Franco Fagioli’s Baroque sensibilities shine through in his captivating portrayal of Handel’s Persian monarch

With genuine and irresistible charisma, Argentinian countertenor Franco Fagioli opens up a Baroque soundworld every time he sings Handel. This is unquestionably true of his new recording of Serse, in which he stars as the eponymous and eccentric Persian king. Scheduled for release by Deutsche Grammophon on 2 November, this sweeping operatic journey will transport listeners beyond time and space. Fagioli is one of the very few countertenors to have tackled the role of Serse, and his virtuosity not only gives this recording particular artistic significance, but also brings fresh meaning to the work as a whole. In company with Italian Baroque ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro and fellow cast members Francesca Aspromonte, Inga Kalna, Vivica Genaux, Marianna Pizzolato, Biagio Pizzuti and Andreas Wolf, Fagioli reveals many new facets of this engaging and entertaining opera.

Franco Fagioli has all the intensity and credibility to make him the perfect guide for listeners exploring the musical world of the eighteenth century. As the drama of Serse unfolds, they will discover an opera brimming with both moving and funny moments, and one which reveals the modernity of Handel, who here travels far beyond the conventional musical confines of eighteenth-century opera seria. In this new recording for the Yellow Label, Fagioli and the rest of the cast – Francesca Aspromonte, Inga Kalna, Vivica Genaux, Marianna Pizzolato, Biagio Pizzuti and Andreas Wolf – are accompanied by the renowned period ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro and conductor Maxim Emelyanychev, who give the singers every opportunity to display their vocal talents to the full.

The artists’ delight in historically informed performance practice shines like a beacon from start to finish. In the course of the three-hour production Fagioli brings all the many and varied aspects of the intriguing character of Serse (Xerxes) musically to life. Listeners will share his pain and feel for him as he falls for Romilda, his emotions alternating between loneliness, anger and love. The aria “Ombra mai fu”, with which the king serenades a much-loved plane tree in the opening scene with, is now one of the best-known pieces ever written by Handel. “I did my best to imagine exactly what Serse might have been feeling as he sat beneath the tree, and then tried to bring those feelings into my performance of the aria,” explains Fagioli. The role is one of two that Handel wrote for the celebrated Italian castrato Caffarelli (the other being the title role in Faramondo), an artist whose repertoire the Argentinian countertenor has explored to great acclaim both on stage and in the studio: as well as starring as Farnaspe in the Decca recording of Pergolesi’s Adriano in Siria, he has also released the solo recital album Arias for Caffarelli.

This new recording from Franco Fagioli and Il Pomo d’Oro is a wholehearted celebration of Serse’s many musical delights. Their performance, full of emotional complexity and expressive beauty, is a wonderful gift to the music world.

Franco Fagioli

Franco Fagioli’s performances of Handel take us on a sensual journey of discovery

Countertenor Franco Fagioli’s latest recital disc for Deutsche Grammophon, Handel Arias, is scheduled for international release on 12 January 2018. Recorded with specialist period-instrument ensemble Il pomo d’oro, the album features Fagioli’s personal selection of twelve favourite arias from Handel’s rich and colourful operatic world, including excerpts from Serse, Rinaldo and Ariodante. Fagioli and Il pomo d’oro will be performing this repertoire on tour at venues in France, Germany, Belgium and Spain in January and March 2018.

Argentinian countertenor Franco Fagioli is a real stage animal, harnessing his tremendous ability to express emotion as well as his vocal virtuosity to bring the characters he plays to life. He is in his element in Handel’s colourful Baroque operas, able to deploy every aspect of his monumental talent to the utmost.

For his new album, Handel Arias, set for international release on 12 January 2018, Fagioli has mined the riches of the composer’s works to assemble twelve of his favourite arias. These are pieces that reflect many of the defining moments of his career, he explains – music that gives him the “tingle factor”. “When I was recording, it was as if I was taking snapshots of moments I wanted to capture for ever”, he says. “In choosing the arias, my only criterion was this: which pieces move me the most when I sing them?” The result is a stunning – and very personal – selection, revealing Fagioli’s deep veneration for this great Baroque composer. “Handel’s operas are a must for any countertenor”, he observes. “His inimitable style captivated both singers and audiences. You could say he was the Broadway star of the Baroque.”

Alongside highlights such as “Ombra mai fu” from Serse or the bravura aria “Venti turbini” from Rinaldo, Fagioli has also chosen miniature gems such as the radiant, ethereal “Ch’io parta?” from Partenope, or “Dopo notte” from Ariodante, which basks in a golden light. Regardless of the popularity of the arias, he has arrived at his own individual interpretations, all shot through with his deep understanding of Handel and his times and an inspirational awareness of his own strengths. Fagioli was determined that the recordings should convey the emotional development of the various roles, even without the context of the complete opera, and he succeeds so well in this that we hear even the most famous arias with fresh ears and are alive to all the “affetti virtuosi” of the music.

Franco Fagioli has found the perfect partners for his foray into Handel’s soundworlds in the musicians of Italian Baroque ensemble Il pomo d’oro. Since it was formed in 2012, the orchestra has been exploring the subtleties of historical performance practice, and in their recordings with Fagioli its players let all the nuances of the scores shine through, showing the extraordinary, weightless beauty of his voice, with its three-octave range, to full advantage from start to finish. Fagioli’s enthusiasm for Handel’s music is so infectious it spreads instantly to the listener. The splendours of the Baroque radiate from his recordings, marking him out as one of the most exciting performers of our time.