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“A Fool for Love”
Operatic excerpts by Gaetano Donizetti (La Fille du régiment, L’elisir d’amore, Lucia di Lammermoor), Igor Stravinsky (The Rake’s Progress), Gioachino Rossini (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Don Giovanni), Georges Bizet (Les Pêcheurs de perles), Jules Massenet (Werther), Richard Strauss (Der Rosenkavalier), Giacomo Puccini (La bohème), Giuseppe Verdi (Rigoletto), Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Eugene Onegin), Francesco Cilea (L’Arlesianna) and Franz Lehár (Das Land des Lächelns)

Michael Spyres (tenor), Moscow Chamber Orchestra, Constantine Orbelian (conductor)
Recorded in Russia – 63’05
Delos #DE3414 – Booklet in English

American-born, European-trained Michael Spyres takes on a big challenge with his first CD: fourteen well-known tenor arias in five different languages.

His voice is a very good one. Though in the bel canto repertory, he often sounds like he is mimicking Juan Diego Flórez; Spyres has a similar nasal sound but his high notes just do not land with the security of his Peruvian colleague. “Pour mon ȃme...” (La Fille du régiment) is the start of the famous aria with the nine high Cs. But it is only on the last one that Spyres hits the bullseye. His coloratura gets a little sloppy on an otherwise mighty “Cessa di più resistere” from Il barbiere di Siviglia though because this aria is so long and difficult it is hard to imagine anyone being perfect.

The French works, “Je crois entendre encore” from Les Pêcheurs de perles and Werther’s “Pourquoi me réveiller” show a strong singer, though the slow tempo on the first dampens the impact and on the second Spyres shows his weakest characteristic. Though his voice is unquestionably beautiful in tone and his diction seems precise, he is singing, not communicating.

It is easy to recognize that Der Rosenkavalier’s “Di rigori armato il seno” is a parody of Italian bel canto. Spyres has the notes, so why doesn’t he have fun with the aria by lathering it up in excessive Italianate emotion?
When he gets to Donizetti’s “Fra poco a me ricovera-darà negletto avello…” we finally hear his potential. He makes his role debut as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor in March 2012 in Minneapolis; if he submits to the text and music on stage as he does here on the recording, his success should be secure.

His approach to Lensky’s aria from Eugene Onegin is subtle in its intensity, gets to the heart of the oncoming doom and is quite moving. And isn’t it odd that in spite of being a bel cantist, on this recording Spyres is most effective when he surrenders to the sentimentality of Lehár’s “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” from Das Land des Lächelns?

The equipment and diction are all there, so it is clear that after Spyres has more stage experience, he will produce a more effective recording. And hopefully by then he will have the influence to record the less familiar tenor arias from these works. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear L’elisir d’amore’s “Quanto e bella” or Tonio’s “Pour me rapprocher de Marie” (La Fille du régiment) and not always feel the need to compare to what we have heard before and so often? And why is it that few tenors seem to offer recordings of some of the beautiful Bellini’s arias that have become neglected?

The light orchestrations sensitively led by conductor Constantine Orbelian with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra provide Spyres with an appropriate podium for displaying his worthwhile instrument.

Jeff Haller




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