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This review is from: Arias for Caffarelli / Franco Fagioli (Audio CD)
Franco Fagioli has been one of the leading countertenors of the new generation for a few years now, ever since winning the prestigious Neue Stimmen competition in Germany in 2003. Recently though, with recordings like Vinci: Artaserse and now Steffani: Stabat Mater / Bartoli as well as some sensational stage performances, his career has taken a dramatic new trajectory. This album from the French label Naïve catches Fagioli riding a wave of dazzling showmanship backed by an astounding technique beyond the dreams of most mortals.
Fittingly, Fagioli has chosen here to reflect the theatricality and swagger, as well as the extravagant virtuosity of Gaetano Majorano, a compatriot of the more well-known Farinelli. The impressive 76 page booklet is full of anecdotes about his outrageous behaviour, both on and off stage, for Caffarelli, as he re-named himself, was quite the prima donna. He used various techniques to unnerve other soloists onstage lest they steal his limelight, and he wasn't averse to challenging those who crossed his path to a duel. (In the London of 1738 however, he met his match in Handel, who was well used to dealing with big egos. On the pretext of concern that Caffarelli may forget his lines in Faramondo, Handel accompanied on the harpsichord playing every note of his aria, as one might with an inexperienced and nervous singer. Presumably Caffarelli was suitably chastened.)
Interestingly, on this CD Handel is conspicuous by his absence. The recital begins with a couple of arias for Medarse from Hasse's Siroe, the first showcasing Fagioli's Bartoli-like intensity in depicting the drama of a storm, the second designed to exhibit an equally important strand of technique, that of holding the long flowing line. And so we move through the repertoire of Caffarelli, each aria highlighting aspects of that extraordinary range and technical ability; from roulades to chromatic runs, Fagioli and Il Pomo d'Oro reflect the glamour and excitement which must have prevailed in an opera house at the appearance of these superstars.
The booklet which accompanies the CD manages to be both scholarly and amusing, the richly reproduced illustrations giving a compelling glimpse into the life of this castrato assoluto.