Franco Fagioli and Il Pomo d’Oro took the Salle Gaveau by storm with a program based on their award winning album Arias for Caffarelli (Naïve).
Fagioli’s first offering was “Passaggier che sulla sponda” from Porpora’s Semiramide riconosciuta. Moving effortlessly between soprano-tessitura falsetto and the modal voice, the Argentinian countertenor immediately impressed with scope of his range, and the willingness to bring out the lower passages by audaciously yet tastefully employing the full chest voice.
Fagioli’s excellent, well supported, and soaring legato was evident in Hasse’s “Ebbi da te la vita” from Siroe rè di Persia. In “Misero pargoletto” from Leo’s Demofoonte, Fagioli built and sustained the tension of the piece using understated dynamics and excellent breath control. In this, more than any other aria, the similarity with Bartoli was most evident.
The first half of the concert ended as it began with Semiramide riconosciuta, this time Vinci’s version. “In braccio a mille furie” is a sensational tour de force for both singer and orchestra: fast, furious, and relentless. Fagioli relished the demands of the piece, discharging A5’s and B5’s with unnerving ease. Herbert Walser and Andreas Lakner were superb in the brass accompaniment, and Riccardo Coelati on Double Bass did a fantastic job of impersonating the missing Timpani.
It always astounds me that one can recognise the power and intensity of Pergolesi from just the first few bars of an aria. Fagioli was mesmerising in the nearly 12-minute-long “Lieto così talvolta” from Pergolesi’s Adriano in Siria. The interaction with Riccardo Minasi on the violin (standing in for the Oboe) was sumptuous and seductive.
“Fra l’orror della tempesta” from Hasse’s Siroe rè di Persia is possibly one of the most stunning Baroque arias ever written. The piece is a virtuosic fanfare of vocal fireworks. Fagioli’s superior technique shines through with several exposed notes above the stave, drops into the modal voice, and many phrases running across the lower-middle falsetto voice all perfectly executed.
Fagioli ended the concert with the electric “Odo il suono di traomba guerriera” from Manna’s Lucio Papirio dittatore. Just one note away from a full three octaves, Fagioli pushes his range to the limit! His fully supported dive into the baritone register with a wonderful E3, his almost endless trill, and a blistering D6 all came together to earn him a rapturous applause.
As encores, Fagioli gave “Sperai vicino il lido” from Leonardo Leo’s Demofoonte, and “Un cor che ben ama” by Sarro. In the former, Fagioli alternates between languid phases and coruscating coloratura. The latter contains some fiendish writing for the trumpet. Fagioli sprinted through the sea of semiquavers with complete security, astounding given all he had already sung that evening. Between the two, it was announced that the CD Arias for Caffarelli (Naïve) had been awarded a 'Choc de l'Année' from Classica magazine!
The accompaniment from Il Pomo d’Oro was excellent, as I have come to expect. We were treated to theSinfonia from Sarro’s Demofoonte, Avitrano’s Sonata in D major, the Sonata in G min by Ragazzi, and the Introduzione from Il Ciro riconosciuto. Special mention must go to Riccardo Minasi for his excellent direction and fabulous violin playing.
© James Edward Hughes 2013
Paris' Salle Gaveau was packed to the rafters to greet German soprano Simone Kermes, as the "rock-chick" of the Baroque performed a selection of forgotten gems from her recently released album: Dramma.
Simone Kermes has a reputation for a sense of drama in her performances, so it was appropriate that she decided to perform several arias from her new album, Dramma. The album focused on works written for castrati such as Farinelli by composers such as Porpora, Hasse and Pergolesi. These arias were masterpieces of virtuosity in range, speed, dynamic control, or all three. Kermes, like Bartoli before her, has sought to bring these forgotten arias back into current musical awareness. Unlike Bartoli, however, Kermes has chosen arias where the tessitura is planted firmly in the soprano range.
Kermes’ first offering was the ebullient “Vedra turbato il mare” from Porpora’s Mitridate. As the orchestra, La Magnifica Comunità, started to play, a door mysteriously opened at the back of the hall, and Kermes, looking resplendent in one of her fantastic dresses, strode like a force of nature along the slips towards the stage, beguiling us from the onset with her magnificent stage-presence. Her ornamentation in the da capo was the same magnificent creation as heard on her album, leaping authoritatively into the stratosphere. Kermes followed this with a touching rendition of Porpora’s “Alto Giove,” where she demonstrated her superb high pianissimo. She followed the beautiful “Tace l’augello” almost immediately with the dynamic “Empi, se mai disciolgo” which she took so fast she seemed ready to take off! Her ability to blend in altissimo ornaments into the main vocal line will never fail to astound me.
Kermes’ began the second half of the concert with Leonardo Leo’s “Son qual nave in ria procella” which saw her leaping about in a set of dizzying vocal gymnastics, with a couple of delightful interpolated D6’s in the da capo. For Hasse’s “Consola il genitore”, Kermes was accompanied by Davide Pozzi on the harpsichord. She navigated the beautiful lines with exquisite tenderness, giving the lightest of touches to the demanding C6’s that make the piece so difficult to perform. The second Hasse piece of the evening was the fast and furious “Fra cento affanni e cento” which Kermes sailed through masterfully. The final aria came in the form of the tricky “Sul mio cor” from Pergolesi’s Adriano in Siria. Opening with a twice-repeated two octave descending line from A5 to A3, and containing some fiendishly fast coloratura, Kermes revelled in this firecracker of an aria. She even had us clapping in time with the beat during the introduction!
The accompaniment was provided by the wonderful La Magnifica Comunità, lead by Enrico Casazza.Opening the concert with the Overture from Porpora’s Agrippina, Casazza’s troupe played with vitality and a sense of exuberance matching that of Kermes. We were treated to two Vivaldi concertos, one in each half. The first was RV 277, Concerto in E min, which has an intense and atmospheric second movement for viola and three violins. The third movement was fierce, with some amazing form in the lower strings, particularly from Federico Bagnasco on the double bass. In RV 212, Concerto in D maj, Casazza himself astounded with his virtuosity on the violin, his fingers dancing across the board, moving almost up to the bridge in a series of broken chords: a truly stunning display.
Kermes gave five wonderful encores. The first was the A section of Broschi’s version of “Son qual nave” which she sped through magnificently. The second was a wonderful rendition of Edith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien” which was very warmly received. Kermes went back to the race-track with the A section of Vivaldi’s “Agitata da due venti” which had her leaping between her high soprano and her dark chest register (down to Ab3 at one point). She followed this with a beautiful rendition of Lili Marleen, and finished with a magnificent version of Handel’s “Lascia ch'io pianga”. At the end of this final aria, the lights went down, and we were left in momentary darkness. When they came back on, the whole hall got to its feet for a well deserved standing ovation.