Mozart Timeline

A Voice that is Out of This World

Mozart originally wrote the roles of Sesto in "La Clemenza di Tito" (The Clemency of Titus) and Idamante in "Idomeneo" for castrato voices. The Argentinian countertenor Franco Fagioli will be singing both roles: on 29 April at the Opéra National de Lorraine in Nancy – as Sesto – and on 3 November at the Royal Opera House in London – as Idamante. This is quite interesting and in no way a given, considering castrato roles today are mostly performed by women.

23 April 2014 Events

In the Baroque era, castratos were sought-after singers. Mozart appreciated the "unearthly voices" of these men who were castrated before puberty to retain their clear, high, childlike voices. He often wrote special parts for castratos in his operas, including in "La Clemenza di Tito". In this famous coronation opera which he wrote for the occasion of Leopold II’s accession to the throne in Prague in 1791, the soprano castrato Domenico Bedini originally took the role of Sesto.

There are, of course, no longer castrato singers, but with the help of a special technique, today’s countertenors are able to sing castrato roles – even though their voices can never achieve the tone or range of a true castrato singer. For this reason, it is common for women to sing these parts nowadays.

When you see it this way, it will be very exciting to hear Franco Fagioli perform both of these formerly castrato roles. In Nancy, he amazed the audience in the legendary production of Artaserse and was awarded international music awards. The production from John Fulljames with the Choeur de l’Opéra national de Lorraine and the Nancy Symphony Orchestra at the Opéra National de Lorraine in Nancy will premiere on 29 April 2014, with additional shows on 2, 4, 6 and 8 May 2014.

One of the best countertenors of our time

Franco Fagioli is known for his spectacular vocal technique which allows him to shine in roles originally composed for castratos. He is, for example, the first countertenor in 30 years to be awarded Italy’s highest musical award, the Abbiati Prize.

And so he will enchant the British audience in London starting on 3 November where he will embody the Cretan prince Idamante in "Idomeneo" under the direction of Martin Kusej. Additional performances at the Royal Opera House are planned for 6, 10, 15, 19 and 24 November 2014.

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The Argentinian countertenor Franco Fagioli

The Argentinian countertenor Franco Fagioli

Photo: Julian Laidig