Gioachino ROSSINI (1792–1868)
Opera Arias
Franco Fagioli (countertenor)
Armonia Atenea Choir
Armonia Atenea/George Petrou
rec. November 2015, Dimitris Mitropoulos Hall, Megaron, Athens, Greece
Full texts with English translations provided
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 479 5681 [75:23]

The first countertenor to sign exclusively to Deutsche Grammophon Argentine Franco Fagioli has released a collection of Rossini opera arias from the age of bel canto. Fourteen tracks are mainly arias some with chorus and three tracks are for chorus alone. ‘Trouser’ roles are the theme from the arias Fagioli has selected which are male roles sung by women mezzos and contraltos dressed as men.

The booklet essay by Bernhard Neuhoff describes Rossini’s love of the male voice in its high resister and how the last renowned castratos were still performing during Rossini’s lifetime. Rossini in both his opera Aureliano in Palmira (1813) and cantata Il vero omaggio had originally written parts for Giovanni Battista Velluti (1780-1861) the last renowned castrato. Yet this recording exclusively deals with ‘trouser’ roles for women such as the title role in Tancredi written specifically for the contralto Adelaide Malanotte the opera which established Rossini as Italy’s foremost opera composer. Fagioli takes his material from six different operas written during the period 1812/23. Best known are Tancredi and Semiramide both based on Voltaire tragedies however the other four operas are rarely played.

Argentine born Franco Fagioli was the first countertenor to graduate from the prestigious Instituto Superior de Arte at Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. He has performed on the stages of many of the world’s most famous opera houses notably Royal Opera House London, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées Paris, Semperoper Dresden and Zürich Opera House. With his bel canto training and his brilliant technique Fagioli seems ideal for these Rossini arias. Certainly his flexible voice doesn’t seem limited technically as he is able to travel comfortably from the low notes of his chest register extending to his upper soprano register.

A baroque collection generating vocal fireworks and considerable drama my highlights include Ah, perché, perché la morte from Matilde di Shabran exhilarating rendered by Fagioli and with its glorious extended horn solo. There is the lovely expressive singing from the countertenor and the solo violin passages in Dolci d’amor parole from Semiramide and the demanding Ah, quel giorno from Semiramide is thoroughly captivating. Compared to the mezzo and contralto the countertenor voice I find rather lacks colour nevertheless remarkable throughout is the purity of Fagioli’s projection and the smoothness as he glides through his range.

Adding to the success of the performances the Armonia Atenea Choir, trained by chorus master Agathangelos Geogakatos, sound in marvellous form. Athens born George Petrou conducts Armonia Atenea the resident orchestra of the Megaron, the Athens Concert Hall playing here on period instruments employing a modest string section of nineteen players. Fresh and buoyant it’s playing is of the highest standard and solo contributions from Costas Siskos (horn), Sergiu Nastasa (violin) and Dimitris Vamvas (cor anglais) are quite stunning. Produced at Dimitris Mitropoulos Hall, Megaron, Athens the recording quality is one of the finest I’ve heard in sometime. Vividly clear, with ideal presence and gratifying balance the sound team can be proud of its achievement.

Countertenor Franco Fagioli is in remarkable voice, relishing this Rossini collection.

Michael Cookson

Track List
01. Demetrio e Polibio Act I, n. 2: “Pien di contento in seno” [4.12]
02. Matilde di Shabran Act II, n. 9 “Sazia tu fossi alfine” [2.09]
03. Matilde di Shabran Act II, n. 9 “Ah, perché, perché la morte” [9.30]
04. Adelaide di Borgogna Act II “Serti intrecciar le vergini” [2.23]
05. Adelaide di Borgogna Act II “Questi che a me presenta” [0.53]
06. Adelaide di Borgogna Act II “Vieni, tuo sposo e amante” [3.01]
07. Adelaide di Borgogna Act II “Al trono tuo primiero” [3.44]
08. Tancredi “O sospirato lido” [5.26]
09. Tancredi “Dolci d’amor parole” [6.20]
10. Adelaide di Borgogna Act I “Salve, Italia” [1.44]
11. Adelaide di Borgogna Act I “O sacra alla virtù” [1.53]
12. Adelaide di Borgogna Act I “Soffri la tua sventura” [5.36]
13. Semiramide Act I “Eccomi alfine in Babilonia” [5.59]
14. Semiramide Act I “Ah, quel giorno ognor rammento” [6.28]
15. Eduardo e Cristina Act II “Nel misero tuo stato” [4.04]
16. Eduardo e Cristina Act II “Ah! Chi sa dirmi se la sposa” [2.04]
17. Eduardo e Cristina Act II “La pietà che in sen serbate” [9.57]

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