Dallas — There was a time, in the early 1900’s, when the big-name opera singers did whistle stop tours to bring their artistry and magnifica voce to the far corners of the world. In 1917, Enrico Caruso toured Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico and Brazil in addition to American cities. In 1920, he sang in Fort Worth at the Cowtown Coliseum, a concert recently recreated by Stephen Costello. My review is here.
Regretfully, few of the top opera singers give recitals these days. Thus, the Dallas appearance of one of today’s young Caruso-esque tenors, Michael Fabiano, was an event to be savored. His Sunday recital was part opera and part art song at Dallas City Performance Hall as part of the Dallas Opera’s Robert E. and Jean Ann Titus Art Song Recital Series.
Fabiano certainly has the vocal firepower needed to reach the top tenor assemblage and the musicianship to set him apart from his competitors. Aided somewhat by opening the sound baffles that can dampen the sound in the hall, his clarion voice filled every cubic inch of the hall with a consistent decibel level. This worked better for the operatic selections on his program than it did for the art songs.
One welcome selection was an early work by Puccini, “Mentia l'avviso,” a scene for tenor and piano written for his final exam from the Conservatory of Milan. Even though Puccini wrote it for piano accompaniment, it is obvious from the writing that he intended to orchestrate it. While that never happened, you can hear bits of it harvested for material in a few of his later operas.
There were three other Puccini rarities: “Inno a Diana,” “Terra e mare,” and “Canto d’anime.”
Fabiano also sang an aria from an early, rarely performed Puccini opera, Le villi (The Willis). This is loosely based on the storyline of the ballet Giselle and its entire corps of tutu-wearing Willis. The aria, “Ecco la casa…Torna ai felici di” is pure Puccini. It is sung by a regretful and morose hero, Roberto, who realizes the horror he has wrought.
As an encore, he sang another tortured-soul tenor aria “È la solita storia del pastore,” better known as the “Lamento di Federico” from the second act of L'arlesiana (1897) by Francesco Cilea. Unlike the other two selections, this aria is frequently sung and recorded—although the opera itself isn’t.
In the lament category, he also sang a French aria that needs a voice with an Italianate quality, “Ne pouvant réprimer les élans de la foi,” from Jules Massenet's opera Hérodiade.
In what can only be called opera-like, he sang a group of very Italian songs by Paolo Tosti. Like most, if not all, of his songs, these have very beautiful melodies with a Neapolitan flavor: “La Serenata,” “L’ultimo canzone,” “Por morire” and “Lalba separa dalla luce l’obra.”
On the above operatic and pseudo-operatic selections, Fabiano simply amazed with his singing. The voice is clear and strong, with a huge top, yet amazingly expressive. He is singing the lyric repertoire now (La bohéme and Faust, for example) but is surely headed to spinto land (Manon Lescaut, Samson and even Otello and Lohengrin). But, reviewing his schedule, there is no hurry for him to get there ahead of his skills.
As for the art songs, Fabiano would have been better served dialing his opera voice back a few degrees, but most songs are sung with full, hall-trained voices these days anyway.
The standout was a group of well known songs by Richard Strauss, “Zueignung,” “Cäcilie” and “Morgen.” He also sang some songs by Henri Duparc, including one of the most beautiful songs ever written, “Phidylé.” Other Duparc songs were “Elégie,” “Le manoir de Rosemonde” and “Extase.” Alas, a promised group of songs by the American composer Amy Beach did not appear.
A recital takes two to perform and it is hard to imagine a more elegant, supportive, and more singer-friendly pianist than Laurent Philippe.