Michael Fabiano in Concert

OA-Michael-Fabiano-photo-by-Jiyang-ChenAmerican tenor Michael Fabiano has cleared a path to become one of the most recognisable and acclaimed opera performers of our times. The Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, La Scala and Opéra National de Paris, among others, demand his talents as an interpreter of iconic operatic characters and a long list of concert performances with leading orchestras continues to grow.

Having performed the title roles of Faust (2015) and Werther (2019) as well as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor (2018) for Opera Australia in Sydney, Melbourne seemed bypassed and long overdue for a taste of Fabiano. 

Thankfully, that changed when Fabiano stepped out on the Melbourne Recital Centre stage on Sunday evening, relaxed, confident and well-prepared to present what was a predominantly Italian program of late Romantic period music. 

Thereon, Fabiano entertained and impressed with a mixed program of operatic arias and art songs with stellar accompaniment by Laurent Philippe at the Steinway & Sons grand piano. In all, an evening of soaring monumentality, unswerving power and wide ranging expressivity.

An explosive Gloria rang out with tremendous stature to begin the first of three short but vivid Puccini songs, Inno a Diana, which Fabiano brought charismatic vigour and assuredness to. 

The nature encompassing Terra e mare followed, stridently rendered with remarkable vocal ebbs and flows of fortissimo pulled back to pianissimo with effortlessness and beauty before even greater power was unleashed on Canto d’anime, the voice’s oiled agility and slicing resonance bursting fabulously at the hall’s carved timbers.

Next, Melbourne might never have heard a more compelling E luce van le stelle from Tosca. Although taken out of context from Puccini’s dramatic and tragic three-act opera, Fabiano inhabited his character with total conviction to give complete and unique life to the painter Cavaradossi awaiting execution.

Three ornate and melodic French songs by composer Henri Dupac followed with a particularly evocative Phydilé, casting light on Fabiano’s richness, range and intensely focussed style. 

The first part ended with Fabiano in his element as he enlivened four sentimentally weighted songs by Italian composer Paolo Tosti. Fabiano brought a sympathetic and cool matter-of-factness to L’ultima canzone, an outstanding and moving, prayerful sincerity to Ideale, an authoritative force to Per morire and closed with a wonderfully starlit and capacious L’alba separa dalla luce l’ombra. Fabiano was keen to exhibit his assets and beamed with pleasure before leaving the stage.

After interval, the second part consisted of several dramatic arias beginning with È la solita storia from Cilea’s L’Arlesiana, to which Fabiano imparted burning strength and unforgettable Herculean spirit to Frederico’s lament from this less commonly performed work.

To Massenet’s Ne pouvant réprimer les élans de la foi from Hérodiade, mind and body were at one with the commanding vocalism on display before the temperature elevated in Come in bel di maggio as another unfortunate, the poet André Chénier, awaits execution in Giordano’s Andrea Chénier.

If you were waiting for Fabiano to reach into the most subtle depths of his musicality, it arrived in undoubtedly the biggest highlight of the concert when Lensky’s Aria from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin floated and penetrated with affecting emotion.

Fabiano’s fierce resonance and stentorian might, his meaningfully employed lustrous vibrato, crystal diction, expressive versatility and vocal shading shone through to the program’s closing piece, a dramatic and rallying Act 1 extended aria by the captain of the pirates, Corrado, from Verdi’s Il Corsaro.

Two encores rewarded an enthusiastic audience, the first, Forse la soglia attinseMa se m’è forza perderti, an aria Fabiano described as one from one of his favourite roles, Gustavo, King of Sweden, in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera

For the second, an audience favourite and taking the night out on a familiar high, Fabiano brought everyone to their feet with Puccini’s eternally popular aria Nessun dorma from Turandot.

Grateful we are for Fabiano’s brief stopover in the city on his way to Sydney for another role debut for Opera Australia – Maurizio in Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, opening 20th February.

Nonetheless, despite the thrilling recital it was – and thank you immensely Mr Fabiano – the company’s diminished presence and scant offering to Melbourne’s cultural life this year will neither go unnoticed nor uncriticised. 

Michael Fabiano in Concert
Elisabeth Murdoch Hall – Melbourne Recital Centre, Southbank Boulevard, Southbank
Performance: Sunday 
12 February 2023
Information: www.opera.org.au

Image: Michael Fabiano – photo by Jiyang Chen

Review: Paul Selar