The subtitle for “Baritones UnBound,” the new ArtsEmerson show that’s just opened at the Paramount Center Mainstage, is “Celebrating the UnCommon Voice of the Common Man,” but it could as easily be “Tenors, Your Time Is Up.” We’ve had the Three Tenors, the Irish Tenors, the Canadian Tenors, the Ten Tenors, Three Tenors and a Soprano, Three Mo’ Tenors, even Les Contre-Ténors. Now Marc Kudisch, who starred in the Commonwealth Shakespeare/Boston Landmarks Orchestra presentation of “Kiss Me, Kate” at the Hatch Shell back in August, has put together a show for three baritones. That would be a great idea even if it only let us hear all the swell tunes that tenors don’t sing. But Kudisch, Jeff Mattsey, and Ben Davis are so engaging and so enjoyable, “Baritones UnBound” could launch its own series of imitators.
It’s true that, in opera at least, the baritone is more often the tenor’s sidekick (Papageno in “The Magic Flute,” Marcello in “La bohème”) or the villain (Iago in “Otello,” Scarpia in “Tosca”) than he is the hero. And when he is the main man, he’s often a comic figure like Falstaff or Figaro, or a conflicted one like Macbeth or Don Giovanni or Eugene Onegin. Baritones have fared better in musicals: Curley in “Oklahoma!,” Billy Bigelow in “Carousel,” Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha,” Beast in “Beauty and the Beast.” And who could be more emblematic of the “Common Man” than the hero of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”?