Michael Spyres took a night off from his celebrated run in the Met's Idomeneo revival to open the Vocal Arts DC season in a compact program of song cycles from Berlioz, Beethoven, and Liszt.
Spyres' rendition of Berlioz' Les Nuits d'Ete was a fine showcase for his distinctive "baritenor" and the range of colors he is capable of producing with it. After the half, An die Ferne Geliebte was elegant if a bit forgettable (tough being the classical transition piece between two romantic-era powerhouses). For such a distinctive sound, Spyres is something of a chameleon, employing a whole different approach and set of seemingly period-appropriate(?) effects for each cycle.
After the tasteful Berlioz and Beethoven, Spyres offered Liszt's spectacular Tre Sonetti del Petrarca for the final cycle. Vocal recitals by opera singers tend to withhold something a bit more explicitly operatic for the big finish, but rarely has the reveal been as dramatic as it was here, with Spyres unleashing 20 minutes of big, overwhelming sound only hinted at in the earlier part of the program.
For his single encore, Spyres gave "Fuor del Mar," the number from Idomeneo that has been getting him so much attention on the New York stage the past two weeks. Without the pressure of filling the Met, this was a bit more unified and less gutsy than the version I heard Spyres do in the house, though still thoroughly exciting. Hopefully this doesn't HD-style cannibalize any DC audience members that were thinking about a trip for one of the final shows...
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