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Commentary

Anthony Michaels-Moore [Photo by Dario Acosta]
18 May 2009

Anthony Michaels-Moore — from the army to the world stage.

Currently, Anthony Michaels- Moore is singing Belcore in L’Elisir d’amore at the Royal Opera Hose, London.

Anthony Michaels-Moore — from the army to the world stage.

Above: Anthony Michaels-Moore [Photo by Dario Acosta]

 

He made his name singing Verdi, so Donizetti is a refreshing change. “I tend to play dark, obsessive characters”, he says, “but L’Elisir is fun and happy, so I can loosen up and really have a go playing up the ridiculous parts of the character”. Loosening up is a good word to choose. Michaels-Moore is so experienced that he no longer has to prove anything, so he can give Belcore an ease that brightens the role. He sang the part early in his career, reprising it more recently in Vienna and Barcelona. Soon he’ll be recording a CD of arias, with more Donizetti, Mozart and Tosti.

His next big project will be something entirely new. It’s a new opera, to be premiered at Santa Fe in September. It’s The Letter, based on the story by Somerset Maugham. In the 1930’s Bette Davis starred in the iconic film adaptation, though Hollywood had to censor the racier aspects of the plot. The music is by Paul Moravec. The librettist is Terry Teachout, the opera aficionado and music writer.

Moravec has written a lot of orchestral and chamber music but this is his first opera, and he wanted to involve his singers from the start. Michaels-Moore, who sings regularly at the Met) met the composer in New York, who asked him what he particularly liked in the music he sang “Right !”, said Moravec, “we’ll do it that way”. Because he writes with the singers, details can be tweaked and adapted, even in rehearsal. It’s very creative. Moravec also consulted Patricia Racette, who will sing Leslie Crosbie, the scheming wife. The result is an opera which “sings” well, and is user-friendly in performance. This could make it a regular part of the repertoire.

The plot of The Letter is complicated, full of intrigue. Michaels-Moore plays James Crosbie, the husband who doesn’t know he’s being deceived. The music starts out tenderly romantic, but soon develops an edge as Crosbie begins to find out what his wife is up to. Then there’s a mysterious death. The score has been pared down to flow fluidly to intensify the dramatic pace. It runs around 85 minutes, concentrated in one act and eight fast paced scenes.

The opera is set in tropical Malaya in the 1930’s, and the characters are stylish colonials. Costumes will be by Tom Ford, the designer, so expect beautiful cream linen and crisp cotton. This could be a visual treat. Direction is by Jonathan Kent.

Michaels-Moore is perhaps a natural for The Letter, as he started his career as a commissioned officer in the British Army. He went to Sandhurst and served in a tank regiment in Germany. Status and stability would have been assured. But his love for music was so strong that he quit the army, opting for the risky life of a singer. It must have taken courage and strength of personality. The army made him refund all they’d paid him over the years (he went to University on the British equivalent of ROTC) so he had to work as a teacher in Crowhurst until he was able to join the prestigious postgraduate opera course at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

His breakthrough came when he won the Pavarotti International Voice Competition in 1985, the first British singer to do so. Since then, he’s performed regularly with the Royal Opera House in London, where he has appeared in L’Elisir d’amore, La Bohème, I Pagliacci (Silvio), Die Fledermaus, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Cunning Little Vixen, Massenet’s Manon, Stiffelio, Tosca, Simon Boccanegra in concert, Macbeth, Le Nozze di Figaro, Andrea Chénier, La Battaglia di Legnano, Il Trovatore, Falstaff (Ford), Tosca, Attila, Lucia di Lammermoor and La Traviata. He has worked with all the British opera companies, including ENO and Glyndebourne, and has even starred in the keynote First Night of the Proms for the BBC.

Because his forte is Italian repertoire, he sings frequently in Europe. With the Vienna State Opera, he’s done Don Carlos, Rigoletto, Tosca, Nabucco, Manon Lescaut, L’Elisir d’Amore, Stiffelio, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, I Vespri Siciliani. He has appeared frequently in Milan, Paris, Munich, Barcelona, Athens and Berlin.

In the United States, he sings with the Metropolitan Opera, at Santa Fe, Chicago and San Francisco. He was Captain Balstrode in the Met’s Peter Grimes in 2008 : the DVD is now available. His discography is extensive, ranging from Henry Purcell and Mercadante, to Gilbert and Sullivan and Szymanowski. In a few weeks, he’ll be recording a new CD of arias by Donizetti, Tosti and Mozart.

Anne Ozorio

L’Elisir D’amore runs at the Royal Opera House, London to 25th May 2009. http://www.roh.org.uk/

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