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Franco Fagioli displays his astonishing technique with Il Pomo d'Oro at the Barbican / Evening Standard

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Monumentalised by the Victorians as Handel's Largo, Ombra mai fu is the opening number in his opera Serse, and for all its ironic touches - the object of Xerxes' veneration is a plane tree - has to be delivered solemnly, as it was here by Franco Fagioli. It seemed early in the evening for a showstopper, but so ravishing was the singing that it could hardly go unacknowledged. 

The superstar countertenor had plenty of opportunity elsewhere to display his astonishing technique, ranging through three octaves, with a voluptuous tone and variety of register that enabled him to project the volatility of the narcissistic King Xerxes' temperament.  Fagioli was supported by a stellar cast, Maxim Emelyanychev, directing Il Pomo d'Oro from the harpsichord, whisked the action along. 

Unlike the last Pomo d'Oro performance I heard at the Barbican, this one had the advantage of an imaginatively executed semi-staging, which both brought it to life and enabled us to follow one of Handel's more tortuous plots. 

READ THE FULL Evening Standard REVIEW