Friday, December 28, 2012

Michael Spyres: A Fool for Love

The title of Michael Spyres' first recital album, A Fool for Love, demonstrates a pleasing degree of self-awareness about the fate and faiblesse of many (most?) romantic tenors in the operatic canon. Another album of tenor arias, you ask, Gentle Readers? Well, yes! This one offers an original narrative as its organizing principle, but what really sets it apart is the varied selection of arias and Spyres' thoughtful execution of them. If you want a track by track summary of the story as imagined, Gentle Readers, it's there, but you may enjoy the music as well without it. Spyres does a very fine job of inhabiting each character; in the end, I think, this works against following the journey of one, though the arc of the tracks still works well.

The repertoire selected for the disc embraces an impressive range in languages, eras, and styles. This could be disorienting to the listener, but as it is, I found it pleasingly wide-ranging. Constantin Orbelian and the Moscow Chamber gave good support to Spyres throughout, with the dramatic atmosphere of each piece nicely evoked. Plenty of Rossini and Donizetti gives Spyres the opportunity to demonstrate his undeniable facility for bel canto. Among these selections, I thought "Fra poco a me ricovero" especially fine, distinguished by vocal and dramatic focus, with good word-painting. Spyres acquitted himself well in his token forays into Puccini and Verdi, with sustained phrasing and consistent tone, but I was more impressed by the rarer selections on the disc. Lensky's exquisite aria was sung with both tenderness and fervor (though I cannot judge Spyres' Russian.) I think inclusion of The Rake's Progress on a recital album always deserving of praise, and "Here I stand" was sung with humor as well as Tom's egoistical enthusiasm. I found Spyres most affecting, though, in the included French repertoire. "Pourquoi me reveiller" was tender and aptly beseeching. Not only did I love the dreamy "Je crois entendre encore," but it stopped my mother in mid-task and mid-sentence to ask what it was. Spyres used dynamic control impressively in drawing out the nuances in Bizet's lilting reverie. Taken at a luxuriously languorous tempo, the aria created enchantment in recounting it. But you needn't take my word for that:


  1. Oooh, interesting! I'll definitely check this album out. Thanks for the rec!


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