Tenor Michael Spyres was born in Mansfield, where he grew up in a family of musicians. He started studying singing in the United States and then continued at the Wien Conservatory. He debuted in 2006 at Teatro San Carlo in Naples as Jaquino in Beethoven’s Fidelio di Beethoven and then was a member of the Berlin Deutsche Oper company (2008/09). He has sung in several international theatres up to the latest perforcances at Teato alla Scala in Milan (La donna del lago Rossini, 2011), Candide at Opera in Rome (2012). Currently, he is singing Masaniello in the important reprise of Auber’s La Muette de Portici at Opéra Comique (until next April 15th). He will be back to Italy for the next Rossini Opera Festival as Baldassare in Rossini’s Ciro in Babilonia. For further information on Michael Spyres you can browse his official website.
Which is the main feature of your personality?
Love of life.
Your worst flaw?
Trying to fit everything into the little time I have on this earth. I want to experience everything.
Which is your star sign?
Are you superstitious?
Not at all. I am a man of science.
Are you a spiritual person?
That is between me and myself. I believe the world is what you make of it and I choose to be happy and bring happiness to others.
Have you ever envied someone?
When I was younger I envied many people because I wanted to be so many things. As I have matured I come to realize envy is one of the worst traits in human nature. It is far better to ask what someone gives up in order to be in that envious position and what struggles that person still deals with and if you are willing to change your life enough to become that person. What did you dream to become as an adult when you were a child?
I wanted to be a comedian, cartoon voice artist, actor, chef, fireman, teacher, and singer!
Did your family influence your choices?
Very much so because I was named after my uncle Michael who had the dream of being an opera singer but at the age of 36 died of a rare form of throat cancer even though he was one of the healthiest people. Music is everything to my family. My mother, father, sister, brother and I are all musicians and we have sung together since we could all talk. My brother is an opera singer and so is my wife. My sister is a broadway singer/actress and her husband is a composer and cellist. So yes my family really did influence my choices, but always in a good way. Which is your most cherished memory?
My entire family being together with all of us singing together.
The moment you felt the proudest?
Although I did not know it at the time, because I was too occupied with fear of the unknown, I look back and realize that the moment I would say I am most proud of was when I decided to move to Europe with all the money I had in the world (which wasn’t much) to follow my dream of being an opera singer.
The greatest disappointment?
Growing up and realizing that not many people actually do you the same favor.
What’s missing in your life today?
Nothing, seriously! I am just so thankful to be alive because the more you study science and contemplate that the probabilities of life ever even occuring are extremely minute we should all be thankful for every breath we take.
What are you afraid of the most?
Not being able to experience everything in life that I want to.
Do you have a recurrent dream?
No, actually I rarely dream.
How important is money to you?
Money makes my life easier but most of my happiest moments in life have been for free.
Which is the item you like spending money on the most?
Ice cream or beer depending on the day.
Do you collect anything?
I used to collect LP’s but now it is mp3’s of all different rare and live recordings of operas. Ah, and I have every note Mario Lanza ever recorded including his rare home recordings, plus all of his movies he made.
Which are your favorite readings?
Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer, Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux, Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer, Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku, Cruel Shoes by Steve Martin, On the Shoulders of Giants by Stephen Hawking, Candide by Voltaire and The Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer.
Which is your favorite perfume?
Vienna or Lisbon.
Edelweiss, because it always reminds me of walking in the woods or having beers with friends and talking about life… which is one of my favorite past times.
Your favourite singers?
I have too many to mention, because I believe life is too short to have just one favorite singer, but here are a few: Bjoerling, Lanza, Ford, Tagliavini, Pertile, Fleta, Caruso, Thill, Schmidt, Wunderlich and so on.
Which is the first record you ever bought?
Glen Miller’s “String of Pearls”.
The film you love the most?
Waking life by Richard Linklater. It is an incredible film that takes a series of philisophical vignettes and weaves a story out of these very deep life changing conversations that are discussed within. It was filmed as a movie and then they took over a hundred animators and animated each cell to make it a very dreamlike atmosphere. The story centers around a young man trying to figure out his life and he doesn’t know whether he is in a dream or reality. This topic is a deeply philosophical idea that asks the question, what is reality? Are our dreams the real truth or is our waking state actually the dream? Hence the name Waking Life.
Your favorite season and why?
Fall, because I am always hot and Fall is perfect because I can wear a long sleeve shirt and there is always the wonderful smell of firewood in the air. I love to see the changing of the leaves and barbeques by a campfire.
How is your relationship with technology and which is the electronic gadget you can’t do without?
I am a technophile and love almost all electronics, but I have to say that I love my Samsung Galaxy Tab because it is the most perfect tool for my work. The Galaxy Tab is the most useful item for me because I have all of my operas in pdf form and can listen to all of my recordings while looking at the music. I have a piano on it as well and I can listen to all of my recordings because I record everything that I ever sing in order to critique my vocal production and so I can see if it conflicts with how I felt while singing.
How’s your attitude towards TV ?
I used to watch it all the time but to be honest since I moved to Europe 7 years ago I just have no time. When you are away from your homeland there is so much to do that is much more important than TV. Most of the time I am learning new operas or trying to learn languages or seeing everything that a city has to offer like now in Rome. It is not that I am a snob or don’t like TV but most of the time I have more important things to do, and I feel that is the case with everyone honestly but I just can’t deal with the guilt as much as others so I just don’t watch it except for Discovery, History, or National Geographic and occasionally the news.
How is your relationship with politics?
I believe in taking an active part in politics by discussing history, current events, and the future of humanity at all times. Anyone who knows me knows that I believe in betterment of self and society and neither of those will happen unless every individual realizes their duty to self, country and all of humanity to educate themselves on what is going on in the world and not just with one’s self.
Do you have causes that are very important for you?
I have many causes but the most pressing issues are the Environment and Equal Rights for all of Humanity but above all of these are everyone’s right to Education. Education is the greatest cause for everyone to get behind because this is the one factor that can change all of these issues. We would be nowhere if it were not for education of all sorts. Both of my parents are teachers and they have changed so many lives for the better. I truly don’t believe that many people choose to be bad. Every study shows that once a person becomes educated they realize that they have options that were not previously there. Critical thinking is what has lead to all great advancements in civilization. Think of any thought you have every had. Think of any book, movie or music that has changed your life… now realize that it changed your life because you were educated on a topic that you weren’t previously aware of or you became enlightened through education because you saw something you already knew in a different light.
Day or night?
Both, although I tend to see the sun rise quite often.
Which is the situation you consider the most relaxing?
Walking alone in the woods.
Tell us your ideal day.
Waking up and having a doppio espresso with a big American breakfast and watching the sun shine through my beloved house. Sitting on my couch and talking to my wife about life and ideas. After a good shower and some singing we go for a walk through our forest and then go for a drive around the back roads and just explore nature. I meet up with my old friends for lunch and we all try to out do each other by making the funniest joke. In the afternoon we go see a movie on the big screen and after that go have frozen custard. In the evening my whole family gets together and we sing and eat and drink till we all get tired. That is just one of my ideal days.
Which is your hideaway?
My home in Missouri where my family and I built from scratch.
What’s the soundtrack to your everyday life?
Nat King Cole’s What a day this has been! …or Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World.
What do you miss the most when you’re away from home?
The ease of life and ability to see my friends and family.
The holiday or the trip you’d like to take?
My dream is to take a few months off and travel the Islands of Figi, Samoa, Tonga, and Papua New Guinea.
What or who makes you feel embarrassed?
When I don’t know the answer to a something.
How would you define your relation with food ?
I love food, it is the only thing that keeps up alive, so you had better have a good relationship with it.
Mediterranean diet, mocrobiotics or fast food?
All of it at different times. Like I said, I believe we need to try everything in this life that we can because we are alive! Try everything in moderation and then see how your body feels. Feeling healthy should be your biggest concern.
Your favourite dish?
Pad-thai or Chicken Curry or Steak and with grilled vegetables.
Red or white wine?
Red almost always but I have had some amazing white wine as well. I always like to be able to taste the barrel it was matured in. Which is the place where cooking is the worst ever?
Well that is a trick question because there is good and bad food in every country. The key is educating yourself on what is around and not being afraid to try new foods. The human palate is an amazingly diverse and adaptable instrument and I don’t think that anyone can say who has the worst cooking because again taste can vary person to person by 1000’s of times. We are all unique!
Was music a vocation?
Yes I always knew I wanted to be a performer but it was not until I was in my 20’s when I realized I would truly make my favorite hobby my actual vocation. What would you want someone who doesn’t know your voice to listen to?
I would like everyone to listen to the love I have for all types of opera. I want everyone to at least try to hear the good in someone and not just tune them out if they have not heard a voice or a particular sound before. I ultimately want what all performers want you to hear, that I care very much about life and expression and language and above all love.
In your new cd A Fool For Love, just released, you sing love arias ranging from French to Russian, from Italian to German operas, each characterised by very different vocal styles. Do you think that all these styles suit your voice or is there one that fits better than the others?
Yes I am comfortable with all of these styles and I do believe given the right venue I could perform all of these roles in a very convincing manner. The problem is that when people hear someone, most of the time they are trying to put them into a category to make it easier for them to judge whether or not the singer fits into their idea of what a voice type is. The more everyone studies acoustics of the human voice and understands that there are so many factors that make up a “voice” they will realize that very few people fit into their inadequate definition of this or that tenor. Over the years I have changed my understanding of what a vocal style is. I have been told so many varying opinions about my voice that I have learned to take everything with a grain of salt and just focus on healthy vocal production and trying to make a beautiful piece of art come together. I have now sung 40 roles in my 13 year career in 4 different languages and they have ranged from Baroque, to Classical to 20th century music and the truth that I have constantly found is that if you work hard and focus on making beautiful music while always keeping in mind what your own body can do then you will be able to do great and varied things.
If you were granted the chance to chose a role, which one would it be?
I would love to perform Hoffmann again but this time in the original French!
What do you do an hour prior to go on stage?
Try to stop myself from singing because I love to sing all the time, but I know that too much before a show can rob the audience of my best performance.
What’s never missing in your dressing room?
What do you think of when looking at yourself in the mirror?
I am a very lucky person that is extremely grateful to be alive.
Your mood at the moment?
Pensive yet upbeat, like most of the time.
What’s your motto?
If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants. And You must be the change you want to see in the World.