In this Tête à tête segment, Don Adriano interviews Michael Spyres for La Scena Musicale during his passage through Montreal to sing at the Lanaudière festival in July 2022!
Interview with Michael Spyres:
During the interview, Adriano and Spyres discuss Rossini, operatic traditions, voice technique, the Baritenor voice and much more. The following is a sample of their discussion.
How to sing like an opera performer
As an internationally renowned baritenor opera singer, Michael Spyres has a lot to say on the topic of operatic singing. According to him, the body is not comfortable with operatic singing until the singer learns how to control their blood flow. The body breathes automatically every 4-7 seconds, but opera phrases are almost never that short, and because blood flow is integral to breathing, singing a long phrase can make blood pool in the neck and cause veins to bulge.
Spyres recommends two methods for developing an operatic singing voice: extreme vocal exercises and learning anatomy. After enough extreme vocal exercises (holding a note for as long as possible or testing one’s vocal range), a singer’s body will become accustomed to the physiological changes involved in singing in the same way that running consistently will make a runner’s legs used to the muscular strain.
As for learning anatomy, understanding the physical differences between singing a high note versus a low note, or a soft note versus a loud note, will provide the singer with a tangible guiding image. Visualizing a concept like a mountain when trying to hit a particularly difficult note is too abstract, according to Spyres.
Upcoming albums from Spyres
With his ongoing album project, Spyres intends to explore the development of singing methods and the history of how singers have understood the human body’s limits. His critically acclaimed album Baritenor was the first part of this project, and it explored the lower end of the human vocal range by incorporating works from a wide range of classical composers. Meanwhile, his upcoming album Contratenor will focus on a higher (but not quite countertenor) register.
After Contratenor, Spyres plans to release an album highlighting the influences of Richard Wagner, whom Spyres considers one of the greatest composers of all times. Wagner drew heavily upon the teachings of Gioachino Rossini, among others, but the narcissist that Wagner was, he credited himself with the discovery of many singing techniques.
Michael Spyres believes that although Wagner’s accomplishments can’t be overlooked, singing fundamentally changed with Rossini: he worked with a handful of styles that allowed for more flexibility in terms of vocal range, to the extent where a Rossini grounding technique can allow a singer to do just about anything.
About Michael Spyres
Mr. Spyres is one of the most sought-after Tenors of his generation with 8 DVDs and 25 CDs to his name; he has been celebrated in the world’s most prestigious international opera houses, festivals and concert halls. Acclaimed for the wide range of his repertoire, this accomplished artist has taken his career through every genre – from Baroque to Classical to 20th century – while firmly establishing himself as an expert within the Bel Canto repertoire, as well as within Rossini and French Grand Opera.