Foto: Arielle Doneson
Charles Handelman, a noted voice connoisseur, and a veteran in the business, wrote on his Facebook page: “I have heard a ‘few’ tenors in my life, but when a fabulous new voice comes upon the scene, my ears perk up with delight. Such was my feeling when I heard Michael Fabiano last year in I Lombardi, and Avery Fisher Hall literally rocked from the sound of his brilliant lirico-dramatico voice.”
That Michael Fabiano would make the big time was clear to me from the start. The very first time I saw and heard him – in the recommendable documentary “The Audition,” on the final rounds of Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions – I knew it: he is the winner!
Competition was exceptionally strong that year (2007). To stand out, you had to be special, and special is what Michael Fabiano most certainly was. The young (only 22 at the time) tenor from Montclair, New Jersey, gifted with a heavenly voice, not only proved he was exceptionally talented, but showed he was an ambitious fighter as well, with his cocky disposition, and strong urge to win.
Trailer from the audition
Fabiano knew he had a voice, and was convinced he would have a career as a “star tenor.” A lot of people thought he was arrogant, but I liked that, he entirely was himself. In his own words: “There is always politics in every competition. Although the camaraderie among the finalists has been very nice, I don’t quite believe it. People are self-interested and want to win.”
© Lieneke Effern
I meet the meanwhile famous tenor in Amsterdam, where he has been rehearsing Faust for several weeks. Does he still agree with what he said?
“Yes. You enter competitions to win, if you say otherwise, you are a hypocrite in my opinion. Competitions and contests are important, sometimes your entire career depends on them. How could one be indifferent about them?
Already as a child, Fabiano had that drive. He did not like pop music, and sports, apart from baseball, were not really his thing either. He loved Tchaikovsky and Dvořák. “I am extremely ambitious. From the moment my voice was discovered, I went for it one hundred percent. I believed in my voice, and in my talent, and so I started to fight for them. I knew I could do it, but I also realized a lot of it depended on myself. That is why I studied long and hard.” Fabiano loves to dig into books. He is very interested in politics and history, especially in the Second World War. “Churchill is my hero. Do you know his opinion on arts funding cuts? He said: “Cut money for the arts? Then what are we fighting for?” I do believe we need to reflect on that. “It is also my biggest nightmare that the arts will disappear, that there will be no more money for it, and that less and less people will have an interest in it. Lots of young people spend their time watching silly movies, and playing games, often with loud noise, the louder the better. Even a Lady Gaga show nowadays cannot last too long, because they are so easily bored. Honestly, sometimes I do fear the future.”
Irina Lungu and, Michael Fabiano
The way Fabiano prepares himself for his stage roles is that of a real scholar. “I always prepare myself thoroughly. I do a lot of background reading, also on performance traditions, but I always start with the music. With Italian opera that is no problem, since I know the language well. With operas in other languages, like French, it works differently. In those cases I start with my language coach. I really need to know the text inside out, and accent free, as far as possible. As much as Fabiano prefers thorough preparations, the rehearsal period in Amsterdam is a little too long for him. “I have been here now for seven weeks, and that is too long, to be honest. A new production can be easily done in five weeks, and for a revival I think three weeks suffice. Rehearsing longer is simply a waste of time. Certainly nowadays, in times of crisis, and with all the budget cuts.
Trailer from Amsterdam
The role of Faust, in the opera of the same name by Gounod, is new for Fabiano. A real challenge, because Faust is certainly not one of the easiest roles in the repertoire. Still, during rehearsals, Fabiano ventured to start a discussion with director Àlex Ollé. “His vision was not mine. In my opinion, it did not go with the opera, certainly not as far as the ending was concerned. Gounod was a deeply religious man, and he wanted Marguerite to be saved. She should be forgiven, and allowed into Heaven. The director had a different view, and I basically had to adjust to that. After all, I am only an intermediary. I am an artist, and it is my profession to do what people ask me to do. It is not that I dislike this production, far from it, I only would have loved to see it differently.”“In my opinion directors have to learn to accept that we singers are not stupid. We are creative beings, and I feel it as my duty to explain that. Luckily, it never went so far that I refused to work with someone. Hopefully that will never happen in the future either.”
© Lieneke Effern
“I am very interested in roles outside the standard repertoire. I always want more, I like to explore.”“Studying a new role, for me, feels like praying in a church. I am a practicing Catholic, and I believe everything has a purpose, and everything happens for a reason, everything is God’s will. I am open for everything, but I don’t want to use my energy for just anything. My energy is too important to me for that.”“I received a gift from God, and it is my duty to pass it on. People come to the theatre to experience something, and I can help them with that. It is my duty to do that as well as I possibly can.”
My hardest role thus far? The Duca in Rigoletto. No so much because of the notes, but because the music is so divinely beautiful and great! I personally feel responsible for that, and want to perform the music as perfectly as possible, not smuggling anything.”“My dream role? Gustavo in Un ballo in maschera. And Don Carlo! But for the time being I am dealing mostly with Alfredos (La traviata) and Edgardos (Lucia de Lammermoor).”Fabiano’s repertoire also includes more unusual works, like Barber’s Vanessa, Respighi’s La Fiamma, Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac, and The Dream of Gerontius. He also sings An die ferne Geliebte by Beethoven.
Aprile Millo:This year Fabiano was the first singer ever to win both the Richard Tucker Award and the Beverly Sills Artist Award. Another legend from the operatic circuit, soprano Aprile Millo, said about him: “He has on countless times left me breathless in the beauty of what he accomplishes onstage. Audiences leap to their feet in unison. Cheering too, I am obviously not alone in my appreciation… May God protect and shower him with the generousity he gives us in every performance. Bravo, Bravo, and again, Bravo.”