With a “powerful” voice and an “arresting stage presence”, American baritone Michael Mayes is much sought after in both contemporary and dramatic repertoire. He is most celebrated for his formidable portrayal of Joseph De Rocher in Jake Heggie Dead Man Walking and has appeared in this role in major US theatres including the Washington National Opera, and subsequently made acclaimed European debuts at Teatro Real, Madrid and the Barbican, London. Opera News hailed Mayes “embodied the conflicted character of Joseph De Rocher with an almost eerie intensity… this was a consummate performance, powerfully sung and acted”.
A contemporary opera specialist, Mayes has also made notable appearances as Older Thompson in Tom Cipullo Glory Denied at Nashville Opera, Opera Memphis and Fort Worth Opera, Lawrence in Ethel Smyth The Wreckers with Bard SummerScape, Adam in Ethan Gans-Morse Canticle of the Black Madonna with Anima Mundi Productions, Kinesias in Mark Adamo Lysistrata at Fort Worth Opera, Baden-Baden 1927 with Gotham Chamber Opera, and Edward Gaines in Richard Danielpour Margaret Garner at Opera Philadelphia and Opera Carolina. Other Jake Heggie operas Mayes has performed include Manfred Out of the Darkness with Music of Remembrance, Charlie Three Decembers with UrbanArias, Starbuck Moby Dick at Pittsburgh Opera and the Grammy nominated world premiere of Great Scott at Dallas Opera and San Diego Opera.
In 2019/20 season, Mayes makes house debuts at Bergen National Opera as title role Sweeney Todd, at Israeli Opera in his signature role Joseph de Rocher Dead Man Walking, a return to Staatsoper Stuttgart as Thoas Iphigénie en Tauride, and the Barbican London singing Beck Weathers in Joby Talbot Everest with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Back in the US, Mayes reprises the title role Rigoletto at Nashville Opera, Older Jim Thompson Glory Denied at Atlanta Opera, and Tonio Pagliacci at Boston Lyric Opera featuring an immersive installation.
Other recent highlights include title role Nixon in China in his debut at Staatsoper Stuttgart, Beck Weathers Everest at Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Sweeney Todd and Dead Man Walking at Atlanta Opera, title role Wozzeck at Des Moines Metro Opera, Sharpless Madama Butterfly at Pittsburgh Opera, Scarpia Tosca at Central City Opera, Jack Rance La fanciulla del West at Opera Omaha, Alfio Cavalleria Rusticana and Tonio Pagliacci at Madison Opera, Conte di Luna Il trovatore at Seattle Opera and Central City Opera, Escamillo Carmen and title role Rigoletto at Boston Lyric Opera.
Sam A Quiet Place
Escamillo La Tragédie de Carmen
Older Thompson Glory Denied
Edward Gaines Margaret Garner
Adam Canticle of the Black Madonna
Joseph De Rocher Dead Man Walking
Starbuck Moby Dick
Manfred Out of Darkeness
Wendell Swann Great Scott
Charlie Three Decembers
Father Hänsel und Gretel
Soldier Soldier Songs
Title role Don Giovanni
Papageno Die Zauberflöte
Count Almaviva Le nozze di Figaro
Guglielmo Così fan tutte
Marcello La bohème
Sharpless Madama Butterfly
Jack Rance La fanciulla del West
Marco Gianni Schicchi
Figaro Il barbiere di Siviglia
Dandini La Cenerentola
Lawrence The Wreckers
Beck Weathers/Doug Everest
Title role Rigoletto
Conte di Luna Il trovatore
Padre Guardiano La Forza del Destino
Michael Mayes was a revelation.
Michael Mayes’ Joseph de Rocher, whose craggy physicality and cringing bravura has all the sharp nooks and rough dramatic fissures of his namesake. Mayes’ baritone, by contrast, is molasses-smooth, and thickly poured through his Act Two aria.
But the strongest impact is made by the forceful baritone and hulking figure of Michael Mayes as the condemned man and Maria Zifchak as the pathetically dignified figure of his helpless hopeless mother. Even this sceptical critic was moved by the awkward poignancy of their farewell meeting.