Tonight’s opera selection is a new acquisition, one of a number of relatively new recordings that feature young and oncoming talent that we have been privileged to feature in the past year. Faramondo (HWV 39) is an opera in three acts by George Frideric Handel to an Italian text adapted from Apostolo Zeno‘s Faramondo and based upon the story of Pharamond, a mythological King of the Franks. There were multiple revisions of the original libretto before Handel used it; the version Handel used was a 1720 setting by Francesco Gasparini. The difference between the Zeno original and what Handel used is vast, and in some instances it made the plot hard to follow – Zeno’s had 1240 lines, while Handel’s had 540.
It was first performed at the King’s Theatre, London on 3 January 1738. There were 8 performances and it was never revived. The first modern production was in Halle on 5 March 1976. The fate of the opera may have been impacted by the success of Serse, which had immediately followed Faramondo, but many critics blame the libretto, while suggesting that the music is of high quality. It might also be said that this came at the same time that Handel was beginning to see success with his oratorios, which is said to have come in part because of a decline in successes for the overall Italian operatic style, of which tonight’s work is an example.
Tonight’s performance is a well-regarded 2009 recording that features noted counter-tenors Max Emanuel Cenčić and Philippe Jaroussky, Fulvio Bettini, Korean bass In-Sung Sim (who sings some excellent arias), and Terry Wey, leading a large cast. Swiss conductor Diego Fasolis leads the I Barocchisti, along with the Coro Della Radio Svizzera.