Franco Fagioli: "Canzone e Cantate"
With Pianca, lute; Frezzato, cello; Halubek, harpsichord. Texts and translations. Carus 83.361
Although the field of countertenors grows more crowded with each passing year, the current crop had better make room for the exceptional Franco Fagioli. In this collection of Italian songs and cantatas ranging from the early seventeenth century to the late eighteenth, Fagioli's decisive dynamics and delicious attention to text combine with his firm, focused, opulent sound in a uniquely energetic and compelling performance. Fagioli, a native of Argentina, doesn't sing this music so much as he grabs it and turns it inside out. He is perfectly capable of spinning out elegant lines, but it's the sheer excitement he derives from even the tiniest details that sets him apart. He clearly loves faking out the listener with the surprising minor-third detours in Benedetto Ferrari's impulsive "Amanti io vi so dire." Fagioli has a huge range with no weaknesses that are apparent here, but even more impressive is the way his timbre shifts kaleidoscopically from sweet soprano through mellow mezzo to thrilling contralto. In Handel's cantata "Dolc'è pur d'amor l'affanno," Fagioli pops up for high notes and down for low without ever losing the line. Vivaldi's "Cor ingrato dispietato" provides ample opportunity to show off his furious fioritura, which never flags, even at the extremes of his vocal range. It's not just stunt singing; Fagioli proves in his gorgeous variations on Paisiello's "Nel cor più non mi sento" that he has the control to use his ornaments gracefully as well. That same control allows him the freedom to play with words and incorporate emotional expressivity without sacrificing vocal quality. Fagioli is well supported by Luca Pianca on lute, Marco Frezzato on cello and Jörg Halubek on harpsichord. They provide satisfying instrumental interludes, but the listener remains eager to hear what Fagioli is going to do next — in every respect.
JOANNE SYDNEY LESSNER