ALBUM TITLE: Rossini
WORKS: Arias from Demetrio e Polibio, Matilde di Shabran, Adelaide di Borgogna, Tancredi, Semiramide, Eduardo e Cristina
PERFORMER: Franco Fagioli (countertenor); Armonia Atenea Choir; Armonia Atenea/ George Petrou
CATALOGUE NO: DG 479 5681
The Argentinean countertenor springs from a local tradition where his voice type and the Baroque repertory associated with it have up until now been rare; the liner note to this all-Rossini release claims for him more of a bel canto background. In any case, it’s not the surprisingly small amount of music that Rossini wrote for the castrato voice that he focuses on here, but the mezzo-soprano roles in the composer’s serious operas that were originally sung by female singers impersonating young men.
In theory, this might have worked well, but there are limitations to Franco Fagioli’s vocalism that make the result disappointing. Words are rarely clear, and the singer’s dynamic range is relatively small. He pretty well entirely sticks around the mezzo forte mark, so that the dynamic variety that a Marilyn Horne or a Cecilia Bartoli, for instance, might bring to these pieces is largely absent, let alone their sense of dramatic engagement. Skilful and often technically accomplished though much of his work is, it’s rarely moving.
George Petrou’s period-instrument orchestra is generally willing and able, but the horn obbligato in one of the Matilde di Shabran extracts repeatedly defeats the player, while the choir is not much more than rough and ready.