It's not over 'til the tenor sings -- now in 3D

Updated: 2011-02-24 09:57


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A little airborne moisture comes naturally with singing, but young American tenor Michael Fabiano says it doesn't faze him that the droplets he exhales on Wednesday will be broadcast live and, for an opera first, in 3D.

"Live performance is live performance and I think that people want to see that," the 26-year-old New Jersey native told Reuters before he and English soprano co-star Claire Rutter take to the stage at the Coliseum in London for a 3D broadcast of the English National Opera production of Donizetti's dark and bloody "Lucrezia Borgia" (Sky Arts and selected cinemas).

"I think everyone when they watch television wants to see moments when people are on the edge and how they handle it -- are they sweating or not, if something goes astray do they correct it? That's live theater, that's what these reality television shows are all about too, and so I think it's great."

Based on Victor Hugo's tale of incest, murder, poisonings and rape in the Renaissance Italian Borgia family, the English-language ENO production of Donizetti's darkest opera (he also wrote air kisses like "La Fille du Regiment"), is the first opera directed by filmmaker Mike Figgis ("Leaving Las Vegas").

The production has received mixed reviews, with The Guardian's Tim Ashley writing that the incorporation of four short films with what is otherwise "a static, old fashioned" staging "proves unwieldy in the extreme."

But Ashley was unstinting in his praise for Rutter as Lucrezia, saying she "hurls out coloratura like spattered drops of venom," and wrote that Fabiano, as her illegitimate son Gennaro, whom she accidentally poisons at the end, "sings with effortless beauty of tone and an exquisite sense of line."

Not a bad press clipping for an Italian American of Calabrian heritage, part of whose family comes from Hoboken, where that other great New Jersey singer Frank Sinatra was born, who has made his Metropolitan Opera and La Scala debuts, and is portrayed as super competitive in a documentary based on a 2007 Met singing competition in which Fabiano won a grand prize.

"I believe firmly in competition," he said. "I was a champion debater in high school and I think it's what drives us to be great."

Here's what else he had to say about becoming a singer, working with Figgis and why his next car may be a Fiat-Chrysler.

Q: New Jersey conjures up images of Bruce Springsteen and the Jersey shore, not opera singers. What's going on here?

A: "When I was in high school I didn't live in New Jersey, I lived in Minneapolis. My father was transferred a few times when I was a kid so as a high school student, when I started exploring music in a bigger way, I was living in Minnesota but that's beside the point. Music's always been in my family history. My parents were voice majors in college, my aunt sang in Europe...my great aunt as well...It's in the blood....I didn't conceive of it as beyond something that was fun and nice to do. But when I got to college I realized I can take this to a really important level and communicate something to many, many people. And I'm the type of guy who wakes up in the morning skipping and jumping to work. I love what I do, I love to sing."

Q: Figgis is a film director, not a seasoned opera person. What does he bring to this art form?

A: "Mike Figgis and I come from incredibly different disciplines...but Mike understands music, he plays the piano, he's orchestrated certain music for films. So as a young person, having the opportunity to work with someone who comes from a completely different sphere was wonderful. I was able to gain new ideas and techniques that I otherwise might not have. That's critical for young performers today because in a market where opera's going on television and going in movie theatres it's intrinsic that we have to be versatile performers. Mike helped me to become that kind of performer."

Q: A quirk of the seemingly staid classical music world is a passion for fast cars, shared by the late conductor Herbert von Karajan through to violinist Joshua Bell. Any leanings that way?

A: "I'm glad you brought that up because I'm a big auto aficionado. I love the Audi RS 4, I love smaller fast cars (and)...I enjoy watching 'Top Gear'. I got rid of my car last year because I'm gone so much but I was home for two weeks and I miss having my car...So when I get back I'm contemplating a new purchase. I've never been a Chrysler guy but the new Dodge Charger SRT 8 is an incredible, incredible car so we'll see. And now it's Fiat so there's an Italian American connection -- it's Fiat Chrysler, it's perfect."


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