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Interview: Paul Ettore Tabone Talks THIS IS ME, His Debut Solo Album

Paul Ettore Tabone, "The Tenor From Oz", discusses his new album and his journey from rural Australia to the West End.

The Phantom of the Opera
This Is Me by Paul Ettore Tabone

Since the pandemic forced an early end to his four year stint as Ubaldo Piangi in the West End's The Phantom of the Opera, Paul Ettore Tabone has been keeping busy working on his debut album. The music is in the classical crossover style, with each song reflecting a part of his journey from growing up in rural Australia to being taken all over the world by his lush lyrical tenor.

This Is Me is now available for pre-sales, and worldwide purchase will be available from 2 May via all online music platforms including Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music and Itunes. The album features songs such as "Til I Hear You Sing" (Love Never Dies), an Italian translation of Jim Steinman's "I Will Do Anything For Love" and Bryan Adams' "Heaven", and "I Am Australian" in both Aboriginal and Italian, to name a few. (The Oscar-nominated song "This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman does not in fact feature on the album.)

What inspired you to become a singer when you were growing up so far away from showbiz?

I grew up on a sugarcane and pumpkin farm in the rural reaches of northern Queensland, Australia, watching inspirations such as Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli on the TV and never dreaming that one day I would be travelling the world and gracing the same operatic arenas and theatre stages as my idols. I loved performing in school musical productions and choirs but it was a piano teacher as a teenager that unearthed my true singing talent and who encouraged me, along with family and friends, to follow my dreams.

What was your big break into the industry?

I have had many, the first of which was during my second year out of university when I landed the chance to originate the role of Squelch in the Australian production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies. Nearly 1000 people auditioned for it, and I felt very lucky and honoured. The production was later filmed by Universal Studios and then distributed in cinemas, Blu-ray and DVD in over 75 countries worldwide. Since then, other wonderful opportunities have presented themselves, including being asked by Nicoletta Mantovani (Luciano Pavarotti's widow) to sing at the Arena di Verona in a tribute concert to her late husband and landing roles in musical theatre across Europe and the West End.

What made you decide it was time to create your debut album now?

I have wanted to make an album for many years. Being in Phantom was vocally very challenging - I had sung over 6000 top C's in my time with the show and had to be wary of overusing my voice, so put thoughts of an album on pause. With lockdown and the closure of theatreland, I revisited the idea; I knew it was time. I have had seven months to create something to share with the world.

What was the process like of producing an album during the pandemic?

It wasn't easy, but even on a good day, producing a fully orchestrated, cross-over album isn't straightforward. Fortunately I have had a wonderful team behind me: Robin A Smith, who has arranged, composed and orchestrated for so many amazing artists such as Cher; Enrique Iglesias, my sound engineer at PoPom Studios in East London; Maxime Raguideau-Obadia; and, of course, my composer/arranger Mateusz Winslaw. We recorded with very talented musicians in Poland, Hungry, Scotland and some here in London, so laying down multitrack orchestral arrangements was challenging but well worth it as what we have now is something we are all very proud of.

The Phantom of the Opera
Paul Ettore Tabone

Can you explain the concept behind the album and its title This Is Me?

Every song on the album reflects who I am and where I come from and the people and places that matter to me. I've lived and sung all over the world, but I'm close to my roots and have a deep love and respect for the land, the earth and my heritage, Australia's heritage. It's important that my album reflects this.

Who is this album for? And do you think all generations will be able to enjoy this crossover genre of music?

There is something on this album for absolutely everyone, particularly those who love Alfie Boe and Michael Ball, Bocelli and Pavarotti - all of these wonderful artists inspired me during the creation of this album. The crossover genre of operatic pop allows even the most dedicated pop, rock and contemporary music lovers to enjoy something beautiful, eclectic and different.

Will you be joining the cast of Phantom again when it returns this year?

After over 1200 performances I had already decided to move on from The Phantom of the Opera to explore new adventures. I certainly will miss this wonderful show, the people who are now some of my nearest and dearest lifelong friends, the creatives and the music, so it certainly isn't a farewell, just a goodbye for now.

How have you handled going from performing almost every day to hardly performing for almost a year now during this pandemic?

I had been fortunate to sing eight shows a week for five years so going from that to theatreland shutdown overnight has certainly been a shift; however this period has also given me time for rest, to pause, reflect and recalibrate my personal life, and work on my mental and physical health which has been great. This said, I have not totally let go: I'm fully aware of the need to keep up vocal stamina and have been continuing to study and train with my Bel Canto teacher, Fulvio Massa, in Italy, and have also maintained my own private singing studio of more than 32 performers.

Where do you hope to see your career go next?

Who knows where my career will take me next, but I am excited for every challenge and have always been a man who says yes to any opportunity: theatre, film, music - you name it. I have, however, thoroughly enjoyed creating my own label and debut album and am already in discussion about a single release later this year as well as a potential Christmas release. I will always perform and never stop sharing my music with the world. As for musical theatre, it always holds a special place in my heart. My aspiration of one day playing The Genie (Aladdin), Pirelli (Sweeney Todd), Tito Merelli (Lend Me A Tenor) and Javert (Les Miserables) is still going strong. I am a "yes man" and am so excited to see where the universe leads me.

Paul Ettore Tabone's debut album This is Me is available for pre-sale from 15 February

Photo credit: Danny Kaan (recording studio image)

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