“Fagioli’s technical skill is without doubt and he can fling off the most challenging coloratura with aplomb … every time one wishes for some variation in vocal colour he provides it.”
Opera Now, reviewing Rossini, January 2017
Franco Fagioli – Biography
It takes a special artist to excel in the fiendishly difficult arias that are central to the landscape of Baroque and early bel canto opera. Franco Fagioli possesses the necessary combination of technical agility, tonal variety and vocal range required to triumph in works that leave many other countertenors perplexed. His astonishing artistry has been hailed by critics worldwide and regularly attracts capacity audiences eager to hear a performer blessed with an uncanny ability to deliver the spectacular runs, leaps and turns of even the most difficult virtuoso showpieces. Ranked among the finest of today’s singers, over the past decade he has worked with conductors of the highest calibre, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, René Jacobs, Marc Minkowski, Riccardo Muti, Christophe Rousset, Riccardo Minasi, Emmanuelle Haïm, Diego Fagiolis and George Petrou among them. He also collaborates regularly with the ensembles Il pomo d’oro and Armonia Atenea.
In July 2015 he became the first countertenor ever to be signed by Deutsche Grammophon. His partnership with the yellow label was launched two months later with the release of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice (“[Fagioli gives] a beautiful and dramatic performance”, The Times), and continued in September 2016 with his debut DG solo recital disc. This album of Rossini arias, made in company with Armonia Atenea and George Petrou, also garnered widespread critical acclaim, Gramophone, for example, praising the singer’s “quite remarkable florid agility”. A new album of Handel opera arias is scheduled for release in January 2018.
Born in San Miguel de Tucumán (in northern Argentina), Franco Fagioli received piano lessons at the Tucumán Music Institute and progressed to study singing, first in his home city, then at the Superior Art Institute, the training academy of the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. The impressively accomplished young performer’s career breakthrough came in October 2003 when he won the Bertelsmann Foundation’s 10th “Neue Stimmen” International Singing Competition.
Fagioli soon confirmed the exceptional nature of his talent with a series of major operatic debuts: he took on the title-role in Handel’s Giulio Cesare for Zurich Opera in 2005 with great success and has since played Caesar in productions around the world. In 2007 he made his debut at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival under Riccardo Muti, and he received a rapturous reception on his return in 2014 to perform a programme of virtuoso arias written by Rossini and Meyerbeer for Giambattista Velluti, the last great castrato. In May 2016 he returned to the Festival again to appear as Romeo in Nicola Antonio Zingarelli’s Giulietta e Romeo. Fagioli made his United States debut at the beginning of 2010 with a triumphant performance in the title-role of Cavalli’s Giasone for Chicago Opera Theater. In 2011 he became the first countertenor in thirty years to receive Italy’s highest award for music, the Premio Abbiati.
Franco Fagioli has gained a reputation as one of today’s finest Handelians. Apart from his successful debut performances in the role of Giulio Cesare, he received rave reviews for his interpretation of Ariodante in 2010 at the Karlsruhe Handel Festival, where he has appeared several times since. In 2014 and 2015 he starred there in the title-role of Riccardo Primo. His other Handel roles include Poro for the Halle Handel Festival, Teseo at the Stuttgart Staatsoper, and Bertarido in Rodelinda for the 2010 Festival della Valle d’Itria at Martina Franca. The latter, which launched a fruitful partnership with the conductor Diego Fasolis, prompted Italy’s L’Opera magazine to name Fagioli “Singer of the Year”. The countertenor’s versatility and virtuosity were again on full display in 2012 at his Salzburg Summer Festival debut, where he drew on the rich lower regions of his voice to great effect in the demanding role of Andronico in Tamerlano.
For his debut at the 2016 Aix-en-Provence Festival he sang the role of Piacere in a staged production of Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno which was revived at the Opéra de Lille and Théâtre de Caen early in 2017. This summer he reprised the role of Caesar at the Teatro Colón, and in September made an acclaimed house debut in La Scala’s first ever production of Tamerlano (“Franco Fagioli’s rich virtuosic countertenor voice is perfect for the tortured Andronico”, Financial Times).
In April 2014 Fagioli played Sesto in Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito at the Opéra national de Lorraine in Nancy, making his debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as Idamante in Idomeneo in November that same year. In the 2015/2016 season he appeared in concert performances of Lucio Silla at the Philharmonie de Paris and Vienna’s Theater an der Wien, and in July 2017 he returned to the role of Sesto in his home city of San Miguel de Tucumán.
Performing castrato roles
The role of Arsace in Aureliano in Palmira was written for Giambattista Velluti. With this – his first Rossini role – Fagioli conquered the Festival della Valle d’Itria in 2011. In the autumn of 2012 he astonished audiences and critics alike with his performances in Nancy as Arbace in Vinci’s Artaserse, a role conceived for soprano castrato which he subsequently sang at several major European venues, including Versailles (having already recorded it on CD and DVD). The following year, he captivated the music world with the album Arias for Caffarelli (“… the ease and almost superhuman agility with which he attacks some of the big bravura numbers are simply staggering”, commented The Guardian). Another role written for the Italian star castrato Caffarelli is that of Farnaspe in Pergolesi’s Adriano in Siria, which Fagioli sang in a concert performance at Versailles in December 2015, then at the Theater an der Wien in December 2016. Three months earlier he had made a successful debut at the Paris Opéra in the title-role of Cavalli’s reconstructed opera Eliogabalo.
And more …
In recent years Fagioli has appeared on a succession of complete opera albums including the world premiere recordings of Caldara’s La concordia de’ pianeti (as Apollo) for Archiv Produktion, Hasse’s Siroe (as Medarse) and Vinci’s Catone in Utica (as Caesar) for Decca, the latter a work he also presented on tour with Riccardo Minasi and Il pomo d’oro at Wiesbaden and Versailles in the 2014/15 season. The production was revived at the Bucharest Festival and the Theater an der Wien in September 2015. The Decca recording of Adriano in Siria, again starring Fagioli as Farnaspe, was released in November 2016.
Recent and future highlights
Last season Fagioli gave Rossini aria recitals in Paris, Zurich and Moscow in the wake of the release of his latest DG album. He also returned to the Opéra national de Lorraine for his debut as Arsace in the same composer’s Semiramide (May 2017). In September he made his above-mentioned La Scala debut, and in October reprises the title-role in Eliogabalo, this time for Dutch National Opera. Forthcoming highlights include a concert performance of Serse at Versailles; Handel aria recitals in Portugal, Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium and Spain; performances of the Pergolesi Stabat Mater in Germany, France and Hungary, and a stage production of Lucio Silla in Karlsruhe in July 2018.