Tuesday 25 June 2013

A Fool for Love

Michael Spyres, A Fool for Love - Delos, DE 3414
Michael Spyres is known for singing Rossini and the lyric coloratura repertoire, though though range of roles extends wider than this. On this disc, his first aria recital album (on +Delos Music ), he has assembled a sequence of arias by Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, Bizet, Massenet, Tchaikovsky, Puccini, Cilea, Strauss, Stravinsky and Lehar, whilst firmly staking a claim to the coloratura roles in Rossini and Donizetti. All the arias on the disc are on the subject of love and Spyres has linked them thematically, creating a notional narrative through the disc from first rapture to disillusion. 

Michael Spyres is a young American tenor, now based in Europe and making a name for himself in bel canto roles. He trained in the USA and in Austria, at the Vienna Conservatory. He was also a Young Artist with Opera Theatre St. Louis. He made his European debut in 2005 at the San Carlo in Naples. Whilst Spyres made his UK debut in 2008/9 with Chelsea Opera Group as Fernand in Donizetti's La Favorite, his UK engagements have been relatively rare (he sang in some of the performances of the recent La donna del lago at Covent Garden), so this new recital disc is very welcome.  He is accompanied by Constantine Orbelian and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra. 

He opens with Ah, mes amis from Donizetti's La fille du Regiment, firmly staking a claim to repertoire whose best known exponent is currently Juan Diego Florez. Spyres has a vibrant voice with quite a tight, but attractive vibrator. He singing the aria fluidly and flexibly with secure top C's, and plenty of colour in the voice. Whilst the style does not seem to suit him perfectly, he gives a vivid performance. Showing his versatility, he follows this with a strong account of Here I stand from Stravinsky's The Rakes Progress, notable for the lively sense of line and for his superb way with the English words.

Next comes another coloratura showpiece, Cessa di pius resistere from Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Count Almaviva's final aria, most often cut and better known in its later incarnation from La Cenerentola. Spyres sings with nice even passagework, with a flexible line and brilliant tone. Again he brings plenty of varied colour to the notes. His performance lacks the easy grace that Florez brings to this arias, but instead Spyres has an interesting almost spinto quality. It is a voice that should be extremely useful in Rossini opere serie, and he certainly has the spinto strength to encompass the title role in Rossini's OtelloUn furtiva lagrima from Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore is perhaps less showy, but Spyres lavishes great care on the aria, singing with a lovely shape to the phrases, a fine sense of line and colour as well as bringing power where needed.

For the next aria we move backwards in time somewhat; Il mio tesoro from Mozart's Don Giovanni is stylish and beautifully light. I would have liked a bit more depth of feeling to the aria, but it is very finely done.

It is the sense of a beautifully floated line that Spyres brings to Je crois entendre encore from Bizet's Les pecheurs de perles which he brings to vibrant life. Another 19th century aria follows, Pourquie me reveiller from Massenet's Werther, and here you sense that for all its spinto quality, Spyres' voice is not perhaps as dramatic as is usual in this role. But like that great stylist Alfredo Kraus, Spyres shows that a lyric can work here and he combines spinto tone with some very beautiful moments. By contrast Di rigori armato il seno, the Italian tenor's aria from Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier sounds well enough done but a bit dutiful.

To Che gelida manina from Puccini's La Boheme Spyres brings freshness and flexibility. He might not have the sort of full throated Italianate sound that we associate with this role, but he combines youthful ardour with vibrant open tone.The same can be said for La donna e mobile from Verdi's Rigoletto.

Spyres sings Fra poco a me ricovero from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor with firm line and a good sense of style, though the aria could take a darker richer tone. More importantly, aria is deprived of the closing caballetta, which is a shame (presumably because it would have needed extra resources for the chorus and soloists).

My first thought when listening to Spyres accound of Kuda, kuda from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin was to wonder whether he speaks Russian, because a sense of the words and their meaning is a bit lacking  Instead we have a very touching, lyrically beautiful performance but I missed the dark edge to the voice and there were times when the voice did not quite take the pressure in the big moments. That said, this aria shows an admirable desire not to be pigeonholed and the result is intelligently attractive.

E la solita storia from Cilea's L'Arlesiana shows Spyres at his best. Combining a vibrant sense of line with ardour and flexibility. Finally we have an encore, Dein is mein ganzes Herz from Lehar's Das Land des Lachelns. Operetta isn't easy to bring off, and Spyres gives it the same care and attention as the rest of the disc, the result sounds effortless and is a complete delight.

The CD contains detailed notes about the arias, along with a narrative linking the arias, plus full texts and translations.

Throughout, Spyres is well supported by Constantine Orbelian and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, who accompany sympathetically and do not disappoint in any of the varied repertoire.

This is a delightful disc, showcasing a highly promising young tenor who shows that he is at home in variety of repertoire. Much of the music on this disc is technically challenging; challenges which Spyres responds to with bravura and style. The way that Spyres makes style count in the heavier roles rather recalls Alfredo Kraus at times. Importantly, Spyres is equally convincing in both the Italian bel canto and the French repertoire. This is certainly a disc I will come back to, and I can recommend it to anyone interested in fine singing.

A Fool for Love - tenor arias
Gaetano Donizetti: La fille du Regiment: "Ah! mes amis...Pour mon ame"
Igor Stravinsky: The Rake's Progress: "Here I stand"
Gioacchino Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia: "Cessa di più resistere"
Gaetano Donizetti: L'elisir d'Amore: "Una furtiva lagrima"
Wolfgan Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni: "Il mio tesoro"
GeorgesBizet: Les Pecheurs de Perles: "Je crois entendre encore"
Jules Massenet: Werther: "Pourquoi me réveiller"
Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier: "Di rigori armato il seno"
Giacomo Puccini: La Boheme: "Che gelida manina"
Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto: "La donna è mobile"
Gaetano Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor: "Fra poco me ricovero"
Piotr Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin: "Kuda, kuda..."
Francesc Cilea: L'Arlesiana: "E la solita storia..."
Franz Lehar: Das Land des Lächelns: "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz"

Michael Spyres (tenor)
Moscow Chamber Orchestra of the Pavel Slobodkin Center for the Arts
Constantine Orbelian (conductor)
Recorded November 2010, Pavel Slobodkin Cener for the Arts, Moscow.
DELOS DE 3414 1CD [63.04]

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