Handel: Faramondo

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Accent
WORKS: Faramondo
PERFORMER: Emily Fons, Anna Devin, Anna Starushkevych, Njål Sparbo, Maarten Engeltjes, Christopher Lowrey, Edward Grint, Iryna Dziashko; FestspielOrchester Göttingen/Laurence Cummings


Faramondo was Handel’s comeback opera, written on his return to London from the healing hot springs of Aix-en-Chapelle in 1737. The story is one of youthful rebellion against an unjust patriarch; the arias a sequence of exquisite character studies. Recorded live on 2 June 2014, in Paul Curran’s Göttingen Festival production, this performance under Laurence Cummings is artfully paced and brilliantly detailed. Some listeners may find the scuffle of stage business (footfall, gasps, manic laughter) distracting, and the English synopsis is of a different opera, Siroe. But few Handel opera recordings convey this level of intensity and engagement.

Cummings’s orchestra is alert and assured, with a well-fed bass-line and elegant violins. After the formal innovations of Orlando (1733), the writing is surprisingly sober. Only Faramondo’s Act III aria ‘Voglio che sia l’indegno’ breaks with convention, its firecracker fioritura and angular strings interrupted as the hero (mezzo-soprano Emily Fons) contemplates the reality of dying for honour. Pitched against bass-baritone Njål Sparbo’s implacable King Gustavo, Fons delivers a stunning ‘Si tornero a morir’ and leads an almost ideal cast of young singers. Soprano Anna Devin dazzles as Clothilde, sounding fresh as a daisy in the shimmering triplets of ‘Un aura placide’ and the Venetian fizz of ‘Combattuta da due venti’, while mezzo Anna Starushkevych is an expressive and highly promising Rosimonda. Countertenors Maarten Engeltjes and Christopher Lowrey are, respectively, delicate and suave as Adolfo (a soprano role) and Gernando. What a shame the cameras weren’t there too.


Anna Picard