Episode 79: Baritone Michael Mayes

Baritone Michael Mayes joins us to to share his insights into what keeps people coming back to opera and how he gets to “The Quick”, his popular podcast. Known for his powerful performances in Dead Man Walking and other contemporary opera, he recently showed audiences a new side of himself singing and playing country guitar in Atlanta Opera’s “Crossroads” concerts. He describes the many successful initiatives Atlanta Opera has employed to thrive during Covid times, including its outdoor “Big Tent” series, its team of superstar Company Players, and streaming opera. There’s plenty of bluegrass and salty language in this hilarious episode, so we advise that you use your headphones around children and sensitive individuals!

As always, don’t forget to check out Michael’s eye-opening personal playlist.

Listen to the Audio only version here:

Atlanta Opera

  • Tomer Zuvulun – General & Artistic Director
  • Company Players: Jamie Barton, Kevin Burdette, Jasmine Habersham, Daniela Mack, Megan Marino, Michael Mayes, Ryan McKinny, Morris Robinson, Alek Shrader, Richard Trey Smagur, Reginald Smith Jr., Talise Trevigne
  • The ensemble was created in 2020, every singer receives the same base pay and full health insurance.
  • For the tent opera productions developed beginning in 2020, singers either sang within plexiglass constructs or masked.
  • Joanna Schmink, costume director and her staff created specially boned masks for each performer.
  • “Crossroads Concerts” were co-developed by the company players and performed during the daytime. These featured a mix of music from traditional opera, musical theater, pop, R&B and country.
  • “From Opera to Opry” recent concert at ATL.

The co-hosts and Michael discussed how classical vocal training allows him to sing any style of music he chooses to.

Glory Denied by Tom Cipullo

  • Des Moines Metro Opera – Second Stage Series
  • Freedom Center at Camp Dodge, IA

How to bring in new donors and audiences to the opera was discussed

Taking Up Serpents by Kamala Sankaram & Jerry Dye

  • Chicago Opera Theatre
  • Michael Mayes sang Daddy

Other recent roles/operas performed by Michael

  • Rocher in Dead Man Walking
  • Papageno in a “Rain Forest” Magic Flute in Detroit
  • Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus

Central City Opera, CO 

  • Al fresco concerts
  • Jason Hicks & the Blue Canyon Boys

Michael began and built his career on the ‘Opera Chitlin Circuit”

We discussed how the smaller opera companies found the path towards being more flexible and could adjust to the Covid pandemic better.

“The Quick” on (TDO) The Dallas Opera Network

  • David Lomeli, Director of Artistic Administration asked Michael to create this new weekly podcast which airs every Thursday at 9PM.
  • “The Quick” is about the relationship that artists and other people have with opera.
  • Two other TDO programs: Angel Blue – The Journey and Kristian Roberts/Quo Johnson – Taking the Stage
  • “Opera with a conscience”, what he cares about the most, speaking with audience members who have been moved and possibly changed by the storytelling.
  • Everest, Dead Man Walking, Glory Denied, etc.

“The Texapolitan Opera Road Show” created in 2010 was Michael’s first podcast.

Iphigenia by Wayne Shorter & Esperanza Spaulding

  • Greek tragedy meets American ingenuity in Iphigenia, a mythical work in progress has now reached a developmental stage foreign to most other operatic productions: a crowdfunding campaign.
  • On Monday, 3/15/21 an Indiegogo post was published with the stated intention of raising $75,000 to carry the opera one last lap to the finish line. The campaign is the work of Real Magic, a company that Spalding and executive producer Jeff Tang created to produce Iphigenia independently, with producer Cath Brittan and Octopus Theatricals.
  • Iphigenia is not an adaptation of the Greek myth as much as it is an intervention into myth-making itself. Led by director Lileana Blain-Cruz abetted by luminary architect and scenic designer Frank Gehry, the entire creative process has led us to understand how stories have been traditionally told, and how we must disrupt existing systems and create our own alternative structures and stories. Part of that disruption involves a feminist engagement with the Iphigenia myth, a framework that Spalding was eager to explore.

The Marvelous World of Your Singing Hostess, Mari Lyn, a multi-episode serialized opera

  • Michael is involved with developing this new work
  • Evan Mack, composer
  • Jonathan West, head writer
  • Emily Pulley as Madame Mari Lyn

Spotlight Media has paired with ATL Opera Productions to produce and present their online operas and concerts.

  • Felipe Barral, cinematographer
  • 18 minute short version of Glory Denied
  • David Blalock, tenor
  • Maria valdes, soprano

What’s Next for Michael?

Threepenny Carmen at Atlanta Opera

  • 90 minute version of the Bizet opera set in a Texas Roadhouse Bar.
  • Michael shares the role of Escamillo.

The Sound of Music – Houston Grand Opera at TDECU Stadium

  • Michael is Captain von Trapp
  • Megan Marino is Elsa Schraeder/Co-host
  • Daniel belcher is Max Detweiler/Co-host 

Il Trovatore at Glimmerglass Festival

  • Adapted and reduced to 90 minutes focusing on the 4 main characters
  • Latonia Moore as Leonore
  • Gregory Kunde as Manrico
  • • Michael Mayes as Count di Luna
  • • Raehann Bryce-Davis as Azucena

2021 Grammy Awards: Richard Danielpour’s world premiere oratorio The Passion of Yeshua

  • Retelling of Christ’s final moments
  • Nominated for 3 Grammy awards, including Best Choral Performance, Best Contemporary Classical Composition, and Best Engineered Classical Album.
  • Won the Grammy for Best Choral Performance!
  • Kenneth Overton, baritone sings Yeshua
  • J’Nai Bridges, mezzo-soprano sings Mary Magdalene 

TikTok and Social Media






Baritone Michael Mayes enjoys a busy operatic career in both traditional and contemporary operatic roles with theaters throughout the United States and Europe. His critically acclaimed portrayal of Joseph De Rocher in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking has been seen in multiple US theaters including Atlanta Opera and Washington National Opera and internationally with Teatro Real, New Israeli Opera and the Barbican in London. Mr. Mayes is known for his portrayals in other contemporary operas including Older Thompson in Glory Denied, Lawrence in The Wreckers, Adam in The Canticle of the Black Madonna, Kinesias in Mark Adamo’s Lysistrata, Edward Gaines in Margaret Garner, and most recently Daddy in Taking Up Serpents. Recent highlights include his debut with Staatsoper Stuttgart the as title role in Nixon in China, Sweeney Todd with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Rigoletto with Houston Grand Opera, Tonio in Pagliacci with Boston Lyric Opera, Thoas in Iphigénie en Tauride with Staatsoper Stuttgart, Conte di Luna in Il trovatore with Seattle Opera, Doug in Everest with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Starbuck in Moby Dick and Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with Pittsburgh Opera, Alfio/Tonio in Cavalleria rusticana/Pagliacci with Madison Opera, and Wozzeck with Des Moines Metro Opera.

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