A Fool for Love - Tenor arias
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797–1848)
La fille du régiment
1. “Ah! mes amis … Pour mon âme”
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882–1971)
The Rake's Progress
2. “Here I stand”
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Il barbiere di Siviglia
3. “Cessa di più resistere”
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797–1848)
L’elisir d’amore
4. “Una furtive lagrima”
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Don Giovanni
5. “Il mio tesoro”
Georges BIZET (1838–1875)
Les pêcheurs de perles
6. “Je crois entendre encore”
Jules MASSENET (1842–1912)
7. “Pourquoi me réveiller”
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Der Rosenkavalier
8. “Di rigori armato il seno”
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
La Bohème
9. “Che gelida manina”
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)
10. “La donna è mobile
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797–1848)
Lucia di Lammermoor
11. “Fra poco a me ricovero”
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Eugene Onegin
12. “Kuda, kuda”
Francesco CILEA (1866-1950)
13. “È la solita storia”
Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)
Das Land des Lächelns
14. “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz”
Michael Spyres (tenor)
Moscow Chamber Orchestra of the Pavel Slobodkin Center for the Arts/Constantine Orbelian
rec. November 2010, Pavel Slobodkin Center for the Arts, Moscow. DDD
DELOS DE 3414 [63:04]

In a game attempt to find a hook on which to hang this recital, emerging young American tenor Michael Spyres has entitled his debut recital album “A Fool for Love”. He attempts to encompass the span and gamut of the fourteen arias here by providing a kind of link narrative in two Acts written in the saccharine and jejune letter form of two letters each addressed “To My Love”. In the end, it’s a harmless enough gimmick, I suppose, but adds nothing to the worth of the recital.

Much more important is the quality of voice and singing. Anyone on the lookout for a new Villazon, Flórez or Kaufmann will be disappointed. Just as Vittorio Grigolo has, despite the hype, failed to convince aficionados that he is really Pavarotti’s successor, so Spyres has in reality little more to offer and has a small, light, well-schooled voice with an attractive fast vibrato. Despite the breadth of the programme, most of what he sings sounds very similar; he is particularly charming in the arias requiring legato and a honeyed, floating line but the falsetto bias in the basic sound precludes much in the way of excitement. I most enjoyed his sweet account of “Je crois entendre encore”. That said, a quick revisiting of Caruso’s or even Simoneau’s recordings reminds you of what the arias should sound like when sung by a tenor of more pharyngeal heft who deliberately lightens his voice by virtue of impeccable technique.

For all his control, Spyres has a limited range of colour but sings coloratura neatly on the vibrato. Like so many modern singers, he is an excellent linguist, singing here in five languages, maintaining excellent diction. Even so, there is a touch of “easy listening” in his manner and his top Bs and Cs, although secure, have no “ping”. He quite often recalls Nicolai Gedda in timbre, which is, I suppose, no bad thing. Just as Gedda was over-parted by the Italian tenor’s aria from “Der Rosenkavalier” Spyres struggles to give it much passion or refulgence. Everything he does is musical and pleasing but ultimately small-scale. His voice cannot really do justice to the scope of the material here, which, after all, includes some of the most challenging staple arias in the tenor repertoire. I can, for example, think of no reason why one would choose to hear him sing the arias from “La Bohème” or “Rigoletto” over the likes of established tenor greats. However, Spyres gives a particularly affecting rendition of that prince among tenor arias, “Kuda, kuda” from “Eugene Onegin” – a gift for a tenor of sensibility who can command “les larmes dans la voix”. He makes a similarly affecting job of the plaintive mini-masterpiece from Cilea’s “L’Arlesiana”, “È la solita storia”. I love the way he takes the optional top B at the climax but Pavarotti, Björling, Villazon and Tagliavini all make so much more of it in both emotive and vocal terms; Björling takes the top B, too, with considerably more élan.

Constantine Orbelian has proved himself a sympathetic accompanist in previous recitals by Hvorostovsky, Radvanovsky and Podlès and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra are a virtuoso band, so no complaints there.

Full texts and English translations are provided; the sound is first rate, with an excellent balance between singer and orchestra.

Ralph Moore

Spyres has a particularly charming, small, light, well-schooled voice with an attractive fast vibrato and a honeyed, floating line.