Handel – Faramondo

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Faramondo
CATALOGUE NO: 216 6112

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With just eight performances in its first season (1738), no revivals in his lifetime, and not many modern productions, Faramondo remains among the least known of Handel’s operas.

Taking an earlier libretto by Apostolo Zeno as his source, Handel cut a good deal, making the already convoluted plot – concerning dynastic rivalries and a score to settle amongst fifth-century monarchs of the Franks, the Swabians and the Cimbrians – difficult to follow. Even with Avril Bardoni’s excellent translation to hand, it is hard to remember who is related to, or allied to, or in love with whom.

This is a problem, though on disc one can sit back and enjoy the music, which includes many fine arias and a couple of duets, none of them letting Handel’s reputation down. Clear sound is an asset, and the period band supplies plenty of character under the firm guidance of conductor Diego Fasolis.

Three of the major parts are impressively sung. In the title role Croatian countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic’s light tone is fleet of vocal foot and he swaggers where necessary. Philippe Jaroussky’s Adolfo is even more mellifluous and unfailingly musical.

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As Rosimonda, mezzo Marina de Liso offers dramatic impetus; her conflicted character has some of the best numbers to sing. The rest is respectable to good, and overall a decent account is given of this worthwhile rarity. George Hall