RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Arias for Caffarelli
see end of review for track listing
Franco Fagioli (counter-tenor)
Il pomo d’oro/Riccardo Minasi
rec. 25 August - 3 September 2012, Villa San Fermo, convento dei Pavoniani, Lonigo, Vicenza, Italy
Lavishly illustrated book with several essays and sung texts with French and English translations.
NAÏVE V5333 [78:00]
After the 1994 motion picture Farinelli this, in his day, famous castrato became a household name to many music-lovers. His real name was Carlo Broschi (1705 - 1782) and he had a strong rival in the somewhat younger Gaetano Majorano (1710 - 1783) who appeared under the artist name Caffarelli. The two superstars were born only a few miles from each other and they had the same singing-teacher, Nicola Porpora. As personalities they were poles apart. Farinelli seems to have been noble, modest and peaceful, whereas Caffarelli was vain, jealous, unpredictable and provocative. As a singer Caffarelli was stupendous and his teacher claimed that he was ‘the greatest singer Italy had ever produced’. Friedrich Melchior Grimm expressed his reaction thus: ‘It would be difficult to give any idea of the degree of perfection to which this singer has brought his art. All the charms and love that can make up the idea of an angelic voice, and which form the character of his, added to the finest execution, and to surprising facility and precision, exercise an enchantment over the senses and the heart, which even those least sensible to music would find it hard to resist.’
The present disc presents eleven arias from his repertoire and though we can have little idea about what he actually sounded like it is clear from the outset that his technical capacity was exceptional. That also goes for Franco Fagioli, the Argentinean, counter-tenor, who has rapidly risen to the top-layer among today’s baroque singers. I heard him a couple of years ago in one of his signature-roles, Giulio Cesare, at the Finnish National Opera and was enthralled by the beauty of his voice, his formidable technique and his wide voice range. He encompasses three full octaves. His is a powerful voice. In the opening aria here, from Hasse’s Siroe, he displays his stunning virtuosity and dramatic strength even if the music is rather empty. The second aria from the same opera is a more substantial example of Hasse’s talent as composer. The singing is beautiful.
Only half a year ago I reviewed a superb baroque opera with an equally exalted cast, including Franco Fagioli. The work was Artaserse by Leonardo Vinci. Here is an aria from another opera by Vinci, Semiramide riconosciuta, and this is superb too. Vinci was highly regarded during his lifetime and I look forward to more recordings of his music.
The Neapolitan composer Leonardo Leo wrote more than forty operas in 25 years, besides lots of sacred music. At that speed there must be a lot of routine work but the two arias recorded here (trs. 4 and 7) are both fine creations. Caffarelli’s teacher, Porpora, is also represented with an aria, also from Semiramide riconnosciuta. Both Vinci and Porpora used a libretto by Metastasio and both operas were premiered in 1729, Vinci’s in Rome, Porpora’s in Venice. In Venice Farinelli sang the role of Mirteo, which Caffarelli sang in Vinci’s opera at a revival in Naples in 1744, while he sang Scitalce in Porpora’s opera when it was seen in Naples in 1739. It probably sounds more complicated than it is. Anyway, the Porpora aria reveals that Caffarelli had a wide voice-range, though hardly the three octaves of Fagioli.
Caffarelli also collaborated with one of the great geniuses in Italian baroque opera, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi in 1734. They were the same age and Pergolesi had been very successful the year before with La serva padrona. The long aria from Adriano in Siria is brilliantly written and has a beautiful prelude with solo oboe (Elisabeth Baumer?), which also plays obbligato throughout.
Caffarelli took his artist name from a maestro Caffaro in the church where he sang as a boy. Whether there is a relation between that maestro and Pasquale Cafaro I haven’t been able to find out. The aria from Cafaro’s L’Ipermestra is however melodious and sung with great beauty by Franco Fagioli.
Trumpets in baroque arias usually mean that the character is a soldier or that war is impending. A riveting trumpet solo opens Alvida’s aria from Domenico Sarro’s Valdemaro, but the text has nothing to do with war, it is rather permeated with happiness: ‘A heart that loves well / May indeed call itself happy, / For no uncertain hope / Can discourage it’ is the message. When the joyful trumpet joins Fagioli’s bright tones in a duet the singer adopts something of a trumpet-like character. Forget the text and just listen and marvel at the sheer thrill of the performance. This is a feast for the ear.
Gennaro Manna brings this fascinating recital to an end with two contrasted arias. Cara, ti lascio, addio is an aria of farewell and this is very poignantly mirrored in the music, a tearful and beautiful lament. It goes directly to my shortlist of favourite arias. The final aria is quite different. Here Quinto Fabio hears the martial trumpet sound. There is timpani and brass before the singer enters. Like most of these up-tempo arias there is are plenty of vocal fireworks, impressively executed, fabulously assured and with enormous range.
The hardback book with lots of colour illustrations and several informative essays seems like a return to the deluxe LP-boxes of the 1960s and 1970s. The playing of Il pomo d’oro - named after Antonio Cesti’s spectacular opera from 1668 - is outstanding and the recording is lifelike. As for Franco Fagioli, he is masterly, masterly, masterly.
Masterly, masterly, masterly.
Johann Adolf HASSE (1699 - 1783)
1. Fra l’orror della tempesta [5:05]
2. Ebbi da te la vita [7:26]
Leonardo VINCI (1690 - 1730)
3. In braccio a mille furie [5:09]
Leonardo LEO (1694 - 1744)
4. Misero pargoletto [7:38]
Nicola Antonio PORPORA (1686 - 1768)
5. Passaggier che sulla sponda [6:22]
Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710 - 1736)
Adriano in Siria:
6. Lieto così talvolta [11:12]
7. Sperai vicino il lido [6:11]
Pasquale CAFARO (1716 - 1787)
8. Rendimi più sereno
Domenico SARRO (1679 - 1744)
9. Un cor che ben ama [4:34]
Gennaro MANNA (1715 - 1779)
Lucio Vero ossia il vologeso:
10. Cara ti lascio, addio [8:43]
Lucio Papiro dittatore:
11. Odo il suono di tromba guerriera [8:09]
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