Nathan Gunn is quite the looker‹but careful, would-be admirers: that's his wife on piano. She's also his vocal coach and arranger. This "best undressed baritone in opera," as the Chicago Tribune once proclaimed, has put himself on the musical map at least partly by appearing shirtless in Britten's Billy Budd and Picker's An American Tragedy, for which Gunn created the leading male role at the Met in 2005.
But beyond his sleek dark hair, dimpled grin, and chiseled abs, this down-to-earth father of five, motorcycle fiend, and aikido master can really sing. Carnegie Hall welcomes Gunn and his wife, Julie, to the Zankel Hall stage on April 15. The performance promises to be far from standard fare, offering choreographed dance and video that intertwine text and image. Bridging themes of spirituality and carnality, the Gunns will offer a new slant on works by Messiaen and Barber, along with songs by the contemporary American composer Frank Ferko.
Gunn anticipates this breather from opera will be a return to what he loves best as a singer‹recitals.
"On an opera stage with an orchestra, you can't really use all your dynamic levels," Gunn says. "In a recital, you're given much more to work with. It's wonderful to come back to that."