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Opera's Next Wave

Tenor MICHAEL FABIANO

Operas Next Wave Fabiano hdl 812
Michael Fabiano
© Dario Acosta 2012

A lot of singers love to proclaim that their utmost responsibility is fidelity to the composer. American tenor Michael Fabiano has another concern, one that a lot of his colleagues seldom mention — the audience. "It's my responsibility to touch at least one person's life in public when I'm singing," says Fabiano. "That's my duty. I reject the notion that all I'm doing is serving a muse. That's not fair. These individuals come to cry with us, to laugh with us, to be part of an emotional experience that we have the ability through the grace of God to give them onstage. I love that obligation." 

Fabiano has been praised for reigniting some of the magic of old-time Italian tenors. In his thrillingly sung performances as Raffaele in the Met's Stiffelio and Gennaro in San Francisco Opera's Lucrezia Borgia, among others, he has offered great tonal beauty, a fiery temperament and squillo to burn. He may be known best for his appearance as himself in The Audition, the 2009 documentary about the Met National Council finals. A fascinating study in nervous energy, he gave that film its greatest moments of intensity. 

That intensity hasn't gone anywhere. He's dead serious about making music, and it's almost impossible for him to give an offhand response to any question about his career. (He speaks as if he were on a debating team.) "I believe that discipline and hard work will lead to truthful results," he says. "If I'm not onstage or in rehearsal, I am always studying and working, because I love to do it. It takes a lot of mental discipline to make a career in this business, especially today, with high-definition television. People have to look good in addition to sounding good."

Given the rate at which media culture has developed over the past ten years, Fabiano feels that the next ten will offer something entirely different. "While being able to communicate the most beautiful music we can, we have to be adaptable to these big changes," he says. "I think that if we don't reach out to educational institutions in a bigger way, the interest in our art form is going to dwindle. Also, the Berlin Philharmonic digital concert hall is a wonderful thing. We can sign on and pay to listen to all the concerts that have been presented. Many opera companies and orchestras can do the same thing with great efficacy. You can bring in a much wider audience with simple multimedia advertising on the Internet. I think you are going to see other organizations doing a lot more of that. The possibility of broadcasting not just in the theaters but into the classrooms is something we should think about down the line.

"As artists, there's got to be some sort of line that we are not willing to cross in terms of separating live performance in a theater from a digital live public. We don't just want people sitting in their bedrooms watching TV. That wouldn't be healthy for us, because it would totally change the dynamic of the art form itself and remove that excited element that singers need to communicate a wonderful performance. There's something to be said for adrenaline." spacer 

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Current Issue: October 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 4