In Review: McIntyre, Riesen, and Mayes excel in Des Moines Metro Opera "Glory Denied"
"a flawless, kaleidoscopic staging by the abundantly gifted director, Kristine McIntyre. The central playing space has audience members on all four sides and Ms. McIntyre has devised fluid, continuously morphing stage pictures that not only underscore the dramatic truth of the situations, but also keep each segment of the audience fully immersed in the drama by having at least one character playing in their direction. She drew deeply personal portrayals from her superb cast. And she has obviously toiled to great effect as she developed “younger” and “older” versions of Jim and Alyce that share identical personality cores as well as an eerily unified approach to the roles’ physicalization. We really believed that these were two embodiments of the same two souls. I may have said it before, but it bears repeating: Kristine McIntyre is one of the foremost directors working in opera today. If you see her name in the credits, rest assured it is going to a top tier, often revelatory experience. . . As Jim Thompson, baritone Michael Mayes anchored the evening with a star turn that was simply amazing. (Or is it, A-Mayes-ing?). There is no aspect of this tremendously complex role that eludes him musically or dramatically. His deep personal commitment to portraying this eminently tragic figure is exceeded only by his incredibly effective vocalizing. Having experienced his straightforward, powerfully sung Scarpia a few seasons ago, I was not prepared for the total mastery of the nuances he brought to bear on this evening.Mr. Mayes not only gifted us with the powerful beauty of his burnished instrument, but he also made my jaw drop with meticulously calculated, wondrously controlled sotto voce effects, including some breath taking forays above the staff. His complete immersion into the suffering and physical disintegration of his character were as commendable as they were poignant. . . His tour de force impersonation was well matched by his “younger” counterpart. John Riesen’s “Younger Thompson” held the stage with a vibrant, focused tenor, and an impassioned performance of complete commitment and coltish deportment. Mr. Reisen bolted about the stage, flailed at his captors’ abuse, repeatedly flung himself on the floor, and managed to do all of this while singing with secure abandon." -Opera Today
"Younger Thompson, the prisoner of war, was a physically grueling role, and John Riesen portrayed the character with heartfelt sincerity. . . 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.Older Jim is just as complicated as his wife, and while it was easier to sympathize with him, there were moments when his darker nature would surface. 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 scenes 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." -Schmopera