Michael Mayes receives a multitude of praise for his "Dead Man Walking" at Washington National Opera

03.01.2017

 

"Michael Mayes is dangerously good as he inhabits fully the explosive power of the title character. He has been living inside the skin of Joseph De Rocher for more than sixteen years. Mayes seems to have given up acting the role long ago – he is Joe.   With his brooding heavy forehead, his aggressive sucking on cigarettes, his knee jerking in frustration then trembling in fear, and his pacing like a caged predatory animal, the work is seamless. In his first scene with Sister Helen he springs towards the barrier between them, and she recoils, as did I, believing he could go through the wall if he had a mind to.
 

His voice makes me hate him one moment and bleed for him the next. His Cajun drawl can seduce, as he slides between the notes of “A warm nigh, a cold bottle of beer, down by the river wid’ your woman.” He shimmies his hips forward on his chair and slouches , throwing his head back as his voice lifts and lands onto a high note, something between a squeal and a ribbon of sound.
 

He begins the second act counting his pushups into the high 50’s while singing.  He weeps, he howls, he yells. He makes us stare at a man stripped of dignity, exposed and human. The man can make a big sound for sure  and you feel it in your bones, but is it ‘pretty’ opera?

Truth is beautiful." -DC Theater Scene

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"As the convicted prisoner, Joseph De Rocher, Baritone Michael Mayes is a powerful stage presence. Mr. Mayes possesses an engaging physicality and he plays his role with an edge of ironic dry humor about his eventual fate. This makes the very realistic finale of this opera all the more unsettling and spellbinding.Mr. Mayes has a voice that would make the Gods weep with envy. Mr. Mayes’ aria when he muses about his family background and upbringing was delivered with lush deep and resonant chest tones. Mr. Mayes’ vocalizing when he sang of his impending torment was encased with pain and agony, and his duets with Ms. Lindsey were well paced and showed his character’s reluctance to admit facts." -DC Metro Theater Arts

 

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"Mayes, a tall and muscled singer, had a voice as strong as he looked. He guided us through his burdened and conflicted character making us hate him and forgive him in our own way."
-MD Theater Guide

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"Mayes is excellent in his signature role of De Rocher, acting as a physical manifestation of the challenge facing Sister Helen: how to find the humanity in someone who appears to feel no remorse? Mayes' baritone paints De Rocher as harsh and unrefined, with unexpected tenderness bubbling up under the brashness in pivotal moments." -BroadwayWorld.com


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"Baritone Michael Mayes performs something of a miracle. Prodded by his character’s plight and the interplay with Lindsey, Mayes makes De Rocher not necessarily likeable, but forgivable, with his strong, insistent voice and his gymnastic physical self-torture." -The Georgetowner

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"Michael Mayes delivered a big, magnetic stage presence for Joseph De Rocher, supported by a warm, even baritone that proved equally at home tackling the music’s sliding jazzy motifs and the more demanding passages as De Rocher wrestles with his guilt." -Parterre Box

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"But what gives the opera heft isn’t the crime or the inevitable ending, but the two principals, Sister Prejean and De Rocher, both the relationship between the two and their own personal evolutions. And this production boasts two capable principals, mezzo Kate Lindsey as Prejean and baritone Michael Mayes as De Rocher" -Washington City Paper

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