Notes from Lyric Fest

Biography in Music:
This Weekend!
February 27-28
FabianoSinger Spotlight: Meet Tenor Michael Fabiano 
Michael Fabiano. Photo Dario Acosta

“Met fans who have seen “The Audition,” the documentary on the finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2007, will be eager to hear the young tenor Michael Fabiano, who made his Met debut as Raffaele, the young nobleman who seduces Lina…On Monday there was real Italianate ardor in his appealing voice.”The New York Times

We are happy to introduce you to Michael Fabiano, postgraduate of the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, our special guest at the upcoming Biography in Music series!

At 25, Michael is establishing himself as one of the major young talents in the world today. A Grand Prize winner of the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, at the age of 22, he is prominently featured in The Audition, the internationally released documentary produced by the Metropolitan Opera about this competition.  

Fabiano made his Metropolitan Opera debut in Stiffelio in January of 2010.  See what the critics have to say about his performance:

“Instead of fading into the considerable scenery of the Met’s handsome Giancarlo del Monaco production, [Fabiano] was more than noticed, receiving a healthy, well-deserved ovation in his final curtain call.”  Philadelphia Inquirer 

“The other mesmerizing performance is from the American tenor Michael Fabiano . . . he sings phenomenally: strong, unforced, in tone, full of swagger and with an authentic Brooklyn twang that suits this stage perfectly.” The Times 

He recently told the Met’s Charles Sheek how winning the 2007 National Council Auditions and starring in Susan Froemke’s acclaimed documentaryThe Audition impacted his career.  Read full interview with Fabiano here.

And don’t miss Michael Fabiano’s live performance on February 27-28!

In the meantime, enjoy Michael’s performance of De’ miei bollenti spiriti…O mio rimorso” from Verdi’s La Traviata (YouTube). 

On the photo above: tenor Michael Fabiano. Photo by Dario Acosta.

GhenaConversations With Guest Pianist Ghenady Meirson  
Ghenady Meirson

We welcome guest pianist and Russian vocal coach Ghenady Meirson to the Tchaikovsky’s Biography in Music.

Ghenady (born in Odessa, Ukraine), is a faculty member of The Academy of Vocal Arts and The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia (where he also studied). He has prepared many artists for opera, oratorio, recitals, and recordings, and helped such organizations as The Philadelphia Orchestra, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Singers and Mendelssohn Club Chorus. Ghenady is a founder of, a membership-based network for independent music teachers. Now a leader in its niche, the network helps teachers attract private music students across the United States and Canada.

Ghenady shared his thoughts about Tchaikovsky and the upcoming program with the Lyric Fest’s publicist Inna Heasley.

What are your thoughts about Tchaikovsky’s vocal repertoire, does his writing have its own signature?  

GM: If Tchaikovsky was alive today, he would be a supremely rich man from The Nutcracker royalties alone. His music has universal appeal. It is honest and goes straight to the heart.

Tchaikovsky combines an exceptional gift for writing unforgettable melodies and strong grounding in Western classical composition traditions. At times, it is difficult to distinguish a Russian folk tune from an original Tchaikovsky melody. He is Russia! 


If I were to describe Tchaikovsky’s vocal writing in adjectives, these would include ‘elegant’, ‘rich’, ‘lyrical’, ’emotional’, ‘dramatic’ and ‘haunting.’ He uses the voice to deliver the lyrics’ meaning simply and directly, never resorting to unnecessary vocal acrobatics. 


His songs are gems. Setting music to already polished poetry by Alexander Pushkin or Leo Tolstoy must have been a joy. In composing opera, he was extremely demanding on his librettists. Working with his brother Modest on Queen of Spades and Iolanta, he required utmost efficiency, mercilessly eliminating extra words.  


With Eugene Onegin and Queen of Spades, Tchaikovsky takes center stage in the international world of opera. Subjects of love, passage of time, and greed, are poignant and always contemporary. Tchaikovsky was deeply interested in human emotions. These operas succeed in transcending cultures and eras. 

Your annual Russian Romance programs at AVA are well-known and always well attended. What is the idea behind these Russian recitals?   

GM: American audiences love Russian music. I started to coach Russian repertoire while a student at Curtis, and since 1989, I have been doing the Russian Romances program at the AVA. 


My primary goal is to offer students the experience with this repertoire. I am pragmatic about selections for each artist. I want them to use these works in auditions and concerts. 


In today’s hiring environment, opera companies cast American singers in Russian roles alongside the Russian-born singers. Some of our former AVA students are hired to sing Russian roles in major opera houses around the world, including the Met.

What can you tell us about Tchaikovsky’s trip to America?

GM: While he had many challenges, his happier of times was his two-month visit to the United States as a conductor in 1891. He visited Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York where he enjoyed daily walks in then very new Central Park. He cherished his interactions with New York’s high society and continued to work on The Nutcracker ballet and Iolanta as a double bill commission. 


Tchaikovsky conducted the opening of Carnegie Hall. Orchestra musicians went wild over him. In a letter to his brother Modest he wrote how much more famous and appreciated he is in America than back home in Russia. 


Ghenady, we welcome your debut with Lyric Fest in this program!   What attracted you in this invitation?

GM: While on a business trip to Boston last year, I got a call from Laura Wardwho extended the invitation to do a Tchaikovsky program with Lyric Fest. I was touched. I admire Laura’s work immensely. 


I worked with Suzanne DuPlantis when she was an AVA Resident Artist. We performed some of the Tchaikovsky selections that are on this Lyric Fest program. She has such deep appreciation and feeling for this music. I loved working with Suzanne. 


While our paths didn’t cross, Randi Marrazzo and I were students at Curtis at the same time. 


In my view, Lyric Fest has emerged as one of the more important concert series in the Philadelphia area. Lyric Fest presents a fresh and engaging concert format that delivers a fulfilling emotional return to its audiences. 

If you had a chance to invite people to this program, what would you say to them?

GM: One of the AVA’s patrons buys tickets for each night of Russian Romances performances. The other day he dropped off a box of Russian chocolates in appreciation for our work, adding that he’d like to see us increase the number of Russian performance dates. 

I invite everyone to attend Lyric Fest’s Tchaikovsky program and enjoy the music and a life story of an exceptional composer. Just as the AVA patron I mentioned, you may find yourselves moved enough to send Lyric Fest some Russian chocolates! 


Where can we see you play piano?

GM: Since I perform in public on a very limited basis, I started to record short piano pieces for my YouTube channel, just to keep my piano playing in top shape. In 2007, I recorded a piece from Tchaikovsky’s piano cycle The Seasons (“Harvest” – August). 


Recently, this piece was used in a movie “Orphan.”  This was not my performance but movie fans began scouring the web in search of the piece and discovered my video. Based on user comments it is wonderful to see the many different ways Tchaikovsky’s music is discovered.

Catch Ghenady on YouTube: Ghenady Meirson plays Tchaikovsky’s “Harvest”.  But most importantly – catch him play live Tchaikovsky at Biography in Music on February 27-28!

MeckHe Wrote ~ She Wrote
Nadezhda Von Meck

“I want to know so much about you that I can tell, at almost any moment, where you are and what you are doing.  From what I have seen and what I have heard people say, I have formed the most intimate, attractive, enthusiastic feelings for you. I am happy that both the musician and the man are united so beautifully and harmoniously that one can submit completely to the charm of your music…”

She fell in love with his music and commissioned a piano piece… He composed it… She wrote him a thank you letter… He responded politely, thus starting a correspondence with baroness Nadezhda Von Meck, a widow of a Russian multimillionaire. Their inspiring, unprecedented relationship – in letters – lasted over 13 years, even though they never met!

Learn about this fascinating story, and more, on February 27-28!