Franco Fagioli is an Argentinian countertenor "who seems to redefine the capabilities of the countertenor voice." He has won great acclaim for his performance in the role of Arbace in the recent all-male production of Vinci's Artaserse, and will soon be releasing an album celebrating the star castrato Caffarelli.
I first heard the astounding voice of Argentinian counter-tenor Franco Fagioli performing Mozart's “Venga pur, minacci e frema” from Mozart’s Mitridate. What astounded me about his voice was the power and security throughout his range, and the method of coloratura production in the upper part of the register.
Fagioli's voice was rock solid in the lower middle register, a place where the counter-tenor voice can almost disappear, and he was not frightened to utilise the modal voice in the style of a contralto, allowing its distinctive sound to enhance the notes below the stave.
A stunning moment in the first section came towards the end, as Fagioli takes both the lowest and highest alternative notes Mozart gives for the phrase "questo cor non cederà" jumping from a G3 modal to a D5 in falsetto. Only the French-Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux has attempted this to the best of my knowledge, and that was after Fagioli's version.
During the final section, he sings multiple F5's during the phrase "l'implacabil genetore", before producing a stunning A5 on the phrase "questo cor" towards the end. There was no shrillness, and no screaming, just a very vibrant and virile voice, centred and secure, reaching confidently into the soprano register.
It comes as no surprise that it was with this aria that Fagioli won the Neue Stimmen international singing competition in 2003, which launched his international career.
Currently, the baroque world is raving about Fagioli's stint as Arbace from Leodanro Vinci's Artaserse. In particular, Fagioli's stunning rendition of the fantastic "Vo solcando un mar crudele." The tessitura of this aria is punishing, lying high in the voice, with several A5's. There is also much use of the lower register, with slower phrases lingering in the lower-middle falsetto voice. See the score here (courtesy of IMSLP).
End of the mid section, Fagioli solidly transitions into the modal voice on the word "naufragar". He then repeats the phrase in his cadenza, singing from B5 to G3, moving from high soprano, through the treacherous lower-middle falsetto range, and down into tenor territory with no lost of tone, immense confidence, and a stunning sense of musicality.
Fagioli's ornamentation in the da capo is even more fiendish than Vinci's original, with several long lines of triplet-quavers, and many additions above the stave. In the final cadenza, Fagioli rises to a glorious, ringing D6, fully supported, without the slightest hint of tension. Check out the aria below, the left has the score, the right is directly from the Nancy production.
Franco Fagioli's latest project is an album devoted to the star castrato Caffarelli. The album, entitledArias for Caffarelli, features arias by several composers created for the castrato, and no less than ten world premier recordings, including arias by two of my favourite Baroque composers, Hasse and Vinci.
Below are two videos relating to the album. The first is a promotional video from Naïve records, introducing Fagioli and the album. The second is one of the album tracks, "Fra l'orror della tempesta," in full. The album should be out around the end of August/beginning of September. There will be a series of concerts to promote the album, a list of which can be seen on Fagioli's website.
I hope you enjoy listening to this ground-breaking countertenor.