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Praised for his "gloriously rich" voice and a stage presence that is "superb in every way,” baritone Michael Mayes enjoys a celebrated operatic career in both traditional and contemporary roles with theaters throughout the United States and Europe. After an explosive international début as Joseph De Rocher in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking in 2018 with Teatro Real opposite Joyce DiDonato, Mayes quickly established a prominent presence as a leading baritone with multiple engagements in a wide range of roles with important European theaters including Staatsoper Stuttgart, English National Opera, The Barbican, Theatre of Sound, and Bergen National Opera. Now sought after for his mastery of dramatic vocal repertoire, notable recent engagements have included Il Conte di Luna in Il trovatore with Seattle Opera, Central City Opera, and The Glimmerglass Festival; the title role in Wozzeck with Des Moines Metro Opera; an acclaimed début as Bluebeard in an innovative production by Theater of Sound (UK); and Rigoletto with Houston Grand Opera and Boston Lyric Opera.

This season’s engagements for Mayes include the role of Travis Biggs in Houston Grand Opera’s world premiere production of Intelligence by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, a return to Seattle Opera for Alberich in Das Rheingold, a début at Edinburgh International Festival as Bluebeard in Bluebeard’s Castle, his return to Staatsoper Stuttgart as the title role in Nixon in China and Alberich in Das Rheingold, and his debut with Santa Fe Opera as David in the world premiere of The Righteous. [read more...]


"... the deep, agile baritone of native Texan Michael Mayes..." – Opera News

Das Rheingold – "The role of Alberich was enlivened by the deep, agile baritone of native Texan Michael Mayes, who sang and acted with verve, displaying a light comic flair in the opening scene with the Rhinemaidens."


"... thrillingly fierce and tense..." – Opera Today

It’s a Wonderful Life – “His final confrontation with his nemesis, Michael Mayes’ callous, calculating Henry F. Potter, was thrillingly fierce and tense.”


"... clear and devastating in Mayes’ impeccable diction..." – Washington Classical Review

UNKNOWN – “The powerful baritone of Michael Mayes evoked the anguish of family members waiting for the return of loved ones from war. . . Yet it was Mayes who stole the show in this first half, his broad range and vocal power overwhelming in Lee Hoiby’s “Last Letter Home.” The text, a letter written by a soldier in Iraq and only read because he was killed, was clear and devastating in Mayes’ impeccable diction.”


"... Mayes is Bluebeard and is superb in every way..." –

Bluebeard’s Castle – “American Michael Mayes is Bluebeard and is superb in every way. He is a real singing actor, blessed with a gloriously rich bass-baritone voice and a perfect technique that ensures that his singing never sounds at all strained and has a wonderful glowing tone throughout its compass. He does not just sing however, he uses the words intelligently and imaginatively to portray his role, as well as using his physicality to express what he means – often very subtly. As I have already intimated, his enunciation is well nigh perfect and his final monologue is very moving. He has that rare quality – charisma: you have to watch him!”


"... the excellent Di Luna of Michael Mayes..." – Opera News

Il trovatore – “the excellent Di Luna of Michael Mayes. A commanding stage presence, Mayes delivered an “Il balen del suo sorriso” of delicate precision. His nuanced, shaded singing throughout the performance was always exciting”


"... Mayes’s dramatic scale was epic..." – Opera Magazine

Sweeney Todd – “Michael Mayes’s dramatic scale was epic and his baritone would probably have sounded almost as huge without amplification.”


"... Mayes expressed by turns raging power, gentle lyricism, and bleak pleading..." – Opera News

Rigoletto – “In his role debut as Rigoletto, baritone Michael Mayes expressed by turns raging power, gentle lyricism, and bleak pleading. Limping about with a hunchback and withered arm, his physical dexterity captured the look of Rigoletto’s damaged character with a chilling vividness.”


"...One of the opera’s most uncomfortable, yet exquisite, moments..." – Houston Chronicle

Rigoletto – “… Rigoletto in his jester garb looks like a John Wayne Gacy painting come to life. His booming baritone takes on an acid edge when putting the Duke’s retinue in their place, an activity he clearly delights in. But Michael Mayes — a native of nearby Cut and Shoot — plays him as a man for whom years of scorn has bruised his dignity but not his humanity. His devotion to his daughter is obvious, never moreso than their gorgeously intertwining first-act duet...One of the opera’s most uncomfortable, yet exquisite, moments comes after Gilda has spent the night with the Duke and Rigoletto must console his poor embarrassed daughter. Mayes’ performance grows more poignant the further Rigoletto’s plan to avenge Gilda’s honor spins out of control”


"... Michael Mayes is nigh unto perfection..." – Opera Today

Wozzeck – “In the title role, triumphantly singing torturously difficult music, Michael Mayes is nigh unto perfection. He is possessed of a ringing, freely produced baritone of uncommon power and beauty and he knows exactly how to deploy it in service of this demanding score. The rangy leaps, the emotional shifts, the sudden outbursts of Sprechstimme, the complex harmonies, none of this holds any terror for a singing actor at the top of his game. Mr. Mayes is as fine an actor as you will find on any stage, and his deeply personalized account of the character’s inexorable descent as he unraveled into violence was riveting. He winced, he gasped, he wept, he shuddered, he mourned, he snapped, he writhed, he trembled, and he prowled the premises, all the while creating a nuanced, unsettling portrait of an unstable human being decidedly ill-treated by his fellow man. Mayes infused the character with so much pitiable humanity, that in the end he was not so much killer, as killed by those in his sphere. His was a stunning achievement.”


"... well-deserved applause..." – Oper Magazin

Nixon in China – “Michael Mayes, Baritone (Nixon) and Matthias Klink (Mao Tse-tung) were the perfect political couple and received well-deserved applause.”


"... Mayes was a commanding force onstage..." – Schmopera

Glory Denied – “Michael Mayes was a commanding force onstage as the Older Thompson. He was menacing in his interactions with his younger self, sometimes acting as the Vietnamese interrogators that tortured him for almost a decade. Mayes' physicality was versatile as the character shifted through time and emotions, becoming more intense and brimming with anger as Jim's mental struggles increased… Mayes delivered a dramatic and vocal performance that matched Thompson’s constantly fluctuating emotional journey. His "Welcome Home" aria was a mixture of humor and heartbreak as Jim comes to terms with all the changes that have happened during his captivity. . . In stark contrast were the scenesXLLS in which Jim forgives his wife and asks to start again. Mayes sang with haunting beauty, his pianissimo seemingly freezing time, making it all the more jarring when Alyce rejects his olive branch.”


"... frighteningly convincing in the part..." – Seen and Heard International

Dead Man Walking – “Michael Mayes performs widely in contemporary operas, including in three more by Heggie. He is the acclaimed interpreter of the role of De Rocher in several of the productions staged to-date. He was frighteningly convincing in the part: physically and vocally powerful; unsympathetic in his denial of closure, almost until the end, to the victims’ parents; eventually, revealing his terror of the end and his desire for forgiveness.”


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