Lovely Sounds From An American Tenor

Review by: Robert Levine


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 8

American tenor Michael Spyres is the latest in what seems like a long line of flexible-voiced tenors comfortable above the staff. Whereas 50 years ago it was All About Verdi And Puccini, the bel canto revival, begun by sopranos (Callas, Caballé, Sills, etc ), made it necessary for a different, somewhat out-of-style tenor to emerge as partners. Pietro Botazzo, Ugo Benelli, Raul Gimenez, Rockwell Blake, and Chris Merritt have given way to Juan Diego Florez, Laurence Brownlee, a few others, and now, Michael Spyres. Just to get the nasty comparisons out of the way, Spyres is lacking in Florez’s forwardly-placed, very bright tone, and in Brownlee’s warmth. And his highest notes are not as thrilling as those of either Florez or Brownlee.

But he has a sweetness to his tone that is very hard to come by, and this CD has many lovely moments. After getting the now obligatory nine-high-C “Ah, mes amis” out of the way with aplomb, he sings Tom Rakewell’s “Here I stand” beautifully, but misses a good opportunity with the words “I wish I had money,” which lacks inflection. Almaviva’s/Lindoro’s “Cessa di piu resistere” follows and it gleams. Here we hear what else Spyres has that the others lack: handsome, dark low notes. He embellishes the vocal line downward and it’s a nice change. “Una furtiva lagrima” is just right for Spyres’ wholesome sound, and he manages a nice messa di voce at the end. There’s something four-square about the reading, though—where’s the emotion, the rubato? “Il mio tesoro” is stunning—long-breathed and tonally pure. “Je crois entendre encore” is sung in a flawless mezza voce, but the final (interpolated) high C is sung in a somewhat jarring falsetto after such glorious voix mixte elsewhere.

Heavier repertoire follows and it is not quite as successful: “Di rigor armati” from Rosenkavalier is too much work; “Che gelida manina” lacks a strong center and, surprisingly, the high C is effortful—Rodolfo sounds about 17 years old here; “Pourquoi me reveiller” benefits from the tenor’s low notes but needs heft for the climaxes. And so forth. “La donna e mobile” lacks swagger and charm; Edgardo’s final scene finds Spyres overparted; “Kuda, Kuda” from Eugene Onegin lacks pathos, but again, the tone is simply gorgeous. “E la solita storia” is superb; “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” is not.

Spyres is missing interpretive originality and he is not helped here by Constantine Orbelian leading the Moscow Chamber Orchestra. The playing is mediocre—a high school band, at times—and Orbelian has no sense of line whatsoever. Spyres needs a strong conductor, with ideas about the music, to make him blossom. For sheer sound, and in the right repertoire, he enchants; you only wish he were more consistent and involved. He is very closely miked.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Album Title: A Fool for Love

Arias by Donizetti, Stravinsky, Rossini, Mozart, Bizet, R. Strauss, Verdi, Léhar, Cilea, Puccini, & Tchaikovsky

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