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“I’d guess that a voice like Franco Fagioli’s, spanning three octaves, comes as close as we can get today to the mingled brilliance, suppleness and power of the great castrati in their pomp.” Gramophone, reviewing Serse, February 2019
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, and Franco Fagioli is just such a singer, possessing the combination of technical agility, tonal variety and vocal range required to triumph in this repertoire. As well as gaining a reputation as one of today’s finest Handelians, he also specialises in Mozart and in roles originally written for castrato singers. His 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, he has worked with conductors of the highest calibre, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, René Jacobs, Marc Minkowski, Riccardo Muti, Christophe Rousset, Riccardo Minasi, Emmanuelle Haïm, Diego Fasolis, Giacomo Sagripanti, Leonardo García Alarcón and George Petrou among them. He also collaborates regularly with Il pomo d’oro and Armonia Atenea. In July 2015 he became the first countertenor ever to be signed by Deutsche Grammophon.
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. He made his debut at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival under Riccardo Muti in 2007, and his US debut in 2010 with a triumphant performance in the title-role of Cavalli’s Giasone for Chicago Opera Theater. His 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 Handel’s Tamerlano.
In the last few years he has made debuts at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as Idamante in Idomeneo (November 2014); the Aix-en-Provence Festival as Piacere in Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno (2016); the Paris Opéra and Opera Amsterdam in the title role of Cavalli’s reconstructed opera Eliogabalo (September 2016); and La Scala, Milan, in its first ever production of Tamerlano (September 2017). He made his debuts at the Hamburg Staatsoper in September 2018 as Ruggiero in Alcina, and at the Bayerische Staatsoper in July 2019 as Nerone in Agrippina.
He now appears regularly at the world’s leading opera houses and festivals, in roles that also include Handel’s Serse, Ariodante, Riccardo Primo, Poro, Teseo and Bertarido (Rodelinda) and Mozart’s Sesto (La clemenza di Tito) and Cecilio (Lucio Silla), as well as Vinci’s Arbace (Artaserse), Rossini’s Arsace (Aureliano in Palmira), Pergolesi’s Farnaspe (Adriano in Siria) and Zingarelli’s Romeo (Giulietta e Romeo).
In recent years he has appeared on a succession of complete opera albums including Artaserse; the world premiere recordings of Caldara’s La concordia de’ pianeti (as Apollo), for Archiv Produktion, and Hasse’s Siroe (as Medarse) and Vinci’s Catone in Utica (as Caesar), both for Decca; and Adriano in Siria (as Farnaspe), also for Decca.
Franco Fagioli’s partnership with Deutsche Grammophon was launched in September 2015 with the release of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, and continued in September 2016 with his debut DG solo recital disc, an album of Rossini arias, made with Armonia Atenea and George Petrou, both recordings garnering widespread critical acclaim. Fagioli’s second solo album, a selection of Handel arias recorded with Il pomo d’oro and Zefira Valova, was released in January 2018. ClassicsToday summed it up as “80 minutes of great opera and all that that word encompasses, with deeply felt slow arias expressing grief or love sung with smooth, rounded tone and seamless legato, and wilder, fast arias, with their themes of vengeance or rage, spat out with sharp consonants.”
Fagioli then broke new ground becoming the first countertenor to record the title role in Handel’s Serse. Released in November 2018, this too was enthusiastically received by the critics. Gramophone praised his “triumphant performance of the lovelorn, capricious king”, adding that it “rightly dominates this new set”, while Limelight magazine noted the way in which “superb countertenor Franco Fagioli … manages simultaneously to portray Serse’s dignity and ridiculousness with that honeyed, infinitely flexible voice of his”.
The singer’s latest solo album, Leonardo Vinci – Veni, Vidi, Vinci, will be released on 08 May 2020. Joining forces once more with Il pomo d’oro and Zefira Valova, Fagioli has selected a programme of arias by one of the masters of Neapolitan opera for an album including no fewer than seven world premiere recordings from operas such as Il trionfo di Camilla, Gismondo re di Polonia and Medo.
Among the highlights of his 2018–19 season were concert performances of Serse in Ljubljana, Vienna, Paris, London, Lisbon, Toulouse and Essen, and a staged production at the Karlsruhe Handel Festival; Handel recitals with the Venice Baroque Orchestra in Japan; recitals in France and the UK featuring repertoire by Handel and Vinci with Il pomo d’oro; performances of the Pergolesi Stabat Mater with Cecilia Bartoli and Cappella Gabetta in Switzerland and at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival; and concert performances of Handel’s Agrippina in Luxembourg, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris and London, as well as his Bayerische Staatsoper debut in the same opera.
Fagioli opened the 2019–20 season with further performances of Agrippina, this time at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, before going on to star in the title role of Rossini’s Sigismondo at the Opera Rara Festival in Krakow (January 2020). He is scheduled to make his house debut at San Francisco Opera as Arsace in Handel’s Partenope (June).
His performances and recordings have been recognised with a number of awards and other honours. In 2010 he was named “Singer of the Year” by Italy’s L’Opera magazine, and a year later became the first countertenor in thirty years to receive Italy’s highest award for music, the Premio Abbiati. In May 2018 he was named “Argentinian Singer of the Year” (2017) by the Argentinian Music Critics Association. The following month, Handel Arias was awarded the Deutsche Schallplattenkritik Prize in the “Classical Song and Vocal Recital” category.