The News & Observer | Tenor Michael Fabiano performs March 28 for the NC Opera, is a new breed of opera star. In addition to performing on stage at theaters around the world, his performances are transmitted in HD to theaters, and he connects with his fans on social media
American tenor Michael Fabiano doesn’t fit the opera singer stereotype. The 32-year-old’s passions include baseball (he’s a former professional umpire), automobiles (he reviews them on his blog) and airplanes (he flies his own). He also posts regularly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram about his performances as well as his opinions on exercise, books and politics.
But when Fabiano begins singing the first selection on his Tuesday recital for North Carolina Opera, there will be no question about his status as an international opera star. The intensity of his interpretations and the size of his voice have thrilled audiences around the U.S. and Europe for a decade.
Earlier this month, Fabiano performed in his first starring role in a Metropolitan Opera HD transmission, Alfredo in Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata,” which was beamed to 2,000 theaters in 70 countries.
Q: The Met’s “La Traviata” production strips down the story (often literally) to focus on the lovers, Alfredo and Violetta. With its minimalist setting, constant activity and sensual interactions, how did you adjust to such a radically different version?
A: I can adapt to any new ideas as long as the integrity of the music is paramount. I feel obligated to keep an open mind but also to question ideas that veer too far from the composer’s intent. Even though I had to put on my trousers and shirt while I sang my big second act aria, I think the Met’s “Traviata” is a smart production.
Q: You’ve performed in several HD showings and DVD videos here and in Europe. Do you prepare any differently for these?
A: I still sing the way I usually would, but I’m more conscious of my eyes and my gestures because of the camera close-ups. Normally I use larger arm and body movements when playing theaters like the Met that holds 4,000 people.
Q: You’ve embraced social media as a way to connect with audiences and fans, posting daily photos, videos and commentaries. Why do you take the time to do so?
A: We’re in a different world today. If you don’t have transparency, the public is less engaged with you. Some of my best postings have come through suggestions from fans and friends. A recent one about packing tips came from people wanting to know how I handle all my traveling. But I’ve learned to set specific quotients for being online and I try not to do it at other times.
Q: It’s often stated that opera is dying art. What do you think?
A: Opera is alive and well, but it’s changing. There are many new ideas for building audiences. For example, Opera Philadelphia’s next season is using the binge approach by creating a festival with five productions and a recital over just 12 days. And San Francisco Opera has started lab productions and pop-up performances in cool spaces.
Q: What adjustments do you make when singing a recital?
A: Recitals allow me to form an intimate dialogue with the audience. I’m no longer on a stage with costumes and sets. I have to communicate nearly two-dozen pieces, each with different ideas. It’s tricky because I have to reset myself for each new environment, such as a seaside reflection on life or a war’s battlefield.
Q: What pieces on your N.C. Opera program are you particularly happy about presenting?
A: Because I like singing in French, there are five beautiful Henri Duparc songs, along with an aria by Jules Massenet and four Victor Hugo poems set to music by Franz Liszt. I’m also programming some lesser-known songs and arias by Giacomo Puccini. Read more
Vanity Fair | by Damian Fowler | March 2, 2017
This season, the tenor (and private pilot) takes the stage as Alfredo in La Traviata.
Many opera stars are jet-setters. New York, Paris, Milan. Those arias can really boost one’s air miles. Few singers, however, fly their own plane. The 32-year-old American tenor Michael Fabiano is the exception. A couple of years ago he earned his private pilot’s license after taking his maiden voyage without an instructor. And the experience afforded him an artistic insight. “Flying solo,” he says, gave him a new appreciation for “how to be when I’m performing—free of everything in my head except for delivering great music.”
Fabiano’s career is certainly on an upward trajectory. Since winning both the Beverly Sills Artist Award and the Richard Tucker Award, in 2014, he has been busier than ever. In 2015, Fabiano made international headlines when he replaced an ailing tenor to perform Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor at the Metropolitan Opera—with only seven hours’ notice from the call to the curtain.
The New York Times | by Michael Cooper | February 28, 2017
“He’s either going to be fantastic — or dead.”
That was the verdict of some of opera’s keenest vocal judges a decade ago when they awarded Michael Fabiano, an explosively talented tenor who was 22 at the time and pushing himself hard, a career-making win at the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. A decade later, he is one of the most exciting, sought-after singers in the world — but the fatalistic warning was still ringing in my ears a few Sundays ago when Mr. Fabiano, who likes to pilot planes on his days off, took me for a flight.
As we buckled into a small Piper Archer at Essex County Airport in New Jersey, near his childhood home, Mr. Fabiano rattled off a battery of safety instructions that went well beyond the usual flight attendant script: where to find the fire extinguisher, how to brace yourself over the instrument panel if necessary, how to unlatch the door in case of a crash landing. He cried “Clear prop!” then started the propeller, and up we went. I found myself wondering if I would have felt safer flown by a singer who was not quite as well-known for risk-taking — or perhaps by a baritone, or anyone other than an impassioned tenor.
“Safe never wins,” Mr. Fabiano, 32, said in an interview, explaining the philosophy that has guided everything from his choice of roles to his decision to act on a lifelong dream and get his pilot’s license, despite the dangers. “I’m very, very big on preparation. I take prepared gambles.”
SCHMOPERA | A little over a year ago, the team that would make up ArtSmart sat down to take a hard look at the role of the arts in public school curriculum. Brian Levor is a percussionist and teacher; John Viscardi runs a health care company and is a baritone with a burgeoning career; and Michael Fabiano is one of the world’s leading operatic tenors. All three were focused on two realities of arts education: that there isn’t enough of it, and that students who do pursue arts degrees accumulate large amounts of student debt, while having a difficult time finding work in their field.
Fabiano, Levor, and Viscardi have started ArtSmart, an organization with goals to improve the quantity and quality of public school arts curriculum, and to provide meaningful work opportunities for adult graduates of esteemed music programs.
ArtSmart offers high-quality music education and private voice lessons, free of charge, to under-served students in schools with limited music programs. The teachers, one could argue, come from an under-served group of their own. Fabiano explains, “We provide teaching opportunities to recent graduates of good schools, qualified schools and universities, who are very excited to teach young teens.” He adds that bilingualism is an important quality for ArtSmart teachers, with a high rate of Spanish-speaking students within their target communities.