Tenor Michael Fabiano plays a lot of roles both on- and offstage—and he brings so much passion to them all that one wonders how he does it. When we spoke by phone late this summer, he was heading to London to start recording his debut solo album, a collection of Donizetti and Verdi arias for the Pentatone label. He had that week performed in the Hamptons at a fundraiser for ArtSmart, a foundation he co-founded that gives free voice lessons to students in underserved neighborhoods. Two weeks before that, he was the featured singer in a Bernstein tribute concert at Ravinia.
“I always say of my career that I am running on a moving walkway in the airport—it’s constantly moving,” he says. “I have to keep that mentality.”
This month, he’ll step off for a brief but memorable stop in Chicago, as he makes his debut at Lyric Opera in the role of Rodolfo, the poor Parisian poet in Puccini’s La Bohème. It is among the most demanding roles in opera, but Fabiano is unfazed; he originated the role in this new production, a collaboration between Lyric, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and the Teatro Real Madrid.
And in any case, he is a person of action, not stasis. He is an avid pilot. He’s getting married this month. And, with ArtSmart, he is trying to make the world a better place. “There are many music programs that exist to support children, but I said to my co-founder, ‘What is going to turn the dial?’” he says. “There are groups with a lineage of success, but the missing link is that there is not a lot of one-on-one contact, with one person and one child—that’s our uniqueness. We don’t call them teachers; we call them mentors.” The organization has already given more than 10,000 private lessons—and is poised to expand. Too much, given his busy schedule?
“The process of learning opera is demanding, yes,” he says. “But I derive so much pleasure from performing, I don’t really think of it as work. It’s just a joy to be able to sing.” Opens Oct. 6; second run opens Jan. 10, tickets $49-$299