Farinelli, Le Chanteur des Rois     (Rene Bouvier)
Item# B0928
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Farinelli, Le Chanteur des Rois     (Rene Bouvier)
B0928. René Bouvier. Farinelli, Le Chanteur des Rois . Paris, Albin Michel, 1943. 283 pp. Bibliography. Illus. (French Text) Softbound

CRITIC REVIEW:

"Farinelli (24 January 1705 – 16 September 1782, was the stage name of Carlo Maria Michelangelo Nicola Broschi, celebrated Italian castrato singer of the 18th century and one of the greatest singers in the history of opera. Unlike many castrati, who came from poor families, Farinelli was well-to-do, and was related to minor nobility on both sides of the family.

Carlo had already shown talent as a boy singer, and was now introduced to the most famous singing-teacher in Naples, Nicola Porpora. Already a successful opera composer, in 1715 Porpora was appointed maestro at the Conservatory of S. Onofrio, where his pupils included such well-known castrati as Giuseppe Appiani, Felice Salimbeni, and Gaetano Majorano (known as Caffarelli), as well as distinguished female singers such as Regina Mingotti and Vittoria Tesi; Farinelli may well have studied with him privately.

Under Porpora's tuition, his singing progressed rapidly, and at the age of fifteen he made his début a serenata by his master entitled Angelica e Medoro. The text of this work was the first by the soon-to-be-famous Pietro Trapassi (known as Metastasio), who became a lifelong friend of the singer. Farinelli remarked that the two of them had made their débuts on the same day, and each frequently referred to the other as his caro gemello (‘dear twin’). The derivation of Broschi's stage name is not certain, but it was possibly from two rich Neapolitan lawyers, the brothers Farina, who may have sponsored his studies.

Farinelli quickly became famous throughout Italy as il ragazzo (‘the boy’). In 1722, he first sang in Rome in Porpora's FLAVIO ANICIO OLIBRIO, as well as taking the female lead in SOFONISBA by Luca Antonio Predieri. (It was common practice for young castrati to appear en travesti). All these appearances were greeted with huge public enthusiasm, and an almost legendary story arose that he had to perform an aria with trumpet obbligato, which evolved into a contest between singer and trumpeter. Farinelli surpassed the trumpet player so much in technique and ornamentation that he ‘was at last silenced only by the acclamations of the audience’ (to quote the music historian Charles Burney. This account, however, cannot be verified, since no surviving work which Farinelli is known to have performed contains an aria for soprano with trumpet obbligato.”

- Z. D. Akron