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Rising Stars Spyres hdl 1015
Spyres believes in being the chairman of his own board.
© James Salzano

A t a time of high anxiety about the place opera will hold in a culture that is changing at an often dizzying pace, thirty-six-year-old tenor MICHAEL SPYRES offers an almost radical view. “The hard thing for people to realize is that a lot of opera singers are doing better than they ever were,” he says. “Everyone talks about the golden age of singing, but a lot of that is nostalgia. A handful of singers were incredible and had great lives, but they were exceptions.” Spyres acknowledges that opera is going through a tough period, at times bordering on crisis. “But I think a lot of people are using that as an excuse not to do the work,” he says. “They’re just saying, ‘There’s no work.’ You need to focus on your art form and yourself and get people interested. Singers tend not to realize that we have a responsibility to make ourselves valid.”

Spyres’s outspoken nature hasn’t hurt his career; he is one of the busiest lyric tenors around. There are three conductors he rates as most influential — Riccardo Muti, John Eliot Gardiner and Alberto Zedda. “I’d always heard about Riccardo Muti being Riccardo Muti,” he says. “There are so many stories and legends. His work ethic is incredible. His concentration is paramount, and it taught me that if I want to be one of these people I look up to, I’ve got to focus and really learn the languages. We all live in the stream of ‘We’re going to get discovered.’ Well — no. No, we’re not.” 

Spyres grew up in Missouri and launched his career at Springfield Regional Opera, where he had eight roles under his belt by the time he was twenty-two. Recently, Spyres was announced as the company’s new artistic director. “My goal is to learn about administration and how opera works from the inside,” he says. “I constantly hear people griping about people in management, all of these people who are in business but don’t know music. So why not learn about business and start changing it?”

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