Nélida Nassar 07.17.2017
Baritone Fady Jeanbart, who needs no introduction to the Lebanese public, was born into a musical family, and started singing at an early age. A graduate of the Boulogne-Billancourt music conservatory, he is an outstanding recitalist, notable for his exquisite diction and the sheer beauty of his singing over an astonishingly wide vocal range. Last summer, at Canada’s St Eustache Opera Festival, he was a ‘sensation’ as Mercutio in Charles Gounod’s Mab, la reine des mensonges and in the role of Maria in Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. He also shone as Papageno, the bird-catcher in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Highly self-critical, Jeanbart is not convinced that everything he does is right, and he feels that performing Mozart’s music helps improve his voice while giving him great pleasure. He remembers once singing the famous aria “Der Vogelfänger bin Ich” without warming up. It was really a tremendous, almost athletic challenge, but it helped him progress, to be more aware of his talents. Mozart’s music strips one bare, he says. One cannot sing it without possessing certain specific qualities, nor without projecting one’s voice in a certain way. In brief, Jeanbart offers the rare conjunction of a romantic appearance and a voice whose velvety and radiant timbre would make the singer Apollonian if not for the strong emotion he conveys. He is not content simply to sing his characters: he embodies them passionately.
Jeanbart doesn’t really have a favorite operatic character, but he doesn’t accept roles that do not attract him. In any case, he has been convincing in all the operas he has sung so far. The Dottore Malatesa in Gaetano Donizetti’s Don Pasquale appeals to him particularly because the character evolves during the opera. He also greatly enjoys Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem. He sang that exciting piece several times this year but thinks he would have to do so twenty or twenty-five times to fully explore its multiple facets. On the other hand, if a role pleases him but he feels that his voice does not yet have the right color for it, he has the foresight to wait a year or two before performing it.
It is in this spirit that Jeanbart set up his schedule for 2017. It may be that its most interesting moments will come about when he makes everything depend on his inflection of the text. This is especially evident in his portrayal of Papageno – he performed it this month at Canada’s Rimouski Festival – with its mix of mischievousness and subtle irony. The role is a high point of the Singspiel genre: the three arias encompass both the naivete and the complexity of the character.
Jeanbart has had a very active and successful year, mostly abroad. His engagements brought him twice to Canada, as well as to France and Egypt. In July 2016, he sang with mezzo-soprano Julie Nasrallah in a program entitled Opera à La Libanaise at the St Eustache Opera Festival, and in June 2017 at the Gala Opera of Rimouski under maestro Louis Lavigueur. In April, he appeared in Fauré’s Requiem under the direction of Hisham Gabs at the Alexandria Biblioteca in Egypt. In Lebanon, in December, he was guest of the Lebanese Music Conservatory at the Aboukater Amphitheatre. In April, he sang with the choir “A Coeur Joie” De Lalande’s De Profundi. He performed the Fauré Requiem again in May with the Baroque Ensemble at the Kulturzentrum under the baton of Joe Gabr and will sing it once more on July 30th at the American University of Beirut under maestro Yara Rubb. Finally, he will appear on August 26 at the Deir el Amar festival with pianist Henri Ghoraieb and soprano Nadine Nassar.
The real protagonist here is Jeanbart himself, who brings joyful vibrancy and intelligence to all the roles he is performing this year. Ah! what finesse in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte! What vitality in “L’Heure Exquise” in Franz Lehar’s La Veuve Joyeuse (The Merry Widow)! Congratulations! Let us hope that the phrase “Nobody is a prophet in his own country” is shattered once for all and that Lebanon with its many musical venues and plethora of festivals will offer this baritone the challenging roles he so richly deserves. You can still catch him in two events this summer. One thing is certain: expect to hear much more from this modest Beirut-based musician.
Fady Jeanbart is represented by Meti Jori Agency