The first of these videos dates from 2007, near the start of Fabiano’s career. I don’t know its provenance. It unfortunately omits the introduction and recitative, but does extend to the exchange with Annina and the cabaletta. In this version, Alfredo is carrying a basket and little throw pillows about while singing. I couldn’t quite tell what he’s actually doing with them, but it has a domestic feel and gives us a sense of Alfredo as kept house-husband. Though not my favorite choice, this is far preferable to Willy Decker’s idea on view at the Met. At least it’s Alfredo alone, singing about his feelings for the absent Violetta. It is not terribly persuasive as physical behavior–just a tenor doing more or less what many tenors would do, singing to us with arms held out in the familiar pleading position, only with a pillow. The singing and acting energies, the effort to present the aria while incorporating the casual activity, don’t jibe.
The singing itself is sturdy, and conveys the general contours of the music. Had I been present, I’m sure I would have thought “Here’s a promising tenor.” As an interpretation, though, it is rudimentary. Observing few of the articulations and offering nothing in their place, it stays close to a single (forte) dynamic through to the concluding mini-cadenza, where Fabiano executes a diminuendo on the first syllable of “Qua-si [in ciel].” The note is a G-natural, on the upper edge of the passaggio, and so a good testing point for such niceties. A swell-and-diminish is marked here, but the latterday tradition is to sing both syllables of the word firmly, then take a breath and descend more or less lingeringly down to the final “in ciel.” Foregoing this, Fabiano creates a deft bit of shading with his diminuendo, and carries on through without the breath. It’s nice. We might note, though, that this shading is accomplished by taking an already “covered” (darkened, heady) tone, and turning it darker and headier with the pharyngeal control alluded to above.
The brief, urgent dialogue with Annina is full of momentinos wherein one would like to perceive a co-incidence between vocal and bodily interpretation. For instance, when Annina, flustered, tells Alfredo that she has had silence imposed (“imposto”) upon her by Violetta regarding her trip to Paris to sell possessions and he, shocked, repeats “imposto!”, is this to himself, sung as an aside? Or is it directly to her, and if so with exactly what inflection? Is he angry that the situation has been kept from him, or abashed? Reflective or aggressive? Everything here looks indecisive, but it cannot be fairly evaluated, because the camera angle excludes the other participant–Fabiano is singing and gesturing at an air-Annina. The cabaletta, strongly sung and topped with a good high C, would have benefitted from sharper rhythmic observance from both singer and orchestra, especially at its slowish tempo. Fabiano flashes a quick smile at us as he departs for Paris to redeem himself–a holdover, I assume, of the hoping-to-please habits cultivated by young singers from their audition and competition experiences.