Franco Fagioli FTW (Wigmore Hall, 21 September 2014)

fffI’m a traitor. Yep. Self confessed mezzo worshiper what do I do? Ask Franco Fagioli when he’s singing Sesto again. But you know what? If there’s one countertenor who deserves to sing Sesto it’s him. I know this because I just got back from seeing him sing Porpora1. Makes perfect sense, eh? Porpora, Mozart, that diddly-diddly 18th century stuff. FYI, he said he didn’t know when. But he added (without me twisting his arm) that Tito was a great piece. Not just an amazing singer but a smooth talker too 😉 Up close he struck me as very cuddly and surprisingly slightly built so I asked him if I could give him a hug. He obliged. Poor singers, see what they have to subject themselves to even after singing for their money?! This is a positive “review” so everyone’s a winner.

After a whirlwind day that started with the commute from hell – arriving 1 1/2 hours late at work whilst the boss just happens to be there – I managed to sweet talk my way out of work half an hour earlier than normal so that I could meet fellow blogger thadieu, who was just finishing her short stay in London (should’ve accepted the couch offer and stayed for FF(FTW)! – even considering the possibility of me being an axe murderer 😉 ). Got a better set-up for a recital than a lively hour of opera talk with a like minded blogger? I didn’t know so much opera territory could be covered in a mere hour! Singers (all of them), opera venues (most of them), opera trips, recitals, productions. But if you’ve already had a chance meeting, why not another one? When the house announced FF was going to sign CDs I knew today was all about meeting people. It really pays sitting in the rows at the back, you’re the first in the signing queue (shwing!).

I know you’d like to hear more about my day but I’m not that star of this show. I mean I could sing some Porpora I just don’t want to. Heh.

Porpora (with some Vivaldi thrown in for good measure)

Sinfonia in G RV149 (Vivaldi)
Se tu la reggi al volo from Ezio
Vorrei spiegar l’affanno from Semiramide
Concerto in F for oboe, strings and continuo RV 455 (Vivaldi)
Torbido intorno al core from Meride e Selinunte
Già si desta la tempesta from Didone Abbandonata

Interval

Distillatevi o cieli from Il Verbo in Carne
Con alma intrepida from Meride e Seliunte
Cello Concerto in C minor RV401 (Vivaldi)
Non lasciar chi t’ama tanto from Vulcano
Spesso di nubi cinto from Carlo il Calvo II

Encore:

Alto Giove from Polifemo
Nell’attendere il mio bene from Polifemo

Conductor: Alessandro de Marchi | Academia Montis Regalis

This was FF’s debut recital at Wigmore Hall and it ended up being a roaring success. As a chatty gent I met in the queue (told you, it was that kind of day) wryly noticed, it sounded like the house was rocking with groupies. But why not? Young opera singers deserve groupies their age (FF’s younger than me), rock stars can’t own them all. It wasn’t just the groupies who gave him tremendous applause in the end. I’ll tell you though, this was the youngest Baroque crowd I’ve seen so far, lots of people younger than me among the Wigmore Hall regulars. All hail The Golden Age of the Countertenor.

In spite of all that swanning about regarding being a traitor, I obviously like FF because he sounds so mezzo-ish. It’s not just bright sound and high notes floating angelically above nothing else. If fact he’s one of them singers who have a bright top and a darker low… end, which he impressed us with (especially in Già si desta la tempesta – you guessed, a storm-at-sea bravura aria) until half of us were on the brink of swooning. I kid. But only a little. He dipped to some bad-arse baritonal lows, lower than he does on CD. Hells yea, that’s what I’m talking about. Check it out below, it’s from last week’s show at the Festival d’Ambronay with the same team. Since that one was taken down, here’s another one from St. Petersburg:

Only he ventured much lower today – I think, the sound isn’t very good, he seems to have gone nicely low there (edit: 10/10/14).

Not that he’s all about contrasting bright and dark, high and low. He’s also a lot about warmth. I don’t think it comes off on recordings just what a warm voice he’s got. Buttah with a good dollop of honey kind of thing. Not sickeningly sweet, just very lyrical. Very, very tender; maybe the gentlest-yet-not-whingy I’ve heard live? Hence why I thought dude, this chap needs to sing more Ariodante and is allowed to sing Sesto by dehggi’s Quality Sesto Preservation Commitee (QSPC), because we all know Sesto is the quintessential tender lover. I know I was way tired today but the dam broke during Alto Giove. I wasn’t exactly bawling but tears were shed on the altar of beauty of sound and expression. He gets to do both here (this aria was not part today’s show but you see what I mean). Another video taken down… (edit:10/10/14)

The “crew” was tight and regaled us with some rather surprisingly creative instrumentals2 in between the meat dishes singing bits. A well thought out show.

So yea, a special super sociable day to crown a week that covered some amazing emotional ground and a simply nutty weekend with so many highs and lows I sometimes don’t have in a whole month.


  1. Sunday turned into Monday in the meanwhile but you catch my drift. 
  2. Sorry, Sr Vivaldi, if I’ve so far gone by the cliche that you’ve just recycled the Four Seasons 454358943769 times. 
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About dehggial

opera lover with a predilection for Mozart and Baroque

Posted on September 22, 2014, in baroque, countertenors, historical timeline and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I was moving house all weekend and was totally knackered by Sunday night, but I dragged my weary bod off to the Wigmore for the Fagioli recital. Am I glad I did. This young man is a phenomenon! Alto Giove also evoked a moist eye here. His expressiveness, sheer beauty of sound and masterly technique are absolutely seductive. I have never been a lover of the counter-tenor voice but I am a convert as from 7.30pm last night!

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  2. Regie, or Not Regie?

    Heh. Cuddling countenors, eh? That’s the life! The first time I heard FF (in that Orfeo conducted by Laurence Equilbey — which the only reason I listened in the first place was to hear Malin Hartelius, but anyway, that’s another story…) he reminded me of another singer, and upon further listening (to him and to other Orfeos- http://regieornotregie.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-orfeoorphee-comparo-edition-part-1.html), I realized his chest tones are very Marilyn Horne-ish. I think I read somewhere that he actually listened to her recordings a lot. Thanks for this review, for the video clips, and for the heads-up about his other recent/upcoming performances!

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    • you’re most welcome! I’m living the life 😉 it was really a spontaneous decision as throughout the evening he seemed approachable and warm – he’s the kind of singer who constantly checks with the other musicians on stage, seems very open and collaborative.

      I think you’re right about his chest notes. I’m actually possibly more fond of Horne’s Baroque interpretations that of her Rossini… must think about this some more.

      I may have said somewhere else that Dopo Notte did it for me with regards to FF. I like that aria so much that anyone who can make it their own will have me notice them.

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      • Regie, or Not Regie?

        For years, my favorite Marilye Horne recording was a recital of Bach and Handel arias (I think the only way you can get it now is as part of an 11-disc set. However a lot of it is on The Tube (http://youtu.be/OsMPSl1E4w4). She looked a bit nonplussed when I asked her to autograph it after a Lieder recital. 🙂

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        • ah, gorgeous rendition! I adore her Furibondo spira il vento as well. Reminds me I just got her Rinaldo and must listen to it at some point (the dehggi vault has lots of goodies I have not talked about yet). But might be another week until I come off the FF high 😉

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  3. ps- i saw somewhere.. francemusique i think, a live broadcast of him singing this same program this friday! (i think, or thursday..), i’ll listen in to hear what i’ve missed. was super fun chatting indeed! surely if it was VK or harteros or mingardo i’d have invited myself to the couch before being offered, axe or no axe 😉

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    • If it was one of those three ladies you’d have made the show the centrepiece of your stay in London 😀

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      • so i did listen to a small chunk of his radio broadcast! (small only b/c had to do lots of readings that can’t be done simultaneously w/ listening..) i agree his voice is really warm, and w/o knowing i’d have probably thought at the beginning that it’s a mezzo! in fact i did listen to him once before, in a recording with sara mingardo, singing some reallly early handel.. and at first i couldn’t tell their voices apart (but pretty soon it became clear 😉 )

        But i think as you mention here, one does need to experience a singer live to somehow feel the vibe / connection more.. or perhaps it’s the radio broadcast with the host keeping to insert herself in middle between arias that really disrupted the flow.. I’ll make another listen round next monday after deadlines.. but surely you’re not the first to mention he has warmm sound that even an CT-slightly-allergic td is willing to cross over and listen..

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        • hope you enjoy the broadcast when you’ve the time 🙂 I’ve an ulterior motive for investigating CTs – in the event mezzos go out of fashion in castrati roles… I can’t just give up on a repertoire I like and live on Carmen and Il barbiere.

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  4. no, no Sesto for him. i put my foot down.

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  1. Pingback: Franco Fagioli: Porpora Arias – The Idle Woman

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