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Support us financially by purchasing this disc from
Arie per Caffarelli
track listing below review
Franco Fagioli (counter-tenor)
Il Pomo d’Oro/Riccardo Minasi
rec. August-Sepember 2012, Villa San Fermo, Convent of Pavoniani
NAÏVE V5333 [78:36]

Caffarelli, castrato assoluto, was a famed rival to the more famous Farinelli. Born Gaetano Majorano in Bitonto in 1710 - he was to die in Naples in 1783 - he studied with his rival’s teacher, Nicola Porpora. He travelled across Europe, singing in the most prestigious opera houses, earning huge amounts and behaving exceptionally badly. His one season in London in 1737-38 singing for Handel was, however, a resounding failure and it’s to the repertoire of the Naples School that this disc turns in order to present arias most associated with this most touchy, querulous and downright rude castrato of the eighteenth-century.
It falls to counter-tenor Franco Fagioli to bring these scenes to life and he does so with spectacular results. Hasse’s Fra l’orror della tempesta shows the singer starting as he means to go on. His florid vocalism, which admits of a sometimes curiously intrusive chest voice, embarks on a tour-de-force of theatricality; on the plus side it’s impossible to ignore, on the debit side it’s all just a bit relentless. Much better is the lyric legato he finds in the same composer’s Ebbi de te la vita where I detect hints of David Daniels’ tonal colour. It’s inevitable in recitals of this kind that the gentle is immediately contrasted with the fast and furious - maybe a baroque aria recital will one day not do this - in the form of Vinci’s In braccio a mille furie. That said, it can’t be doubted that Fagioli’s divisions, trills and declamation are remarkable; likewise that Il Pomo d’Oro are equally dramatic exponents of the repertoire, fully entering into the viscous vitality of the music-making. Given that he is vaguely reminiscent of Cecilia Bartoli as well as, sometimes, Daniels surely suggests the level of theatrical engagement that Fagioli brings to music which is very hard otherwise to locate on disc.
Some of Fagioli’s best singing, and some of the best orchestral playing, come in Pergolesi’s Lieto così talvolta which is the longest aria and one that reveals his enviably fluttering but precise coloratura. Some of the most exciting is to be heard in Leo’s Sperai vicino il lido where alternating lyricism and quicksilver virtuosity convincingly convey the bipartite emotive states.
Throughout, Riccardo Minasi encourages the brass, in particular, to flare dramatically in support of the martial or otherwise militant feelings of the counter-tenor hero. There is also space for the oboe principal beautifully to lend her obbligato in the Pergolesi aria. Such felicitous touches abound. Indeed Fagioli, for all his occasional exaggerations, remains a truly dramatic exponent of this repertoire and he evokes its milieu with panache and no little sensitivity.
Jonathan Woolf

Previous review (Recording of the month): Göran Forsling

Track listing
Johann Adolf HASSE (1699-1783)
Siroe; Fra l’orror della tempersta (1733) [5:05]
Siroe; Ebbi de te la vita (1733) [7:26]
Leonardo LEO (1690-1730)
Semiramide riconosciuta; In braccio a mille furie (1744) [5:09]
Demofoonte; Misero pargoletto (1741) [7:38]
Demofoonte; Sperai vicino il lido (1741) [6:11]
Nicola Antonio PORPORA (1686-1768)
Semiramide riconosciuta; Passaggier che sulla sponda (1739) [6:22]
Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710-1736)
Adriano in Siria; Lieto così talvolta (1734) [11:12]
Pasquale CAFARO (1716-1787)
L’Ipermestra; Rendimi più sereno (1751) [8:03]
Domenico SARRO (1679-1744)
Valdemaro; Un cor che ben ama (1726) [4:34]
Gennaro MANNA (1715-1779)
Lucio Vero ossia il vologeso (1745) [8:43]
Lucio Papiro dittatore (1748) [8:09]