Friday , January 24 2020
Farinelli: Kinderstimme im erwachsenen Mann

Musicologist on Farinelli: Music for the Depressed King

He came, sang and inspired. For three years – from 1734 to 1737 – Farinelli, the most famous castrato in world history, worked at the London "Adelsoper".

"Everyone was entranced, delighted, charmed," said Charles Burney, a pioneer of music research. The Englishman – critical distance to a research object did not yet exist in science at that time – raved about the singing art of the Italian: "He had advantages, which one did not meet before or after him with any humans together."

Burney contributed significantly to the fact that Farinelli, who lived from 1705 to 1782 and was actually Carlo Broschi, was already in his lifetime a legend and idealized. In one of his books on the history of music, which appeared at the end of the 18th century, the researcher reported on the first meeting of the castrato with the Spanish king Philip V, who participated in severe depressions suffered and liked to crawl into his chambers. According to Burney, the monarch heard Farinelli singing in a room next door and was so enthusiastic that he summoned the virtuoso after the second aria to overwhelm him with compliments and caresses. "From then on, the king's illness was treated medically and the singer was blamed for the cure," Burney diagnosed.

Originally, Farinelli wanted three months in Madrid stay. This became 23 years. He said goodbye to the opera stage and only played for the Spanish royal family. What exactly the Italian sang, whether for tens of years, evening after evening, the same arias – four or eight, both numbers circulating – and he really eased the king's depression, is as open as the never-to-be-clarified question: what sounded like childlike voice in the body of an adult man?

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Child's voice in the adult man

Six years before he left Spain, Farinelli sent a splendid volume to Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria, in March 1753, which is now kept in the Vienna National Library. It contains eight vocal compositions, which the castrato described as "a small selection" of works that he sang "for many years without interruption" at the court and – as Farinelli wrote – later "an idea of ​​my vocal range and the other qualities of my voice." should mediate.

The Italian conductor and musicologist Stefano Aresi has done nothing less than to free Farinelli and his heritage from the burden of legends. He examined the Viennese manuscript and under the impression of his findings recorded the eight pieces with his ensemble "Stile Galante" and the Swedish mezzo-soprano Ann Hallenberg for the first time completely on CD. They all come from composers, almost all of them completely forgotten. A world premiere is also that all the repetitions of certain ariane parts added by Farinelli were taken into account.

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Ann Hallenberg & Stefano Aresi
The Farinelli Manuscript – Arias of Latilla, Conforto, Giacomelli & Mele


Glossa (Grade 1 Music GmbH)


EUR 14.31

Aresi expressly refrained from earning wins by Farinelli's teacher Nicola Antonio Porpora, Johann Adolph Hasse or even George Frideric Handel. The latter did not write anything for Farinelli in London because he performed for Porpora's "Adelsoper", which competed with Handel's music theater. "To this day, the arias of the Vienna manuscript are the only ones we can safely assume that they were sung at the famous night concerts for the Spanish royal family of Farinelli," Aresi told the SPIEGEL. "Burney's information was extremely unreliable."

In the baroque it was common practice that compositions were adapted again and again to different circumstances. Aresi also took that into consideration. Number of musicians and their distribution in space are based on documents of the Spanish court. Hallenberg is accompanied by just twelve instrumentalists – in an opera house of the time it was much more. As a result, the accompaniment of the mezzo-soprano seems very delicate to ascetic, which could disappoint some listeners who are used to Baroque exuberance and expected.

The chamber music character is pure intention. "I put a lot of emphasis on historical care," says the Italian. In addition, it must be firmly assumed that the royal family was above all the fabulous skills of Farinelli, to whom she paid a sumptuous salary. Aresi therefore relies entirely on the voice and virtuosity of Hallenberg, which presents all the breakneck embellishments and jumps breathtakingly secure. The Italian says: "You have to be ready to leave behind the generally accepted vision of Farinelli's artistic and musical personality." Hallenberg, Aresi and his ensemble did it – and did well.

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