Composers: Verdi, Donizetti
Compositions: Opera arias
Performers: Michael Fabiano t, London Philharmonic/Enrique Mazzola
Catalogue Number: Pentatone PTC5186750

Listening to American tenor Michael Fabiano sing is not a relaxing experience – in the best possible way. From his career-making performance aged just 22, which won him the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, through an ever-growing number of roles at the Royal Opera House and the Met itself, there’s always a tension, an urgency to this young singer’s performances that demands attention. These are not performances that come easily, nor are they worn lightly. But if the endeavour is pure America, it’s the only thing that is about this thrilling talent.

Because the voice itself – a bright, muscular tenor, a welcome handful of grit balancing out the brilliance of its squillo – is Italy through and through. Looking down Fabiano’s live CV it’s hard to believe he’s still only 35 and that this is his debut recital on disc. Predictably it’s a bit of an over-achievement, a serious, ambitious musical calling-card. Perhaps the lollipop albums for major labels will follow (they certainly will if he wants them to) but here the artist is setting out a more grown-up stall in scenes and arias that trace an evolving curve from late Donizetti through to mature Verdi – music in which display finally becomes true musical drama.

We hear Fabiano in many guises – lover, revenger, murderer, soldier – and in roles both familiar (he has, apparently, already grown out of Rigoletto’s smooth-talking Duke) and yet to come. His Poliuto, superb at Glyndebourne in 2015, has since gained more heft and risk-taking, and he makes Lucia di Lammermoor’s Edgardo into a properly rounded, believable character. What a prospect his Alvaro from Forza is on the strength of this wonderfully craggy, ugly-beautiful beast of a Qual sangue…S’affronti la morte, and if the lesser repertoire feels like a bit of a waste after that, Maria di Rohan allows Fabiano to show off his glowing legato croon in Alma soave e cara while music from Il Corsaro shows off not only the soloist but fine chorus singing from London Voices.

Veteran Italian conductor Enrique Mazzola draws wonderfully colourful accompaniments from the London Philharmonic Orchestra (just listen to that string duet at the start of I due Foscari’s Notte, perpetua notte, matching Fabiano sinew for sinew.) As a recital this is pretty fabulous. As a recital debut it’s outstanding.

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