Michael Spyres’ just released CD is entitled Espoir (Hope). A better title would be Michael Spyres Sings Gilbert Duprez. Duprez (1806-96) was the tenor who pioneered the high C from the chest. He is the forerunner of the modern tenore di forza. This recording features arias, and one duet, that were associated with the French tenor. if Spyres were not such a fine singer you might typify this recital as that of an operatic Elvis impersonator. But Spyres is likely the finest tenor now active, so this recital must be evaluated for what it offers – singing of the highest quality.
Spyres seems an unusually cerebral tenor (almost always a contradiction in terms). He has worked very hard to develop a technique which allows him him so sing bel canto roles with the style and grace of a fine tenorino, but with the sound of a spinto tenor. He also has mastered seamless transitions of registers which allows him to sing very high notes with full voice. He also does coloratura with ease, which Duprez could not. At 37 years of age (b 1980) he is just entering his prime. There’s no telling what he might accomplish in the next decade or so.
The 11 selections on this disc range from the familiar to the completely forgotten. The titles are below. Spyres brings beauty of tone and grace of singing to all of them. The dog whistle high notes are produced with a technique that seems unique to Spyres. One can understand, however, why when Duprez came to call on Rossini he was asked to leave his high C downstairs.
Duprez was the first Edgardo in Lucia Di Lammermoor, the first Gaston in Verdi’s Jérusalem, and the first Benvenuto Cellini in Berlioz’s opera. He dropped out of the last work after just three performances and his absence was largely responsible for the failure of Berlioz’s first opera as the title role was written for his then unique voice.
This disc should be a must have for all opera lovers. There have been many contenders for the title of The Great American Tenor since the death of the champion Richard Tucker in 1975, but so far all have fallen short of the mark left by the great Tucker. Spyres is the latest to enter the list and, in my opinion, has the best chance of success. Here’s a sample of what’s on this recital disc. Seul sur la terre from Benvenuto Cellini. Spyres is the best Berlioz tenor I’ve heard since the prime of the late Nicolai Gedda. A good reason to buy the disc rather than to download the music is the excellent liner notes by Rosie Ward which gives much needed background information for some of the obscure music presented on this recital. Also presented are the words to the selections with an English translation.