Rhinegold Photo credit: Shervin Lainez
Tenors Michael Spyres (l) and Lawrence Brownlee (r)

Josephine Miles

Brownlee and Spyres release new Rossini album

2:49, 17th November 2020

Tenors Lawrence Brownlee and Michael Spyres have released a new album celebrating the art of the star singers of Rossini’s time

Amici e Rivali (Friends and Rivals), released last week on the Erato label, comprises arias, duets and trios from seven of Rossini’s operas written between 1815 and 1826: Il barbiere di Siviglia, Otello, Armida, La donna del lago, Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra, Le Siège de Corinthe, and Ricciardo e Zoraide. The album celebrates the singers who created the tenor roles in these operas, including Andrea Nozzari, Giovanni David, Manuel García, Louis Nourrit and Adolphe Nourrit.

Recorded at the Teatro Ristori in Verona, Brownlee and Spyres were joined by the ensemble I Virtuosi Italiani and conductor Corrado Rovaris, with guest appearance from Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught and Spanish tenor Xabier Anduaga.

Photo credit: Shervin Lainez

Brownlee and Spyres first sang together in 2018 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Brownlee explains the pair’s vocal chemistry: ‘Our voices complement each other because they have similar qualities to the voices that Rossini wrote for – voices which worked together. They are of similar range, but very different vocal colour, though we can both handle the challenges of high-lying legato and coloratura. My voice has been characterised as a leggiero or light-lyric tenor, like Giovanni David’s. Michael’s is a lyric tenor, or maybe a so-called “baritenor” with a darker character, like Andrea Nozzari’s.’

‘The duets that Rossini wrote for very different tenors precisely highlight our vocal strengths,’ affirms Spyres. ‘The vocal writing for Nozzari feels like it was composed for me. I have never found a closer fit to my natural colour and technique. It was made to fit the character of a warrior and it contrasts wonderfully with the writing for Larry’s voice type. With this programme we have probably set a record with our myriad high notes, but the music written for Nozzari also frequently goes to the lowest reaches of the baritone range.’

The 15 items on the programme of Amici e Rivali have been organised to follow the musico-dramatic structure of a Rossini opera, as Spyres explains: ‘Overture, introduction of primary characters and secondary characters, presentation of conflict, resolution… We also chose to suggest a chronological progression through Rossini’s career to show his evolution as a composer, and to reveal how he influenced everyone who came after him.’

Amici e Rivali is now available on Erato (Warner Classics 9029526947)

Read an extract of Opera Now’s October 2019 cover feature with Michael Spyres, where he explains why Rossini suits his voice so well.

Lawrence Brownlee will be the cover star of our January/February 2021 issue.

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