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Magic Michael

Our Own JJ weighs in at some length about OONY’s performance of I Lombardi over at Yes, it’s by subscription, but you really should, you know? However, for those of you who are a little out-of-pocket (and, believe me, La Cieca knows the feeling) there’s a snippet after the jump.

[Michael] Fabiano has been heard in New York before–as a Grand Prize winner in the Met National Council Auditions (documented in the 2007 film The Audition), in a couple of supporting roles at the ???Met, and in a concert or two. The young artist (he’s only 28) has until now always sounded “promising,” but Monday night he fulfilled that promise. After just a phrase or two, you could already feel the audience take notice, as if to say, “what have we here?” Within less than 10 minutes, after he caressed the lyrical aria “La mia letizia infondere” with warm, throbbing, Italianate tone, the place suddenly went mad, in an ovation the likes of which you rarely hear at the Met any more.

Next came a slow cabaletta in rippling Bellini style, which the tenor sang delicately but still with a full, virile tone. A standout moment was his launching of the reprise of the melody in a melting mezza voce, an elegantly refined effect.

True, Fabiano lofts his way into high notes with a slight portamento that, if exaggerated, could degenerate into a scoop. And I heard a sob or two garnishing the legato line. But these are valid stylistic choices from an artist so assured and technically firm of voice. He’s headed for an important career, of which this Lombardi is only a very tasty hors d’oeuvre.


  • 1
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    I still wish he would head to Italy as much as possible.

  • 2
    aulus agerius says:

    It’s nice to read ‘out-of-pocket’ used in a sense I am familiar with -- it seems to have taken on a different meaning recently, rather like ‘beg the question.’

  • 3
    Salome Where She Danced says:

    “The Audition”:

    MF is the “I’m Not Here to Make Friends” guy, who is required of all “reality” competition shows.

  • 4
    zinka says:

    We chatted a lot on Facebook last night and Michael knows the good Pertile….When I mentioned FEDORA..he said :”NO>:Does this mean the role of Loris even now would not be for him??Nice to have a tenor say “NO”….Carreras should have!!!!!!!
    I do not recall any recent FURORE about someone like this…at least,not since my hearing Viardot live.

    Bless him and may he go on a LONG time…..Charlie

  • 5
    Nero Wolfe says:

    Is he scheduled at the Met next season or the season after and, if so, in what?

  • 6
    RosinaLeckermaul says:

    As far as I can see, he is only scheduled for Alfred in FLEDERMAUS.

  • 7
    Nerva Nelli says:

    In news of another truly fine tenor:

    “Ten concerts in ten cities in one month alone. This is Joseph Calleja, widely regarded as ***one of the world’s greatest living opera singers***.” That’s how CNN International introduces Gramophone Artist of the Year Joseph Calleja, the most recent subject of its “Road Warriors” feature”.

    I admire Calleja greatly, but promulgating such a statement does him no favors. “One of the world’s great active tenors” I’d more than endorse.

    But given that we have among “living opera singers” not only those still appearing--including veterans like Bumbry, Ramey, Gruberova, von Stade, Allen, Donath, Devia, Domingo, Baltsa, and Bruson plus current peak-form stars like Kaufmann, Bartoli, di Donato and [fill in your favorites]--but the likes of Olivero, Albanese, Bergonzi, Price, Scotto, Freni, Baker, Ludwig, Varady, Jones, Gedda, Obraztsova, Arroyo, van Dam, Berganza, Horne, Silja, Carteri, Carreras, Milnes, Moll, Zylis-Gara, Bacquier, Aragall, Atlantov, Vickers, te Kanawa, Tomowa-Simtow, Dernesch, Resnik, Raimondi, etc etc etc…

    CNN needs someone who knows the turf better.

    • 7.1
      MontyNostry says:

      Come on, all these news reporters do is quote press releases when it comes to opera. A while ago, the BBC’s top radio news programme interviewed Noah Stewart, who had just ‘become the first black artist to have a No 1 classical album in the UK’ (or some such claim). The lead-in to the interview pretty much claimed that there was no precedent for a black male opera singer, which is clearly nonsense -- and very disrespectful to many fine artists.
      In any case, Stewart’s PR plays the race card quite shamefully and in a rather retrogressive way.

      • 7.1.1
        Alto says:

        But wasn’t that N.N.’s point? Journalists are supposed to do more than quote press releases.

    • 7.2
      armerjacquino says:

      Missed one…(Although of course she only had the one Met Sieglinde)

      • 7.2.1
        armerjacquino says:

        And actually, while I’m here, I’d say Calleja was good enough for that title. There are great living opera singers, and he is among them.

          Nerva Nelli says:

          “great”- sure

          “greatest”- a little early for that, no?

          • armerjacquino says:

            Frames of reference, I guess. I have spent nearly 25 years going to the opera. The tenors I have seen live include Calleja, Domingo, Giancomini, O’Neill, Barham, Moser, Aler, Cura, Hadley, Blochwitz, Vargas, Berti, Beczala, Fraccaro, Licitra, Hughes Jones…

            There are a few in there I would class as great. I’d say Calleja is better than any of ’em.

          • bassoprofundo says:

            You think Calleja is better than Giacomini was?

            oh dear.

          • armerjacquino says:

            Who had 8:44? WIN!

          • bassoprofundo says:



          • armerjacquino says:

            But putting your rudeness and your Jupiter-sized superiority complex to one side for a moment: yes, I think Calleja is a greater singer than Giacomini. I have seen them both several times, and I suspect you haven’t.

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            My f-o-r excludes live experience of Barham, alas, but includes Corelli, Bergonzi, Pavarotti, King, Vickers, Domingo, Atlantov, Aragall, Kraus, Araiza, Gedda, Burrows, Winbergh, Dvorsky, Shicoff, Rolfe Johnson, Cossutta, Kaufmann.

            (Plus the elder Remedios sib and Mitchinson!)

            “Great” Calleja is; to me not (yet) “greatest”, though I like his singing and retro style a lot.

            Whatever--he is certainly praiseworthy.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            Armerj, your list of notable tenors omits Kaufmann, who displayed his slicked back luscious glory during Isokowski’s Edinburgh snooze-fest Capriccio!

          • armerjacquino says:

            Haha, see? I ALWAYS forget that Capriccio.

      • 7.2.2
        Nerva Nelli says:

        I was speaking of performers, not wind harps! :)

          armerjacquino says:

          Nerva. Let’s make one thing absolutely clear. You can insult my entire nation. You can spend hours creating an alternate login devoted to dissing everyone born on this island. That’s all fine.

          But having a go at Janowitz? That is PERSONAL, dammit *puts up dukes*

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            But her Odabella was hardly in the Barstow class!

          • armerjacquino says:

            Barstow sang Odabella? Dear god, that doesn’t bear thinking about.

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            ROH new production 13 October 1990: Ruggero Raimondi , Josephine Barstow, Giorgio Zancanaro, Dennis O’Neill; Edward Downes.

            You were barely in trousers…

          • The Vicar of John Wakefield says:

            Ah, Dame Jo, surely the greatest British Verdian spinto since Ruth Packer!

          • manou says:

            I saw Jo Barstow in one of those Attila performances. Only remember how exciting it was to see the opera for the first time. Thrilling evening.

          • Regina delle fate says:

            Let’s say Dame Jo was an “interesting” Odabella, just like she was an “interesting” Tosca, Santuzza and Donna Anna. These weren’t really her roles, but she was unforgettable as Violetta, Forza-Leonora, Tatyana, Jenufa, Emilia Marty, -Salome, Denise in The Knot Garden, Gloriana, Katerina Ismaelova. I could go on but you had to be there, which, of course, most of the people who rubbish her on this site weren’t! I can well believe her Met Musetta wasn’t very good, but that’s no reason to write her off -- she was an important artist who sang a vast rep of roles, some of which suited her better than others. And I would be the last person to claim that she had a great voice. In fact, the fact that she had a mediocre voice -- by Leontyne’s standards anyway -- only redoubles my respect for her and she often sang to a standard that made you believe she had a great voice. That was certainly true of her ENO Elisabeths (de Valois) and Leonora.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            Hear, hear, Regina. Although I do sort of agree that it was a mostly rancid sound, Barstow gave one of the most memorable (in a good way) performances I have ever seen, as the Countess in Pique Dame. It really did seem as if the whole audience was on the edge of their seats during ‘je crains de lui parler la nuit’ -- the quietest I have ever heard anybody dare to sing, and it was so atmospheric and electrifying. She was the best thing about a great show that also included Mattila and Hvorostovsky on top form.

            Sadly, one of the other times I saw her was at an orchestral concert with the Halle in Manchester. I’d booked for Montserrat, who cancelled and M Price was announced as her replacement. When Price also cancelled, we got Barstow tanking out Vissi d’arte etc, which wasn’t very pleasant.

          • MontyNostry says:

            Dame Jo never sounded exactly beautiful, but she did look very good on stage. I still find it incredible that she was ever cast as Arabella, though -- more of a Kartenschlaegerin (a role I see will soon be taken by Gabriela Benackova at Salzburg!)

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            A lot of the roles she sang I find very hard to imagine. The voice seems for too thick to even be able to COPE with Donna Anna for instance, much less finesse it into anything you’d want to hear, and I’m similarly baffled by the thought of her Violetta, but will take Regina’s word for it that it worked.

            I have her recital disc of terrifying final scenes though, and she is thoroughly convincing.

          • armerjacquino says:

            My first live experience of Barstow was as Donna Anna. Sometimes I still wake up screaming. (In tribute).

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            Laughing out loud, LITERALLY.

          • Regina delle fate says:

            The Donna Anna really was one of her biggest mistakes at ENO -- it was too late, apart from anything else. Another, earlier, mistake was her Aida which she and the company management presumably thought she could manage after the Forza Leonora and Elisabetta, but it was a stretch and I don’t think she ever tried it again. Tosca she did do again for Opera North -- and Karajan at the Salzburg Easter Festival, believe it or not -- and it was generally better received, moreso, admittedly, in Leeds than in Salzburg! On the other hand, I wish someone had cast her as Elettra in Idomeneo earlier in her career. I think the only time she sang it was in the mid-70s when she replaced a long-forgotten Polish soprano at Glyndebourne. She can be seen in the (horribly cut) video filmed by Southern Television at the time. Whoever decided to put out an abridged version of the Leeds Gloriana also needs to be consigned to the seventh circle of operatic hell.

          • Regina delle fate says:

            Cocky -- Act I of La traviata was always a bit of bumpy ride, but you forgave her for her devastating Acts II and III -- he most congenial Verdis were definitely Don Carlos and Forza. Ballo was a bit too late and Odabella was a last minute jump-in for someone else. Dmitrova?

          • Regina delle fate says:

            Monty -- Benackova is singing Adelaide in Salzburg next Easter, not the Kartenaufschlägerin. They should ask Gwyneth to do that role (as per Mödl in the Solti film with Janowitz and Weikl) :)

          • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

            Or she could ask this guy:

          • stevey says:

            Leave us not forget her WONDERFUL Lady Macbeth, immortalized on video from Glyndebourne in (I think) 1972, with Kostas Paskalis her partner-in-crime.

            For those who haven’t seen it, do seek it out… she’s gleefully evil (all sneers and jacked-up eyebrows), totally convincing, and vocally superb.

          • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

            What a fabulous transcription by Thalberg that was. The pianist could teach a lot about singing to students. Bravo.
            Plenty more here:

          • armerjacquino says:

            Stevey- I guess one person’s ‘gleefully evil’ is another’s ’embarrassingly overacted’…

            On the subject of ill-advised late rep, she also recorded a spectacularly horrible Nancy in Oliver!. When the recording was reissued she had been quietly replaced- the only time I can ever remember this happening.

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            “Dame Jo never sounded exactly beautiful, but she did look very good on stage.”

            The same could be said of Ganna Walska.

          • MontyNostry says:

            Whoops. Apologies for the confusion. Gwyneth would blow all the cards off the table.

          • Regina delle fate says:

            Stevey -- yes her Lady M was also quite special. Her timbre certainly suggested the “voce soffocata” that Verdi said he wanted for the role. I saw her sing it twice, once in Leeds with Opera North, where her voice always made a bigger impact than in the larger London houses and again at Covent Garden, opposite Milnes, she had to work hard for the coloratura and she could make ugly faces when getting around the notes of the Brindisi. I guess it was her Lady M that persuaded the RO that she might make a fair stab at Odabella when whoever it was cancelled. She was always an exciting performer, even when she was stretched to her vocal limits and beyond. I don’t think I ever saw a dull Barstow performance, although some of her choices were strange. As Monty says, Arabella was one of them. She was far too neurotic a stage animal for that role. She was far more believable first as Octavian, later as the Marschallin. I must have seen in her in almost 30 roles, including both Jenufa and Kostelnicka, Lisa and the Countess in QoS and Mimi and Musetta.

      • 7.2.3
        Bianca Castafiore says:

        Missed who?

    • 7.3
      kashania says:

      Splitting hairs, perhaps? Most people would assume that the quote is talking about active singers. And why are you so shocked that CNN would indulge in a touch of hyperbole?

    • 7.4
      shoegirl says:

      That’s just idiotic pr spiel. In Ireland, a certain soprano describes herself as “Ireland’s leading soprano” despite being unable to even to do a cover properly.

      As for Cajella, coincidentally, he blacked out during the interval of his concert in Dublin on Saturday. Did recover enough to sing his last few numbers though.

    • 7.5
      Regina delle fate says:

      Maybe they should have written “one of the greatest still-working opera singers” :)

      • 7.5.1
        oedipe says:

        Maybe we should set up a list of “greatest still-working opera singers”. Definitive, of course.

  • 8
    MontyNostry says:

    Whoops, for ‘shamefully’ read ‘shamelessly’. (It’s nearly 1 a.m. here …)

  • 9
    Niel Rishoi says:

    Thank you La Cieca, and everyone else, for all the news, reports, feedback, reviews and clips -- especially of the “La mia letizia” -- of Michael Fabiano. This is one of the most exciting tenor voices to come along in awhile. The tone recalls old Italy, bright, shining and pingy. I love his confidence and reveling in what he has. The ascents to the upper register, the way he can just cut loose, is hair-raising. No fuss, no hesitation, just puissant ease in the emission of the tone. His portamenti also recalls the old singers; I gather he was taught that aspirating up to the top notes is a no-no, and good for him. I was surprised to learn he studied with George Shirley in my hometown of Ann Arbor. That makes another superstar Mr. Shirley has turned out -- David Daniels being the other one. In any case, I will be following Mr. Fabiano’s career more closely from now on, and look forward to his future engagements.

  • 10
    zinka says:

    This past Monday the NY Phil.Hall audience was treated to an event that reminded me of things going back in my youth. When Antonietta Stella opened her mouth at her Aida Met debut, when Tebaldi (records did not tell much) started the Desdemona line,”Mio superbo guerrier’ at her debut, when Daniele Barioni,a newcomer, started “Recondita armonia’ as a replacement for Giuseppe Campora, and this week, the second Michael Fabiano opened up his mouth to sing “La mia letizia,” the emotion was the same….Hearing a great sound for the very first time live, is something special,especially when nowadays we do get to hear a lot on Youtube or cd’s BEFORE the singer appears live.
    The amazing thing this week,and others do agree with me, is that some voices MUST BE HEARD LIVE to derive ultimate pleasure. Younger people today can turn up a Nilsson or Del Monaco recording, but they will never know what that was like live.
    This season,for a change,m has been replete with “new voices” like Opolais,He, Amber Wagner, Michael,etc.and this is a special treat for us oldies who think they have heard it all…we haven’t!!!

  • 11
    bassoprofundo says:

    This is rather brilliant:

    • 11.1
      kashania says:

      Again, the resemblance to Carreras is striking.

      • 11.1.1
        bassoprofundo says:

        it is, isn’t it? oddly enough, they even kind of have similar facial features. or maybe I’m just seeing things.

          kashania says:

          Yeah, I can see some resemblance. Fortunately, Fabiano’s face does NOT resemble Carreras when singing a high note. Fabiano’s face is completely relaxed when singing the final high note of that aria whereas Carreras’s face would be in convulsions (those eyebrows!!).

      • 11.1.2
        Cocky Kurwenal says:

        I think Carreras has one of the most astonishingly innately beautiful voices ever, coupled with an incredible ability to convey emotion through the voice, whereas Fabiano is simply an excellent singer with a very good voice. He strikes me as slightly mechanical in this Ingemisco.

          leftcoastlady says:

          Yes, mechanical, almost distracted; singing as if he has a plane to catch. Nice sound, though.

  • 12
    bassoprofundo says:

    totally unrelated yet mindblowing (armerjacquino will probably say Calleja is even better, bless):

    • 12.1
      la vociaccia says:

      Totally unrelated, but here you go basso:

      • 12.1.1
        bassoprofundo says:

        didn’t I say she was wonderful?

          la vociaccia says:

          Just gorgeous. I could spend all day thinking of superlatives. But what sticks out the most is how she can scale her voice back and execute those fioraturas with such beautiful agility. I know I’m a Monastyrska fanboy right now, but Tamara Wilson’s Nile scene is more complete IMHO

          • kashania says:

            I think she’s heading towards being the next big Verdi soprano. She’s barely 30 I think but the voice is already quite mature and I know she has a lot of Trov Leonoras on her schedule.

          • MontyNostry says:

            She’s good, but, to my ear, it’s another of those big, well-schooled Anglo-Saxon voices without any special tonal personality or allure, rather like Meade’s.

      • 12.1.2
        kashania says:

        It won’t surprise Basso to hear that Tamara Wilson was a *fabulous* Rosalind in Toronto back in the fall. ;)

          bassoprofundo says:

          haha kashania! brilliant!

          in any event, I’ve never heard her in Verdi. But I heard her in Idomeneo last summer as Elettra. When she started “Idol mio” a hush came over the theater, and she was glorious. I would pay top dollar to hear her sing Vitellia.

          • kashania says:

            Her first two assignments in Toronto were Amelia (Simon B) and Elettra. She was very good vocally in both but didn’t thrill in the same way she did with her Rosalind. I think it’s a matter of maturing. She was still in her 20s when she sang those roles and was much more finished in her recent assignment (I think she’s just 30 now). I expect that she will continue to grow as an artist.

          • Hippolyte says:

            Tamara Wilson sang Malwina in Marschner’s Der Vampyr at Carnegie Hall a few weeks ago; it was the first I’d heard her and she was thrilling. I’ve since heard a recording of the Houston Don Carlos and it confirmed my impression that it’s more of a Germanic voice than a Verdian one, to my ears at least. She sings Ada in a recent recording of Wagner’s Die Feen from Frankfurt which I’d be curious to hear and I believe there’s a Kaiserin in her future at some point.

      • 12.1.3
        Cocky Kurwenal says:

        Potentially excellent, and clearly a great voice, but so hemmed in, covered and manufactured apart from the few times she just about dares to open up on the top (excluding the ascent to the c, which was a weirdly disconnected almost falsetto). If she’d let go she’d be really wonderful, but probably an in your face scary Dmitrova style sound as opposed to the flexible spinto she seems to wish she was. That’s what I reckon, anyway!

    • 12.2
      kashania says:

      I heard Martinucci live as Calaf in Rome in 1999. The voice was attractive, had tremendous squillo, and was thrilling to hear live. Though he had a significant career (especially in Europe), it’s a shame that he never achieved fame as one of the world’s leading tenors, which he deserved IMO.

  • 13
    Signor Bruschino says:

    Just re-watched The Audition, and Fabiano really stands out, not just in vocal terms, but having that quality of being ‘interesting’… TV friendly, etc… curious to see how his persona develops over the upcoming seasons