Julia Lezhneva is one of the leading artists of her generation. The young Russian soprano with the voice of "angelic beauty" (The New York Times), "pure tone" (Opernwelt) & "flawless technique" (Guardian) brings "unforgettable spiritual expression" & "perfect artistry" (Guardian) performing worldwide. Her international career skyrocketed when she created a sensation at the Classical Brit Awards at London's Royal Albert Hall in 2010, singing Rossini's Fra il padre at the invitation of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.
Since then, Lezhneva has been appearing in concert and opera around the globe – the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Royal Albert Hall & Barbican in London, Severance Hall in Cleveland & Lincoln Center in New York, NHK & Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo, Amsterdam Concertgebouw & Madrid Auditorium, Salle Pleyel & Theatre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, Wiener Konzerthaus and Theater an der Wien, Berlin Staatsoper & Hamburg Laeiszhalle, Essen Philharmonie and Zurich Tonhalle, Theatre Royal de la Monnaie and Palais de Beaux Arts in Brussels, The Bolshoi Theatre & Melbourne Recital Centre, Grand Hall of Moscow Conservatory and Grand Hall of St-Petersburg Philharmonic – as well as for the Salzburg Festival, Salzburg Mozartwoche, Baden-Baden Festspielhaus, Gstaad Menuhin Festival, Chorégies d'Orange, Verbier Festival, Handel-Festspiele Halle, Quincena Musical, Wratislawia Cantans, Misteria Paschalia, Rossini Opera Festival & S. Richter ‘December Nights' Festival in Moscow. She appeared on stage with conductors – Marc Minkowski, Giovanni Antonini, Sir Antonio Pappano, Herbert Blomstedt, Alberto Zedda, Philippe Herreweghe, Franz Welser-Möst, Sir Roger Norrington, René Jacobs, Fabio Biondi, Jean-Christoph Spinosi, Diego Fasolis, Ottavio Dantone – and singers – Plácido Domingo, Anna Netrebko, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Joyce DiDonato, Juan Diego Flórez, Rolando Villazón, Ildebrando D'Arcangelo, Christopher Maltman, Franco Fagioli, Max Emmanuel Cencic, Philippe Jaroussky.
Born December 5 1989 in a family of geophysicists on Sakhalin Island, she began playing piano and singing at the age of five. She graduated from the Gretchaninov Music School and continued her vocal and piano studies at the Moscow Conservatory Academic Music College.. At 17 she came to int attention winning the 6th Elena Obraztsova Opera Singers Competition 2007, and next year shared the concert stage with Juan Diego Flórez at the opening of the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro. In 2008 she began studying with tenor Dennis O'Neill in Cardiff, completing her training under Yvonne Kenny at London's Guildhall School. She has attended masterclasses with Elena Obraztsova, Alberto Zedda, Richard Bonynge and Thomas Quasthoff. In 2009 she won first prize at the Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition in Helsinki and the following year took first prize at the Paris International Opera Competition, the youngest entrant in each competition's history. Her European performances started at the age of 18 with the invitations by Marc Minkowski, with whom she has performed and recorded Bach's Mass in B-Minor in 2008 and subsequently performed numerous solo concerts, operas and oratorial works. In 2010, being 20 yearls old, she made her triumphal debuts at the Barbican performing Vivaldi's Ottone in Villa with IGA/Antonini and at the Salzburg Festival performing solo concerts under Marc Minkowski. Opernwelt named her "Young Singer of the Year" in 2011 for her debut at La Monnaie in Brussels. The following year she performed at the Victoires de la Musique Classique in Paris and appeared at the Salzburg Festival in Handel's Tamerlano opposite Plácido Domingo. Her 2012/13 season included European tours with Giovanni Antonini and Il Giardino Armonico, Pergolesi Stabat Mater recording and performance with Philippe Jaroussky, concert tours of Handel's Il trionfo del tempo & Handel's Alessandro and Gala at the Chorégies d'Orange televised on France 3. During 2014/15 Lezhneva made her Australian debut winning the HELPMANN Award for her recital at the Hobart Baroque Festival. She toured extensively with Handel programme throughout Europe including concerts at the Barbican, Paris, Brussels, Aix-en-Provence, Zurich, Munich and the Bolshoi in Moscow. She made her Royal Opera House debut in June 2015, singing Zerlina in Mozart's Don Giovanni and reprised the role on the ROH Japan tour in September 2015 under Sir Antonio Pappano.
The season 2015/2016 season saw Lezhneva further touring Europe with Siroe, Tamerlano and Handel solo concerts from October to December. In February Lezhneva gave a recital at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris and in April at the Lizst Academy in Budapest. In Spring 2016 She performed staged appearances in Così fan tutte (Fiordiligi) in Wiesbaden & Liederabend at the Wiener Konzerthaus with Mikhail Antonenko.
Current season 2016/2017 saw Lezhneva returning to Australia touring Handel and Alleluia with 5 concerts accompanied by ACO – Sydney Angel Place, Brisbane QPAC and Mebourne. In November 2016 Julia reprised Hasse's Siroe in Lausanne on stage and gave Handel concerts in Toulouse Halle aux Grains, St-Petersburg, Berlin Philharmonic and Moscow accompanied by La Voce Strumentale and Dmirty Sinkovsky. Lezhneva performed Adventliche concert debuting at the Gewandhaus Leipzig under Herbert Blomstedt. Spring took the artist to Krakow and Vienna performing the new production of Porpora's Germanico in Germania (Ersinda) alongside Max Cencic – soon to be released on Decca. On concert stage, Lezhneva performed Handel in Madrid and opened Lucerne Easter Festival with LVS & Sinkovsky. On recital stage, she performed with Mikhail Antonenko in Berlin Konzerthaus and Amsterdam Muzikgebouw.
April 2017 marks the release of ‘Graun Arias' on Decca accompanied by Concerto Köln and conducted by Mikhail Antonenko. Lezhneva tours the programme to Paris, Munich, Zurich and Dresden with KOB. In May 2017 she reprises Siroe staged in Wiesbaden during the Maifestpiele and in June – Mozart's Don Giovanni (Zerlina) at the Gran Teatre Liceu in Barcelona, opposite Mariusz Kwiecen. July sees Julia performing Stabat Mater with Max Cencic in Herrenchiemsee, while in August the artist performs concerts in Reingau and Gdansk as well as recital at Peralada Festival. Summer 2017 ends with an 8-concert tour of Mozart's Requiem (Soprano Solo) with MusicAeterna and Teodor Currentzis, bringing the artist for the 1st time to Bremen Musikfest and opening season at the Vienna Konzerthaus.
Next Season sees Julia tours Handel & Graun Arias to Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Frankfurt Alte Oper, Munich, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Bregenz, St-Petersburg, Moscow, Halle and Vienna. The artist debuts with Seoul Philharmonic at the Lotte Concert Hall, Orquesta Nacional España in Madrid, Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall and Orchestra Accademia Santa Cecilia in Rome. In Budapest and Paris TCE she performs Stabat Mater with Franco Fagioli.
Julia Lezhneva became an exclusive Decca artist in 2011. Her first recording under the new label, "Alleluia" – a coupling of baroque motets accompanied by Il Giardino Armonico under Giovanni Antonini, was released in March 2013, leading BBC Music Magazine to say: "She is like a sun that can't help but produce warmth and joy when she comes on stage." The recording won her an Echo-Klassik Award. Her collaboration with Max Emanuel Cencic on Handel's Alessandro led to a Complete Opera CD of the Year prize at the inaugural International Opera Awards in 2013. She joined Cencic again on the world premiere recording of Hasse's Siroe. Lezhneva's new solo album ‘HANDEL' – a selection of sacred and secular pieces from the composer's overwhelmingly successful early Italian years – has been released in November to critical acclaim. Lezhneva is accompanied again by Il Giardino Armonico under the direction of Giovanni Antonini. April 2017 marks the release of ‘Graun Arias' – world-premiere album featuring opera arias by Carl Heinrich Graun unearthed by Lezhneva at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. The CD is accompanied by Concerto Köln and conducted by Mikhail Antonenko.
It takes a special artist to excel in the fiendishly difficult arias that are central to the landscape of Baroque and early bel canto opera. Franco Fagioli possesses the necessary combination of technical agility, tonal variety and vocal range required to triumph in works that leave many other countertenors perplexed. His astonishing artistry has been hailed by critics worldwide and regularly attracts capacity audiences eager to hear a performer blessed with an uncanny ability to deliver the spectacular runs, leaps and turns of even the most difficult virtuoso showpieces. Ranked among the finest of today's singers, over the past decade he has worked with conductors of the highest calibre, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, René Jacobs, Marc Minkowski, Riccardo Muti, Christophe Rousset, Riccardo Minasi, Emmanuelle Haïm, Diego Fagiolis and George Petrou among them. He also collaborates regularly with the ensembles Il pomo d'oro and Armonia Atenea.
In July 2015 he became the first countertenor ever to be signed by Deutsche Grammophon. His partnership with the yellow label was launched two months later with the release of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice ("[Fagioli gives] a beautiful and dramatic performance", The Times), and continued in September 2016 with his debut DG solo recital disc. This album of Rossini arias, made in company with Armonia Atenea and George Petrou, also garnered widespread critical acclaim, Gramophone, for example, praising the singer's "quite remarkable florid agility". A new album of Handel opera arias is scheduled for release in January 2018.
Born in San Miguel de Tucumán (in northern Argentina), Franco Fagioli received piano lessons at the Tucumán Music Institute and progressed to study singing, first in his home city, then at the Superior Art Institute, the training academy of the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. The impressively accomplished young performer's career breakthrough came in October 2003 when he won the Bertelsmann Foundation's 10th "Neue Stimmen" International Singing Competition.
Fagioli soon confirmed the exceptional nature of his talent with a series of major operatic debuts: he took on the title-role in Handel's Giulio Cesare for Zurich Opera in 2005 with great success and has since played Caesar in productions around the world. In 2007 he made his debut at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival under Riccardo Muti, and he received a rapturous reception on his return in 2014 to perform a programme of virtuoso arias written by Rossini and Meyerbeer for Giambattista Velluti, the last great castrato. In May 2016 he returned to the Festival again to appear as Romeo in Nicola Antonio Zingarelli's Giulietta e Romeo. Fagioli made his United States debut at the beginning of 2010 with a triumphant performance in the title-role of Cavalli's Giasone for Chicago Opera Theater. In 2011 he became the first countertenor in thirty years to receive Italy's highest award for music, the Premio Abbiati.
Franco Fagioli has gained a reputation as one of today's finest Handelians. Apart from his successful debut performances in the role of Giulio Cesare, he received rave reviews for his interpretation of Ariodante in 2010 at the Karlsruhe Handel Festival, where he has appeared several times since. In 2014 and 2015 he starred there in the title-role of Riccardo Primo. His other Handel roles include Poro for the Halle Handel Festival, Teseo at the Stuttgart Staatsoper, and Bertarido in Rodelinda for the 2010 Festival della Valle d'Itria at Martina Franca. The latter, which launched a fruitful partnership with the conductor Diego Fasolis, prompted Italy's L'Opera magazine to name Fagioli "Singer of the Year". The countertenor's versatility and virtuosity were again on full display in 2012 at his Salzburg Summer Festival debut, where he drew on the rich lower regions of his voice to great effect in the demanding role of Andronico in Tamerlano. For his debut at the 2016 Aix-en-Provence Festival he sang the role of Piacere in a staged production of Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno which was revived at the Opéra de Lille and Théâtre de Caen early in 2017. This summer he reprised the role of Caesar at the Teatro Colón, and in September made an acclaimed house debut in La Scala's first ever production of Tamerlano ("Franco Fagioli's rich virtuosic countertenor voice is perfect for the tortured Andronico", Financial Times).
Diego Fasolis studied in Zurich, Paris and Cremona where he obtained four diplomas with distinction. He began his career in the 80s as a concert organist, performing regularly complete works by Bach, Buxtehude, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Franck and Liszt.
Having acquired a worldwide recognition, Fasolis was appointed Chief conductor of the Vocal and instrumental ensembles of Swiss Radio and Television in 1993. In 1998 he began conducting "I Barocchisti", a baroque orchestra with period instruments, which he founded with his wife Adriana Fasolis-Brambilla. After her premature death in 2013 he established a charitable foundation in her name to support young musicians. He also works as a guest teacher with leading groups and singers internationally.
Diego Fasolis is seen as a reference interpreters for historically informed music. His versatility and virtuosity are combined with a rigorous style, which is highly appreciated by the public and by international critics and press both in Europe and in the US.
He has been working with the acclaimed mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli since 2011, with projects including audio and video recordings as well as major concert tours around the world. Their last project is dedicated to Italian and German authors present in the St. Petersburg archives. Fasolis also conducted Bellini's Norma in Monte-Carlo starring Cecilia Bartoli as the title role.
A regular guest at the Salzburg Festival for concerts and opera engagements, (the latest being Iphigenie en Tauride), Diego Fasolis also conducted Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at the Vienna Musikverein, with the Concentus Musicus Wien, and the A. Schoenberg Choir.
In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Sacred Music.
With more than 120 CDs released by major international recording companies such as EMI-Virgin, Naïve, Universal Music and Warner Classic, Fasolis received numerous prizes for his commitment in the re-discovery of the operatic repertoire. Prizes include Disco d'Oro, the Grand Prix du Disque for his work on Handel and Vivaldi, Echo Klassic for the opera Artaserse by Leonardo Vinci. In 2014 he was nominated for two Grammy Awards for his work and for the triumphant "Mission" project with works by Agostino Steffani, and in 2015 for the "St. Petersburg" project with Cecilia Bartoli.
More recently, La Scala entrusted him with the creation of an orchestra on period instruments to perform Handel's Il Trionfo del tempo e del Disinganno and he conducted in 2017 Tamerlano with Placido Domingo at Teatro alla Scala. Other highlights among current and future engagements include Le Comte Ory at the Zurich Opernhaus, La Finta Giardiniera at Teatro alla Scala, La Cenerentola at the Opéra Royal in Liège, Così fan tutte at Teatro Regio in Turin, Clemenza di Tito at the Opéra de Lausanne and L'Incoronazione di Poppea at the Berlin State Opera.
Soprano Julia Lezhneva, "a serene, sleek voice" (Financial Times), and countertenor Franco Fagioli, "one of today's great vocal technicians" (The Guardian), partner with today's premier Vivaldi interpreters, Diego Fasolis and I Barocchisti, for an all-Vivaldi album. The new Decca album features the Baroque composer's Gloria (RV 589) complemented by Nisi Dominus with Fagioli and Nulla in Mundo Pax Sincera with Lezhneva.
Soprano Julia Lezhneva, "a serene, sleek voice" (Financial Times), and countertenor Franco Fagioli, "one of today's great vocal technicians" (The Guardian), partner with today's premier Vivaldi interpreters, Diego Fasolis and I Barocchisti, for an all-Vivaldi album. The new Decca album features the Baroque composer's Gloria, complemented by Nisi Dominus with Fagioli and Nulla in mundo pax sincera with Lezhneva.
Lezhneva, Fagioli, Fasolis: Vivaldi - Gloria is the WFMT: Chicago 'Featured New Release'
Two soloists who have greatly impressed in newly released recordings are Russian star in the making, coloratura mezzo-soprano Julia Lezhneva, displaying remarkable vocal gifts and the Argentinian falsettist Franco Fagioli who astonishes for his dexterity, unusually wide range and rich sonorous quality.
On this recent Decca release both voices join forces in a very fine recording of Vivaldi's perennial favourite Gloria, RV 589 along with his setting of Psalm 127 Nisi Dominus RV 608 composed to be sung during Vespers for the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and finally the solo motet Nulla in mundo pax sincera (In this world there is no honest peace), RV 630. The Lugano-based specialist ensembles I Barocchisti and Coro della Radiotelevisione svissera (Swiss Radio Choir) are conducted by their Swiss musical director and organist, Diego Fasolis. This instrumental ensemble, choir and director were entirely unknown to me, though on hearing them I am seriously impressed.
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