available via Brian’s Recordings.

Artist statement by Brian Mulligan:

I love the songs on this album. Sadly, you don’t hear them much anymore; they’re usually considered to be “old fashioned.” However, during the first half of the 20th century, most of these songs became incredibly popular, through renditions by some of the greatest American baritones of all time.

Every song is its own distinct entity, and the creation of each song comes with its own story. There are so many brilliant composers and librettists represented on this album, with histories far too rich for me to go into complete detail here. For now, I’d like to share with you the stories of how I discovered several of the songs I’ve selected for this album.

I first encountered the song “On the Road to Mandalay” by Oley Speaks while listening to an album by the magnificent baritone Leonard Warren. I’d been somewhat obsessed with Mr. Warren’s singing for much of my life, and always sought out his recordings of the standard operatic repertoire. It was through listening to his albums that I began to understand what it really means to be an American baritone, and the unique privilege that comes with the territory. Mr. Warren performed the operatic standards, of course, but he also sang popular music, including some of the very same songs found on this album. In programming and recording these songs, perfectly suited to the baritone voice, Mr. Warren proudly celebrated both his nationality and the beautiful, special music coming out of the United States. It was because of Leonard Warren that I learned to embrace my sound, and to celebrate the musical heritage of my home.

I was around 19 years old when I first heard “The Green Eyed Dragon” by Wolseley Charles. I remember thinking it was such a ridiculous song, something way too vintage for a “serious” singer like myself. But my mind was changed a few years later, after hearing a recording by the great baritone John Charles Thomas. It was this irresistible interpretation that gave me the courage to take on the song myself, in all of its tongue-twisty, ludicrous glory. In addition to his many operatic engagements, Mr. Thomas appeared regularly on popular radio shows during the 1930’s and 40’s, often singing this kind of repertoire. These appearances made him an extremely popular singer, and through his spectacular recorded renditions I was introduced to many of the songs on this album, including “Trees,” “There is No Death,” “Sylvia,” and “Bluebird of Happiness.”

“When I Grow Too Old to Dream” was a song I first heard as a child, and it seems like one I have always known. Linda Ronstadt performed the song with the Muppets on The Muppet Show in 1980. Although I was too young to have watched it live, sometime during my childhood I saw the performance and the tune was etched in my mind. The song was written by Sigmund Romberg, with lyrics by none other than Oscar Hammerstein. Many years later, I stumbled upon a rendition by the wonderful American baritone Nelson Eddy, and realized I could sing the song too … but alas, without the Muppets. Mr. Eddy was a prolific performer, a star of the stage and screen, mostly during the 1930’s and 40’s. But it was his radio program, “The Electric Hour,” which inspired me most. That show aired from 1944-46, and through vintage recordings I was introduced to many wonderful songs for baritone voice, including “I Love You Truly,” “A Perfect Day,” and “I’ll See You Again,” which was written by Noël Coward.

Lawrence Tibbett is a name I heard often while I was a student, but whose artistry was mostly unknown to me. A few years ago, I set out to learn more about him, often described as one of the finest American baritones. Tibbett enjoyed an astounding career that spanned over opera, radio, Broadway, and film, even earning him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in 1930 for the film The Rogue Song. In 1931, Tibbett starred in The Prodigal, and in that film he sings “Without a Song” by Vincent Youmans. I first heard the song through this rendition, in a clip on YouTube, and immediately knew I had to sing it. It’s truly a joy to perform this music.

When I first thought of creating this album, I immediately hoped I could convince pianist Craig Rutenberg to join me. Craig and I have known each other for years, we worked together at The Metropolitan Opera, where he was the Head of Music. It was there that I learned he possessed something of an encyclopedic brain when it comes to vocal repertoire, and I knew we shared a love for these songs. When we first discussed this project, Craig was thrilled with the songs I had chosen, and he had a few more to add to our list! One that I hadn’t heard of before has turned out to be one of my favorites. “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine,” written by Harry Carroll, became popular in 1937 through the film Way Out West, featuring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

A clip of their fantastic performance can be viewed on YouTube. It’s so adorable that I knew I wanted it on this record. I’m not sure which of us is Laurel and which is Hardy, but that’s Craig shouting out “Oh June!” in the background of the song.

Each song really does come with its own story of how it came into my life, and I’ve only shared a handful of the stories from this album! I embarked on this project with the hope of introducing these wonderful songs to emerging audiences, and to breathe new life into them for those of you who are already familiar with the tunes. This album is also meant to be a dedication to the incredible American baritones that have greatly inspired me, and who introduced me to this music. Now, perhaps this album will become a part of your story of discovering these old fashioned songs. I hope you will love them as much as I do!

Zurga in Bizet’s ‘Les Pêcheurs de perles’ in Zurich

This month, Brian Mulligan returns to the Opernhaus Zurich for performances as Zurga in Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de perles. Mulligan recently thrilled audiences at the Zurich house last season as Sharpless in their production of Madama Butterfly:

“But it was American-Irish baritone Brian Mulligan who impressed me the most, as Sharpless. Amply rounded both in form and vocal tone, his warm voice was always the centre of attention and he displayed touching acting skills as the ever-sensitive Commissioner.” (Seen and Heard International)

He returns for performances on December 16 & 22, January 26 & 29, and February 1. Mulligan shares the stage with Olga Kulchynska as Léïla, Sergey Romanovsky as Nadir, and Wenwei Zhang as Nourabad. Pavel Baleff leads the Philharmonia Zurich and Zurich Opera Chorus.

With set designs by Mathis Neidhardt and costumes by Sybille Gädeke, Jens-Daniel Herzog’s production “forgoes exotic South Sea charm, instead taking the critical view, already inherent to the story, of a social order that is based on oppression. The pearl fishers slave on the lower decks of a steamer – while the gentlemen rule from their cabins.”

Puccini’s ‘Le Villi’ with the London Philharmonic Orchestra

Brian Mulligan travels to London to perform Puccini’s first opera, Le Villi, in a concert staging with Opera Rara and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Under the baton of Sir Mark Elder, the artistic director of Opera Rara, the Opera Rara Chorus and a sparkling roster of singers will showcase this enchanting work that is presented in its original one-act version.

The performance on November 21 will feature soprano Ermonela Jaho as Anna, and tenor Arsen Soghomonyan as Roberto. Mulligan sings the role of Guglielmo, the head forester and Anna’s father. Completing the program is Bizet’s L’Arlésienne Suite No. 1 and ballet music from Verdi’s Macbeth. In Autumn of 2019, Opera Rara will release a studio recording of this first performance of the new critical edition of Le Villi.

Opera Rara:

 The reconstruction of the original one-act version of Le Villi will give audiences the chance to hear Puccini’s first opera as it has not been heard for more than 120 years—since its first performances in May 1884. Soon after the work’s successful premiere at Milan’s Teatro dal Verme, Puccini, at Ricordi’s behest, set about revising the work, dividing it into two acts and adding a romanza for the soprano. This is the form in which the work has been performed ever since; the one-act version was never published, and remains unknown, but has just been made available in a new critical edition published by Ricordi.