Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Years and years ago I watched a movie named Farinelli purely by chance. It made an impression on me. Not because the movie was exceptional but because of the voices emanating from the throat of the central character, the eponymous Farinelli, who was a castrato. They sounded almost surreal.

Farinelli, born Carlo Broschi, was one of the greatest castrati singers of all time. He is reputed to have had a range of a more than 3 octaves. That is phenomenal! I aspire to sing and I know what it takes me to go up one octave!

He was a contemporary of one of the greatest composers of the Baroque period of Western Classical music, namely Handel. In fact there is a story about how he sided a faction that had put up a rival opera, to Handel's, but which failed in spite of Farinelli, with his by then great fame, throwing his weight behind it.

Pope Leo XIII banned castrati from performing in the Church in 1902. I have heard a scratchy recording of the last castrato, one Alessandro Moreschi, and he is very good.

I can only imagine what Farinelli must have sounded like! This is where time travel would have been awesome! Of course I would then listen live to Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn!!

Speaking of Beethoven, there is this amusing anecdote I heard long ago about that man's awareness of his own greatness AND his place in history. He had handed sheets of music to a conductor who, after looking through, said, "What is this? Music? I don't understand it!". To this Beethoven is reported to have replied, "Don't worry. Just play it. It's not meant for you. It's meant for a later generation."!

1 comment:

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