Biography of Castratti Singer Carlo Broshi Farinelli Part 2

About the famous castratti singer Carlo Broshi Farinelli, history and biography of the man with the voice of a boy.


Carlo Broschi Farinelli (1705-1782)

In 1727 he was pitted in a public exhibition of vocal skills against the noted singer Bernacchi. Farinelli lost. Finding the defeat unbearable, he managed, through cunning and persistence, to persuade Bernacchi to instruct him in the art of coloratura. When in time the pupil surpassed the teacher, the last of Farinelli's rivals was vanquished. Clearly fame and fortune were his for a song. George Frederick Handel's music was at the peak of popularity, and Farinelli's brilliant execution of this master composer's works, as well as that of other composers, made him the idol of the music world.

Entrepreneurs offered staggering fees for his performances. Royal houses vied for his talent. According to one report, "It is difficult to imagine the furor which his appearance caused in London in 1734."

While en route to Spain in 1747, Farinelli stopped in France to sing for the king. As a token of appreciation, Louis XV presented his portrait, set in diamonds, to Farinelli. The singer had been summoned to Spain by King Philip V, who was in a deep depression so incapacitating that it was known as "black melancholia." Miraculously, Farinelli's voice soothed the ruler and revived his spirits and his ability to function. Pleas from the queen, as well as the lures of power and wealth, caused Farinelli to agree to remain at the Spanish royal court. For the last 10 years of the monarch's life, Farinelli sang four arias to him every night. The two which never varied were Hasse's "Pallido e Sole" and "Per Questo Dolce Amplesso."

Ferdinand VI, Philip's successor, asked Farinelli to stay on during his reign, which lasted 15 years. For his presence the singer demanded, and was granted, even more political power. He was given the much-coveted rank of knight of Calatrava, which made him a prince, and he used his influence to create an Italian opera tradition in Madrid which resulted in years of Italian domination of Spain's lyrical theater.

After the Spanish crown was placed on Charles III's head, Farinelli fell from favor. Although retained on the new king's payroll, he was banned from the country.

Lacking facts, we can only speculate on what it was about Farinelli that King Charles III found intolerable. Perhaps Il Ragazzo, as he aged, took on the classic characteristics of many eunuchs. Tormented by the atrocity imposed on them, castrati often overcompensated by becoming cruel and vindictive.

During the remainder of his life, which ended on July 15, 1782, Farinelli lived in splendor in Bologna in what has been described as "a fairy castle." There he worked at mastering the harpsichord and viola and put together an interesting collection of keyed instruments. He was unable to find inner peace, however, and he spent the last years of his life painfully victimized by severe melancholia.

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