Michael Spyres: "A Fool for Love"
Arias by Donizetti, Mozart, Verdi, Bizet, etc. Moscow Chamber Orchestra, Orbelian. Texts and translations. Delos DE 3414
For his debut recital CD, tenor Michael Spyres presents A Fool for Love, a romance scenario on which he threads thirteen opera arias, plus encore. The singing of this young American is so engaging we hardly need the somewhat contrived letters ("To My Love," followed by "To my Lost Love") he has written in the voice of a narrator, with links to track numbers. Yet a singer with artistic vision and a supportive record company is enough of a rarity to warrant attention, and the commanding and sensitive conductor Constantine Orbelian provides a further gold stamp of approval.
Postulating a love affair that begins in patriotic pride (with a commanding "Ah! mes amis," from Donizetti's La Fille du Régiment, whose high Cs sound effortless and jubilant) and climaxes in dreamy tenderness (with an exquisitely sweet rendition of Bizet's high-lying "Je crois entendre encore"), Spyres then turns to the relationship's aftermath, haunted by sadness, longing and memories. The encore, Lehár's "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz," from Das Land des Lächelns, neatly encapsulates Spyres's style — ardent and elegant, with a lovely sweetness that conveys intimacy and vulnerability. In another era, Spyres would have been a singing star of the radio waves.
Spyres's musical imagination conjures up a variety of colors without studied effects, and occasionally he manifests a quick, narrow vibrato that registers youthfulness and urgency. Every note is uttered with feeling ("È la solita storia," from Cilea's L'Arlesiana, is heartbreakingly fragile), yet one senses a genuine intellect as well.
Rossini figures prominently in Spyres's career (he was Arnold in Caramoor's Guillaume Tell last summer), and he brings a naturalness and easy command, along with a witty and unexpected low-lying cadenza, to "Cessa di più resistere," the Count's showpiece aria from Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Lean vocal line and supple phrasing bring an uncommon grace and sincerity to Mozart's "Il mio tesoro," and the Italian Singer's "Di rigore armato il seno," from Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, shows off Spyres's elegant top notes.
The darker timbre the tenor brings to Tchaikovsky's "Kuda, kuda" (from Eugene Onegin)and Donizetti's "Fra poco a me ricovero" (from Lucia di Lammermoor) is arresting and highly individual. Even "La donna è mobile" takes on some emotional weight when Spyres, who places this aria in the second half of his program, sings from bitter experience about woman's fickleness.
Every track of A Fool for Love boasts a unique point of view, fueled by musical and theatrical imagination and totally convincing role excerpts. Here are thirteen operas (I didn't even mention The Rake's Progress, La Bohème, L'Elisir d'Amore or Werther) I look forward to hearing Spyres sing.
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