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on 10 March 2009
This is really an excellent recording of one of Handel's lesser known later operas (composed just before Serse). Spoiled by a much cut libretto which leaves little of sense in the story, this piece is nevertheless filled with terrific music for all concerned. There is scarcely a dull number in the whole opera but one of my very favourites is 'Se ben mi lusingha' for the title character which ends Act 1 (even if the lovely 'trotting' melody rather belies the sentiment of the words).

I was very pleased with the playing of I Barrochisti for Diego Fasolis (a new name to me in Handel recordings). A uniformly excellent cast has been assembled. Max Cencic sings the title role with astonishing power and grace - the final aria is a real tour de force! I was also very impressed with Xavier Sabata as his rival Gernando. The third countertenor is probably the best known - Philippe Jaroussky - who brings another distinct sound, lighter and higher. There is a decent bass for the villain in In-Sung Sim. The two women are also very good; Sophie Karthauser bringing both agility and considerable power to the role of Clotilde and Marina de Liso, another addition to the range of current mezzo sopranos with truly beautiful and yet dramatic voices, as Faramondo's beloved Rosimonda.

Overall this recording must now be the top recommendation over the only other version available on Vox. To be fair, that is one of the American label's most successful Handel recordings and has some good performances from the often variable D'Anna Fortunato and the lovely Jennifer Lane but the new recording under Fasolis is more consistently pleasing. Highly recommended.
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on 22 January 2010
I must confess that as a handelian I bought this set to add to my library out of a sense of completeness. However, it is now one of my favourite handel operas. The quality of the countertenor voices alone make this worth the money. Don't hesitate to make a purchase, its one of the best Handel recordings on the market in my opinion. The pace never flags and the performance is very special indeed.
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on 27 February 2011
Forgotten for so long, this now has become one of my favorite Handel operas. Stunning music with very imaginative accompaniments, it is amazing that this opera is not better known than some of the other operas of my favorite composer. The singers are all very very good, the occasional misstep not withstanding, and the playing by the orchestra is consistently alive and very well thought out. Everybody seems to be really into the proceedings and when I play these discs, the hours fly by. More please from these artists!
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on 19 August 2012
The first thing to be said on this opera is that it requires four "castrati" normally replaced today by "countertenors" who can be of different pitches and have different ranges. This recording goes back to the original score and thus has four countertenors. This is essential as we are going to see.

There exists only one other recording of this opera by the Brewer Chamber Orchestra directed by Rudolph Palmer and actually recorded in 1996. This older recording has only one countertenor, what's more for Gernando? the traitor, which is providing this countertenor with a very black outlook and at the same time is restricting this countertenor pitch to this very dark role. In other words it replaces the three other "castrati" with three female mezzo-sopranos and sopranos, Faramondo, Adolfo and Childerico, the first two of these three being leading parts in the opera. As the opera says so well this has to come from the mind of a "barbaro traditor", a barbaric traitor, and that barbaric traitor is Rudolph Palmer who more or less kept the tradition and I am sure in the 19th century even Gernando was replaced by a female mezzo-soprano, though there probably was an alternative score, like for Agrippina, with tenors and baritones instead of "castrati".

The four countertenors are essential for the vocal beauty and balance of the opera. As we are going to see Faramondo sung by Max Emmanuel Cencic is opposed to Rosimonda who is a mezzo-soprano. The two have very close pitches and their ranges are nearly similar. The closing duet of the second act is of course superbly amplified by this choice. Note the two names Raramondo and Rosimonda use the same "mondo/a" root.

Then Adolfo sung by Philippe Jaroussky is opposed to Clotilde who is a soprano which is perfect since Jaroussky has the pitch of a soprano and his range is very similar to that of the soprano he is associated to. The second duet of the opera (and there are only two) that brings together these two characters is of course transmuted by the choice.

The third pair is Gernando sung by Xavier Sabata who is associated to Teobaldo, a baritone, and Faramondo, a countertenor as well as Gustavo a bass. Gernando is the traitor in the opera and he is opposed to Faramondo (a slightly lighter and higher countertenor) who is his ally who he betrays with the help of Teobaldo (a baritone) who does not seem to understand what he is doing though he knows and has private interest in the bleak situation created by the initial death of Sveno, officially Gustavo's son, in fact Teobaldo's son. Note Gustavo is a bass. But the killing on the battle field of Sveno by Faramondo is the key to the opera since it motivates the vengeance, "vendetta," Gustavo wants and his desire to have Faramondo killed.

The last countertenor is a lot less important since he is impersonating Childerico. He is Terry Wey a light and rather high pitched countertenor. He is the confidant of Rosimonda at first as the son of Teobaldo though he will be revealed to be Gustavo's son at the end, hence Rosimonda's brother. There too the two voices are close.

Why do I insist on these elements? Because the pairs set up by Handel in three cases, two of which were replaced by mezzo-sopranos or sopranos by Rudolph Palmer, are essential to the musical and vocal balance of the opera, and these two are the only two duets of the opera, hence bringing together two singers who have practically only their body harmonics to differentiate them. That is an extremely important element and that goes back to Handel's time when these two "castrati" would have been opposed to two "sopranos" or "divas". And we are back to the turning point in Handel's music modern rendition: the two exhibitions produced by the Handel House Museum in London in 2006: "Handel and castrati" and in 2008 "Handel and Divas" that have revealed the essential part played by these two types of "prima donnas" in Handel's times and the consequences on Handel's style and operas.

In that perspective, and for the Handel House Museum Ita Marquet writes in 2009: "The exhibitions Handel and the Castrati (2006) and Handel and the Divas (2008) showcased artists giving interesting insights into male and female singers with whom he worked. Through portraits, scores, objects and the music they sang, the exhibitions explored the careers, rivalries, successes, failures and stories of scandalous behind the scenes behaviour which made castrati and divas the talk of the earlier centuries in London." (Website:[...])

This being solved we can consider the opera itself.

The plot is very complicated and at the same time very simple. It's a war situation with The Cambrians on one side led by their king Gustavo and his general Teobaldo. His elder son Sveno was killed in battle by Faramondo. Gustavo has a daughter Rosimonda and another son Adolfo. Rosimonda has a confidant Childerico. Gustavo is a bass and Teobaldo a baritone. Adolfo is a countertenor and Rosimonda a mezzo-soprano.

On the other side Faramondo, the king of the Franks, is allied to Gernando, the king of the Swabians. Faramondo who is a lot younger than Gustavo, has a sister Clotilde. Faramondo and Gernando are countertenors and Clotilde is a soprano.

The hazards of war makes Rosimonda the prisoner of Faramondo and Clotilde the prisoner of Gustavo. The two women are desired by two men on the side on which they are held prisoners. Clotilde is desired by Adolfo and Gustavo. The choice is simple and what's more Adolfo is not at all keen on avenging Sveno. Rosimonda is loved by Faramondo and Gernando. She is strongly inclined to set her vengeful project or request first and thus will lean towards Gernando when he betrays and he will betray his ally to win Rosimonda. But Rosimonda really loves Faramondo. All that happens in the opera then is the story of a betrayal and the final revelation, which reveals another betrayal, that solves the vengeance: Sveno was Teobaldo's son and not Gustavo's, whereas Childerico was not Teobaldo's son but Gustavo's. Then since one of Gustavo's sons was not killed by Faramondo, all is well that ends well. Adolfo can have Clotilde and Faramondo can have Rosimonda. The final revelation happens when Gustavo in the execution ring is going to behead Faramondo who accepted to be beheaded because of the satisfaction that would give to Rosimonda who he loves.

Four essential male characters are depicted. Gustavo is an old vengeful fool, even ready to have his own son Adolfo executed because he freed Clotilde. Adolfo is a charming young man who is so deeply in love that he is ready to do anything to satisfy the woman he loves, hence to free her from custody, which means betraying his own father. Gernando is shown as a vicious ambitious social climber. He wants Rosimonda at any cost and he betrays his ally Faramondo, gets into a pact with Teobaldo to further that betrayal and force Faramondo to surrender to Gustavo, endangering his own life. Strangely enough Gustavo will be forgiven in his shame by Faramondo. And Gernando will be forgiven too by Faramondo but rejected by everyone. Note Teobaldo dies in battle far away and it is on his death bed that he writes the letter that reveals his treachery.

The main character is Faramondo. He killed Sveno in battle, hence not personally. There should be no vendetta, no vengeance since it was a regular battle. But Faramondo who loves Rosimonda does not only want to win her physically, which after all he has done since she is his prisoner, but he wants to win her sentimentally which she refuses because of the vengeance Gustavo has decreed. Faramondo then jeopardizes his own victory by accepting to submit himself to Gustavo and by accepting Gustavo's vengeful decision to behead him because that's what Rosimonda wants too. That's foolish, but that's typical of a young sentimental king. His sentiments are stronger than his reason and he is ready to accept anything that comes from the woman he loves, including his own death.

That reveals the fact that Rosimonda is just the same type of a fool her own father is. She does not see her future interest but only her father's will. She is in other words father-dominated and suffers of father-fixation. On the other hand Clotilde is a lot more reasonable, sensible: she wants Adolfo, Adolfo wants her, so she does not care what happens, not one iota more than Adolfo. That is foolish too since Gustavo decides to have them executed. But on one side the foolishness of vengeance and on the other side the foolishness of love. The two are not the same at all. Reason is in the motivation not in the end, though we could say that in both cases the protagonists lose their heads, for vengeance or for love.

But the main point here has to do with the vocal performance. Due to the presence of four countertenors the pairs are perfect. Faramondo and Rosimonda are very close in pitch and range. Same thing at a slightly higher pitch with Adolfo and Clotilde. Same thing with Childerico and Rosimonda, though this pair is hardly used. The third "pair" is in fact a set of three pairs. Gernando is not contrasted to women who have the same range as him, but essentially to three men: Gustavo a bass, Teobaldo a baritone and Faramondo a countertenor who is slightly lighter than him. The three essential countertenors are positioned as follows: Jaroussky at the top with the highest pitch. Cencic in the middle with a slightly deeper pitch and Sabata at the bottom with the deepest pitch, though of course the three are countertenors but the score differentiates them with the music. Then their pairing with respectively a soprano, a mezzo-soprano and a bass, a baritone and a countertenor is just perfect and it is a crime against Handel and artistic humanity to change these balancing pairs.

As I said before there are only two duets in the opera, the first one closes the second act: with Faramondo and Rosimonda. The second one is in the second scene of the third act with Adolfo and Clotilde. Both duets are perfect since they express love, and the unity it implies even if it is warped by vengeance in one case, and are extremely close in pitch. Unity in pitch and difference in body harmonics. We have to note the three acts end with Faramondo. An aria for the first act, a duet for the second act and an aria with chorus for the third act. That shows how treacherous the replacing of "castrati" by "sopranos is.

As a conclusion, so far it is Jean Claude Malgoire with Agrippina in 2004 and this recording by Diego Fasolis in 2008 that finally restored Handel in his real and original beauty. The ball is in the field of all conductors and opera houses in the world: they have to dare go back to Handel's original scores, even if countertenors are more expensive than sopranos or mezzo-sopranos. At least Rudolph Palmer avoided using a 19th century score in which the main castrati would have been replaced by tenors or baritones, like in the Agrippina of Arnold Östman. We can see that the first exhibition of the Handel House Museum in 2006 is central in the dynamic of this revival.

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on 22 December 2009
This version of Faramondo by Fasolis is full of ravishing music and singing especially on the part of Max Emanuel Cencic who sings the title role (Faramondo)and who probably could rival Cafferelli for whom the part was originally written by Handel with some of his finest music. Jaroussky is also superb and angelic. The two sopranos are excellent especially Marina de Liso who has a ravishing voice timbre. The conducting is fast paced, dynamic and virile - there isn't a dull moment. The overture is splendid and is considered to be probably Handel's finest. The story deals with the legendary King of the Franks Faramond and belongs to Arthurian myth but is almost incomprenhensible due to large cuts in the recitatives on Handel's part which increase the drama but make the story almost beyond comprehension. Some of the beautiful arias do not fit the psychology of the character or the nature of the moment, but don't worry they are very beautiful all the same. In fact this opera and this performance is just one long shimmering beautiful jewel of musical composition. This recording is essential in any Handel opera collection. Superb rendition! Will give endless pleasure. For another superb performance by Cencic see Curtis' FernandoHandel: Fernando
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on 1 August 2016
Start with a plain fact : Handel never employed counter-tenors in his operas (he had more respect for good singing); so the presence of any of these low-comedy stunt voices in this recording is historically unjustifiable, and therefore utterly unwelcome.

Another potentially valuable recording fatally compromised by unmanly and unmusical caterwauling. When are record companies going to drop these yowling horrors, and give us a properly *sung* performance?
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on 7 March 2009
Fabulous singing and playing by all concerned. With so many fine arias, I cannot imagine why this work has remained unrecorded for so long - all Handel opera fans must add this to their collection without delay, especially at this low introductory price!
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on 7 November 2015
It's wonderful to have another rarity from Handel and with an exceptional cast too!. I bought this purely for Max Cencic's voice. The finished product is even better than I could have hoped for. A wonderful addition to my music library shelves.
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on 24 January 2010
This is an absolutely thrilling performance of this beatiful music, providing goose bumps at regular intervals. The singers, especially the countertenors, but also bass, baritone, mezzo and soprano are fabulous, as is the orchestra, which underpins the procedings as it drives along. To mention one performer by name would be unfair, they are all wonderful and the whole thing is a marvel! Buy it at once, it will be one of your "Desert Island Discs" for sure.
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on 11 October 2009
The plot is really too much complicated and make quite impossible to follow and to understand
completely the story.
In other words you should have to use a lot of effort to know all the
relationship between the characters or you should be a fan of very intricated story like soap operas.
Stated this first fact you can deilght the music of Handel (and this could be enough!).
The singer are of high level and the players do a pretty good job. But while the firsts puts emotions and
drama in their performance, the orchestra could have been more expressive.
At the end there is a lackness of dramatization and some arias results quite flat or
al least could have been done better with more punch from the side of the direction.
To be honest this opera has less density of beautiful arias than other famous Handel opera's and pheraps
with a lower average level of quality also. There are infact pretty long recitative parts (that should get more
clear the plot!?) and less arias in general.
A good purchase for the Handel opera fans
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