In Review: McIntyre and Mayes enjoy success in Pittsburgh Opera's "Moby Dick"
“I had previously seen Mr. Mayes in Washington National Opera’s Dead Man Walking; I think he might be even more impressive as Starbuck. . . Director McIntyre says she read the novel seven times as preparation for taking on this enormous challenge. Pause. She read a 700-page novel seven times; that is demonstrating commitment to your art! One might tease whether it became her own white whale, though she managed to achieved a victory. She is certainly tuned in to the intertwining themes of the novel: the healing nature of friendships, the man-God relationship, indecision in a crisis, dark forces that drive us, complicated or assisted by the good forces that drive us, and soul searching when our beliefs and views are challenged. In the staging Moby Dick, she knew that the opera needed room for big things, for movement of the sea, the vessels, and the whale, to show scenes off the ship Pequod, and the destructive finale. The music is cinematic and the libretto somewhat abstract, needing fleshing out. She and set designer Erhard Rom came up with a constant scene of a circular nautical map with a large mast in the center that gives one a sense of being in the keel of a ship with horizon revealing openings higher up in the map; a center section revolves to allow the smaller whale chasing vessels to be a focus. . . I learned from Director McIntyre just how totally involved in the production a director and conductor are. She was involved in everything including musical decisions and Maestro Walker was also involved in the staging. It was a significant advantage and to our benefit that they have worked together many times in the past. This team would augur well for any production.” -Operagene.com
"Michael Mayes’ powerful baritone was as solid and stalwart as Starbuck’s character, although it became soft and tender as he sang of home." -Seen and Heard International Read full review. "If others in the cast have experience in their roles, Mayes must have the most experience with Heggie. In addition to noble Starbuck, Mayes has played the lead in Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking” to great acclaim, and appeared in his other operas “Out of the Darkness,” “Three Decembers,” and “Great Scott.” Mayes presented a character not of square-jawed rectitude to combat Ahab’s insanity, but one of deep humanity. His determination to get home to his wife and child, present only as a haunting air, contrasted so sharply with Ahab’s indifference to not only to the loss of Gardiner’s son but also the suffering of the Pequod’s own Pip" -Operawire.com Read full review. "Another newcomer who gave a sterling performance was Michael Mayes, as Starbuck. The American baritone has a powerfully rich voice, and acts as well as he sings. . . The rather abstract set design of Erhard Rom and marvelous costuming by Jessica Jahn are effectively made the most of under the stage direction of Kristine McIntyre." -pghintheround.com
"Baritone Michael Mayes, no stranger to Mr. Heggie’s music, delivered an intense, stalwart Starbuck, first mate on the Pequod and moral foil to his captain’s dark malaise. Mr. Mayes sang with a strident, ringing voice — his presence was masterful. . . Tension cranked particularly high when Starbuck held a musket to his sleeping captain, before reclaiming his ground as the ship’s moral force and setting aside his weapon and his passion. An excellent debut." -Pittsburgh Post-Gazette