2021/2022 Jubilee Concert Season Closing Concert Filharmonia Narodowa

Go to content
2021/2022 Jubilee Concert Season Closing Concert
Andrzej Boreyko, fot. Michał Zagórny

The genesis of this monumental composition, which was to become a milestone in its author’s career, lies in a poem written by John Henry Newman, an extraordinary figure in the spiritual life of 19th-century Britain. He was an Anglican clergyman who, influenced by his readings, reflections and travels to Italy, converted to Catholicism and became a cardinal of the Church, an ardent apostle and later a saint. Newman described the moment of death of an old man bearing the symbolic name of Gerontius, surrounded by fellow worshippers in prayer, and later the subsequent journey of his soul towards God. Edward Elgar was fascinated by Newman’s work, and thus enthusiastically embraced the challenge of setting it to music with the great Birmingham Triennial Music Festival of 1900 in mind – one of the most important musical events, the tradition of which went back to the 18th century. The long-awaited premiere was not a success, and even Hans Richter, one of the most prominent conductors of his time, was unable to help – the enormous difficulty of the piece exceeded the capabilities of amateur choirs; however, subsequent performances brought the work success and recognition, including in Germany, and later also in the USA and other countries. Interestingly, in many churches in England, performances planned by church choirs were initially hindered by the work’s strongly Catholic message and its commentary on the idea of purgatory, an idea alien to the Reformed faiths; however, with time these objections lost their significance. The rich musical fabric of the two-movement work (the author himself suggested that it should not be called an oratorio) exploits the whole expressive potential of the eschatological text and its harrowing visions of death, the journey of the soul and the judgement. A special function is performed by the choir, which takes on the roles of the protagonist’s friends and companions on his final journey, demons and angels, and souls in purgatory. The Dream of Gerontius remained immensely popular until the First World War, after which – like many of Elgar’s compositions – it almost sank into oblivion, although not in his homeland, where it was one of his most frequently revived works and a favourite of ambitious choirs.


Michael Spyres

Born and raised in the Ozarks in the USA, Michael Spyres grew up in a musical family. He is one of the most sought-after tenors of his generation and has been celebrated on the world’s most prestigious international opera houses, festivals and concert halls.

The 2021/2022 season saw his solo album debut for Warner/Erato, BariTenor, as well as his return as Florestan in Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fidelio at Opéra Comique in Paris, his role debut as Wagner’s Tristan in a concert version of 2nd Act with Opéra de Lyon, his role debut as Canio in Ruggiero Leoncavalli’s Pagliacci with the Ozarks Lyric Opera, his return as Gounod’s Roméo to the Houston Grand Opera, as well as his debut in the title role of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Idomeneo at the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, a role he will reprise in summer in Aix-en-Provence, where he will also appear as Pollione in Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma. In addition to the opera stage, he made his recital debut with Mathieu Pordoy in Tourcoing, Toulouse, Nîmes and Paris. On the concert stage, he starred in Ravello, Milan (Teatro alla Scala), Vienna (Theater an der Wien), Strasbourg, Paris, Barcelona and Philadelphia.

In his meteoric rise, Michael Spyres has quickly established himself as one of the greatest singers of his generation and has sung at venues such as Metropolitan Opera in New York, Royal Opera, Covent Garden in London, Opéra National in Paris, Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Teatro Real in Madrid, Gran Liceu in Barcelona, Lyric Opera of Chicago, La Monnaie in Brussels, Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam, Semperoper in Dresden, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, Carnegie Hall in New York, Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, and at festivals in Salzburg, Aix-en-Provence, Edinburgh, the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, and the BBC Proms in London.

Since 2015, Michael Spyres has had the honour to be the Artistic Director of his hometown opera company, the Ozarks Lyric Opera.

He has worked with some of the world’s most renowned conductors such as Daniel Barenboim, Andrew Davis, Mark Elder, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Edward Gardner, Valery Gergiev, Emmanuelle Haim, Thomas Hengelbrock, Fabio Luisi, Michele Mariotti, Riccardo Muti, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Kirill Petrenko, Evelino Pido, Christophe Rousset, Simone Young, and Alberto Zedda.