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A quick poll of music undergraduates in my kitchen recently revealed how little known the 18th-century Italian composer Nicola Antonio Porpora is today. Of those who did manage to dredge up any memory of the name, it was, predictably, the singer among them who recalled the Neapolitan composer’s role as a teacher of castrati. But Porpora’s reach should soon be widening, as Franco Fagioli joins an illustrious stable of countertenors to have recorded Porpora of late. Philippe Jaroussky’s ‘Porpora Arias’, Iestyn Davies’s ‘Porpora Cantatas’ … these gorgeous glamour boys of the world of high notes have set a high bar for newcomers to this less-than-well-known composer.

And Fagioli does not disappoint. On first hearing, the vocal agility, the virtuoso coloratura – and actually, the pitch – are simply astonishing. Too much music washes over us – here, you just have to stop and wonder at the technique on display. The 12 opera arias, performed with Academia Montis Regalis conducted by Alessandro de Marchi, offer a wide- ranging glimpse into Porpora’s work. ‘Gia si desta la tempesta’ from Didone Abbandonata, complete with wind and thunder machines, shows Fagioli at his flamboyant best while ‘Non lasciar chi t’ama tanto’ from Vulcano offers a window into his more tender side.

This is a CD to encourage you to pack your bags, head for sunnier climes and find out more about Porpora, preferably taking Fagioli with you as your guide.

Rhian Morgan Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2015 - ©Rhinegold Publishing