Founded in 1986, I Fagiolini has in recent years developed innovative theatrical productions of music conventionally presented in concert: Handel’s Acis with masks, Purcell’s Indian Queen with puppets, Renaissance madrigal comedies and ensaladas with more masks — all directed by Peter Wilson. In 2004 it began The Full Monteverdi, a dramatised account of the composer’s Fourth Book of Madrigals by John La Bouchardière which was performed 88 times, including a week at the Lincoln Center, and then turned into a film and released as a DVD. Ed Hughes’ The Birds, a new opera for vocal ensemble, speaker and no conductor, followed in 2005 (with The Opera Group), and in 2006 I Fagiolini toured its 1990s South African collaboration Simunye with the SDASA Chorale of Soweto.
In that year it received the Ensemble Prize from the Royal Philharmonic Society — the first time it had been awarded to any sort of early music ensemble.
In 2009 it launched Tallis in Wonderland with the Dutch company Artery — a new way of hearing Renaissance polyphony with six live singers and sound installation. In 2012 it premieres How like an Angel with Australian contemporary circus company Circa at the Perth Festival, Australia and all over the UK for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. I Fagiolini has also commissioned over 30 new works from Adrian Williams, Gabriel Jackson, Orlando Gough and many others, and recorded 18 CDs and two DVDs including Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts, which was awarded early music disc of the year by both Gramophone Magazine (UK) and Diapason (France). I Fagiolini has appeared around the world from the BBC Proms and the Lincoln Center Festival to the Far East and Africa and in 2012 was appointed as an ensemble in residence at the University of York.
Robert Hollingworth founded I Fagiolini in 1986. Directing the group has taken up most of his time, but he has directed other ensembles, notably the BBC Singers, NDR Chor, Accentus, The Academy of Ancient Music, The English Concert and the BBC Concert Orchestra. In 2004 he directed the Netherlands Chamber Choir in a ground-breaking new music-theatre project (Faust), co-created with Artery and set in startling venues such as a vast Amsterdam ship-building yard and a disused station. He has written and presented programmes for BBC Radio, notably The Early Music Show and Discovering Music, has been a judge on the UK’s Choir of the Year and has worked on a number of films including Quills. From 2006 to 2009 he was an artistic advisor to the York Early Music Festival, and since then he has advised the Trigonale Festival, Austria. In 2012 he was appointed as an Anniversary Reader to the University of York. Monteverdi and Monty Python are equal influences.