Star of the West End’s The Phantom of the Opera, Paul Tabone came from humble beginnings as a descendent of Italian immigrants growing up on a sugarcane and pumpkin farm in the tip of Far North Queensland, Australia.
After graduating from CQ University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Music Theatre, the lyric tenor soon became in high demand. At still a young age, Tabone was selected for the Luciano Pavarotti Foundation which catapulted his opera career, a genre he has now sung all over the world. Yet, despite this glimmering international lifestyle, Tabone says he is still close to his roots and has a deep love and respect for his Australian heritage, which he hopes is reflected in his album.
With the help of Wirandjuri Soprano/Composer, Shauntai Batzke, Tabone had part of the song, ‘I Am Australian’ translated into an Aboriginal language to pay respect to the first people of Australia, and he continues the song in Italian, honouring his own family and all the Italians who have made Australia their home. The album is filled with songs that are deeply personal to Tabone but also universal favourites in the crossover classical genre –A style of music he hopes to popularize. Some of these include ‘Til I Hear You Sing’ (Love Never Dies), an Italian translation of Jim Steinman’s ‘I Will Do Anything For Love’ and ‘Paradiso’ (an arrangement of Bryan Adams’ ‘Heaven’) which comes with a music video released this week.
So how does someone from a sugarcane and pumpkin farm in Far North Queensland find themselves on the West End?
Paul: This is a question I often get asked. This whole journey for me has been somewhat of a dream. When I was younger, around five years old, I had an obsession with Luciano Pavarotti. Every time he would come on TV I would be there listening. My mum and dad were always amazed. I started piano lessons at six years old and continued my piano into high school, not knowing that I would be a singer – even though I did
participate in the school choir. When I was in year 10 I took part in the first musical in my high school called The Return to the Forbidden Planet. This was where my passion and obsession started. Only in year 10 did I make the decision to pursue music theatre as a career. When I told my piano teacher my dream, she asked me to sing something for her but I was ashamed because it was never something I thought I could do properly. But when I sang for her she quickly told me that piano would never give me the career I was hoping for and that my voice was beautiful and I should definitely continue down this road. I followed her advice ended up getting into the music theatre course at the Central Queensland Conservatorium of Music where I studied for three years. During my studies my passion for opera stayed very strong and when I graduated I knew that I wanted to pursue this path as well. My infatuation with, and inspiration from, Luciano Pavarotti never stopped. Even after I landed my first role in my first professional musical, Love Never Dies, I followed my heart and went and studied opera in Italy. I was told within the first three weeks of me being there that Nicoletta Mantovani (the late Pavarotti‘s wife) wanted to hear me sing at the Modena Theatre. I went there and sang and received the call the following week asking me to sing at the arena in Verona. As you can imagine my years of obsession and inspiration had finally come full circle – being able to perform for an arena of over 20,000 people in a night dedicated to Luciano Pavarotti. It was a dream come true. After some years of working in opera throughout Italy and Europe I was asked to reprise my role in Love Never Dies in Germany and from there auditioned for the Paris production of The Phantom of the Opera. The creatives from London saw me there and asked me to audition for the West End production where I landed the job and where I have been for the last four years. I have sung over 6000 top C’s in the role of Ubaldo Piangi, a huge feat. I have never been more grateful for the journey I have had so far from my very humble beginnings. My hometown community of Ingham are constant support and one huge reason why I made this debut album.
Tell us about one of your first experiences of hearing opera and musical theatre music?
Paul: My grandma, Joan, took me to watch the movie version of The Phantom of the Opera at our local cinema when I was 11 years old. I told her there and then that I wanted to be in that show. When I made my professional theatre debut in Love Never Dies I felt that was my dream coming true…until I made my debut on London’s West End in the show that started it all.
How did the idea of releasing a debut album come about for you?
Paul: The idea to release my debut album has been with me for many years. But since I have been engaged in a professional show for the last five years it was impossible to be able to prepare and record during those contracts. The amount of vocal preparation and stamina that you require during the recording of an album is enormous and not something that I could do while I was singing as much as I was in both Love Never Dies and Phantom. This album represents who I am, where I am from, and where I have been. I dedicated it to the people of Ingham and Mackay, My family, my university, my friends, my management, and all of you for your continued support. You are the reason why I invested in my own label and created this album.
How would you describe the album’s genre?
Paul: The genre of the classical crossover has often been referred to as “popera” – a way that we can inspire a new generation of people to love and appreciate the operatic form in a contemporary setting. Think Andrea Bocelli, Michael Ball, Alfie Boe, and Mario Lanza. For example, I am singing the pop song ‘Heaven’, by Bryan Adams, in Italian in a classical crossover style. It was my mum and dad’s wedding song and that’s why it’s special to me, and I hope that you all will enjoy my take on it.
Why do you think opera is less popular with the younger generations, especially in Australia?
Paul: I think that opera is less popular to the younger generations in Australia because of the elitism that is attached to this form. I am of the strong belief that we should be encouraging music in schools and allowing our younger generations to experience opera from early on. Every time I did a corporate function where I would sing opera to a small group of people, these people were usually inexperienced in the art form, and usually had no idea about it. But they were thrilled. Thrilled to hear a big voice singing beautiful music close to them, to experience the possibilities of the human body and the resonance flowing through them. I can assure you that at least some of those people would have continued to listen to opera after that experience. And if we can inspire young children at school through music programs and more children’s operatic performances I can assure you we will be able to open that door once again and save this art form. In the meantime, I am going to continue Luciana Pavarotti’s legacy by bringing the pop and contemporary commercial music scene together with this classical art form and deliver a genre that can reach a wide variety of audiences – hopefully inspiring them to appreciate opera before it’s too late!
Do you have plans to return to Australia?
Paul: I cannot wait to come home to Australia and perform my regional Queensland tour. I am passionate about bringing international music to regional Australia to help inspire their young people and share high-quality music with them. Two years ago I brought Phantom’s Carlotta, Lara Martins – a wonderful soprano – to Australia and we did a regional Queensland tour to great success. I hope to replicate that experience with my new tour where I will sing and promote my album: This is Me. I will always bring my music to the regional parts of Australia that would normally not be on the typical tour map. It was people from regional towns that gave me my start and I’m not going to forget that.
Paul Tabone’s debut album This is Me will be released for pre-sale on 15 February, together with the video clip of the track “Paradiso” at www.paultabone.com and will be available worldwide 2 May via all online music platforms including Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music and iTunes.