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Classical - Released January 12, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

The Argentine countertenor Franco Fagioli, with his mighty voice, has always been easy to imagine as one of the castrati with whom Handel contended at the height of his operatic career. He brings both power and flair to fast passagework, and that doesn't change here in such arias as Venti, turbine, prestate, from Rinaldo, HWV 7a. What's different this time is the expertise Fagioli brings to the slow numbers. For the most part, Fagioli does not essay unusual repertory here, except in the final Ch'io parta?, from Partenope, HWV 27, which elegantly ends the program on a question and frames the whole thing nicely with the opening aria from Oreste, HWV A11. For the most part, though, Fagioli sticks to familiar territory, and he lays claim to it. Sample the intense but understated performance of Ombra mai fu, from Act One of Serse, HWV 40, which seems to allude to its suppressed emotion rather than laying it on the line. The historical-instrument group Il Pomo d'Oro, here under violinist Zefira Valova, is sensitive to Fagioli's moods, even if Deutsche Grammophon's sound from Lonigo's Villa San Fermo is too chilly. A highly recommended prime-of-career release from Fagioli.