I Fagiolini

Director: Robert Hollingworth

Photo: Eric Richmond
I Fagiolini are acknowledged worldwide as the most innovative British vocal ensemble specialising in early music. Their stylish staged productions of Renaissance and Baroque music-theatre works together with virtuosic performances of contemporary repertoire have won them friends from the BBC Proms to Soweto and brought this repertoire to both specialist and completely new audiences.

I Fagiolini’s Theatre of Music project presents newly commissioned or 16th/17th century music theatre masterworks that have been otherwise ignored due to their difficult context or complicated staging needs. Purcell’s Indian Queen wth puppets, masked Venetian comedies and mini dramas by Janequin (La Chasse) and Da Flecha (La Bomba, El Fuego) have all been brought back to life in highly imaginative settings by Peter Wilson (West End), John La Bouchardiere (English National Opera) and John Fulljames (Royal Opera House). Their current Monteverdi project was hailed by the Times as ‘A compelling but upsetting piece of theatre… A bleak but brilliant evening”, the Guardian as ‘an unforgettable experience’ and the Independent as ‘Music theatre hardly comes more visceral than this’.

The name I Fagiolini has been misspelt and mispronounced throughout the world. As well as working extensively in Western Europe, I Fagiolini have visited some of the most interesting countries on the globe, often as ambassadors for the British Council. Particular highlights include Hong Kong, China, Morocco, Egypt, Israel, The Ukraine and the USA. In April 1997 they spent two weeks in South Africa working with a choir from Soweto on a partly improvised album, Simunye. This original and moving project was released by Erato on their crossover label Detour, toured to Europe, South Africa and Bermuda and makes a comeback to the UK in May this year.

Collaborations have been a feature of recent years: Bach St.Passion with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, ‘Christmas Vespers in Venice’ with the English Cornett and sackbut Ensemble, Byrd with Fretwork and Concordia and a new project with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Robert Hollingworth.

I Fagiolini have just begun a new series of Monteverdi recordings for Chandos as well as making a TV film of ‘The Full Monteverdi’. They have released twelve other CDs including English Renaissance works and a focus on Venice with Carnevale Veneziano, Andrea Gabrieli - The Madrigal in Venice: Politics, Dialogues and Pastorales, (nominated for a Gramophone award) and a DVD of Vecchi’s masked comedy L’Amfiparnaso with actor Simon Callow. This was the first DVD of a staged Renaissance work described as ‘a silk purse [turned] into one beaded in gold… we end up with the best of all worlds’ (Gramophone) and ‘a triumph for I Fagiolini and Chandos and a benchmark for the DVD industry as a whole’ (International Record Review).

I Fagiolini’s fast rising educational profile takes in all ages, from adult masterclasses at the Dartington International Summer School to children’s workshops funded by the National Foundation of Youth Music. For further information and the mailing list visit www.ifagiolini.com.

Robert Hollingworth founded I Fagiolini in 1986. Directing this group has taken up most of his time since but he has directed other ensembles at home and abroad, most recently the Netherlands Chamber Choir in a ground-breaking new music-theatre project (Faust) universally acclaimed by the Dutch press and set in startling venues such as a Amsterdam vast ship-building yard and a disused station. He directed Opera Zuid’s underground production of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo (with Rufus Müller in the title role), and the BBC Concert Orchestra in a project with ‘The Full Monty’ composer, Anne Dudley. He founded the spectacular Islington Winter Music Festival, writes and presents programmes for BBC Radio 3 and has worked on a number of films including Quills.