For their new albums, soprano Joyce El-Khoury and tenor Michael Spyres are walking in famous footsteps.

Callas. Björling. Ponselle. Caruso. These are just some of the names that shine brightly in the operatic firmament. But what about those present when some of the greatest operas were written? Singers who created the showiest, most virtuosic parts still thrilling audiences today? In the early 19th century, Gilbert Duprez and Julie Dorus-Gras created roles both familiar and lost to us today. With Opera Rara releasing recital discs by Michael Spyres and Joyce El-Khoury dedicated to the pair’s repertoire, both will undoubtedly be subjects of interest again. But who were they exactly?

Gilbert Duprez

The story goes that the modern tenor was born in 1837, when Gilbert Duprez burst onto the stage of the Paris Opéra as Arnold in Rossini’s Guillaume Tell. To the astonishment of the audience, used to hearing a mix of falsetto and head voice, Duprez sang a high C with the full power of his chest voice in the demanding cabaletta Amis, amis. The Parisian public went into absolute raptures, no longer content with the airy, flute-like sounds typical of the ténor du jour.

Gilbert...

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