Open main menu

Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/516

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

at the time when Latin began to be a tongue 'not understanded of the people.' The farsia was sung in many churches at the principal festivals, almost universally at Christmas. It became a vehicle for satire and fun, and thus led to the modern Farsa or Farce, an opera in one act, of which the subject is extravagant and the action ludicrous.

[ J. H. ]

FARINELLI. A serio-comic opera in 2 acts; words by C. Z. Barnett, music by John Barnett; produced at Drury Lane Feb. 8, 1839, Balfe acting Farinelli, and being forced by hoarseness to leave off at end of 1st act.

FARINELLI, a violin-player and composer, was either a brother or an uncle [App. p.633 "omit the words 'either a brother or.'"] of the celebrated singer Farinelli (Carlo Broschi). Date and place of his birth and death are unknown. After living for some time in France we find him in 1680 at Hanover, side by side with Handel, as leader of the band. He appears to have enjoyed a great reputation as a performer, and considerable popularity as a composer of instrumental music in a light and pleasing style. He excelled especially in the performance of Lulli's airs and his own so-called 'Folia,' which was known in England during the last century as 'Farinell's[1] ground.' [See Folia.] Farinelli was knighted by the King of Denmark, and, according to Hawkins, was appointed by George I. his resident at Venice.

[ P. D. ]

FARINELLI, Carlo Broschi, detto, was born January 24, 1705, at Naples, according to his own statement made to Dr. Burney, who saw him at Bologna in 1770, though Padre G. Sacchi, his biographer, fixes his birthplace at Andria. Some say that he derived his sobriquet from the occupation of his father, who was either a miller or a seller of flour {farina); others contend that he was so named after three brothers Farina, very distinguished amateurs at Naples, and his patrons. It is, however, quite probable that he simply took the name of his uncle Farinelli, the composer. Sacchi declares that he saw in Farinelli's possession the letters of nobility which he was required to produce when admitted, by the favour of the King of Spain, into the orders of Calatrava and St. lago. It seems scarcely credible that noble parents should have destined their son for the musical stage, or consented to the peculiar preparation necessary to make him a soprano; but this, as usual, is explained by the story of an accident having happened to the boy while riding, which rendered necessary the operation by which he retained his treble. The voice, thus manufactured, became the most beautiful ever heard. He soon left the care of his father, who taught him the rudiments, to enter the school of Porpora, of whom he was the first and most distinguished pupil. In spite of his now explicit statement to Dr. Burney, it is not possible that Farinelli could have made his début at Naples in 1720, at the age of 15, in Metastasio's 'Angelica e Medoro'; for the latter did not leave Rome till 1721, and 'Angelica e Medoro' was not written before 1722. (Fétis.) In that year Farinelli, already famous in southern Italy under the name of il ragazzo (the boy), accompanied Porpora to Rome, and made his first appearance there in 'Eomene,' composed by his master for the Teatro Aliberti. There was a German trumpet-player at that time in the capital, who excited the admiration of the Romans by his marvellous powers. For this artist Porpora wrote an obbligato part to a song, in which his pupil vied with the instrument in holding and swelling a note of extraordinary length, purity, and volume. Although the virtuoso performed this in a wonderful manner, Farinelli excelled him in the duration, brilliance, and gradual crescendo and diminuendo of the note, while he carried the enthusiasm of the audience to the highest pitch by the novelty and spontaneity of the shakes and difficult variations which he introduced into the air. It is probable that these were previously arranged by Porpora, and not due to the impromptu inspiration of the singer. Having remained under the instruction of his master until 1724, Farinelli made his first journey to Vienna in that year. A year later he sang for the first time at Venice in Albinoni's 'Didone abbandonata,' the libretto by Metastasio; and subsequently returned to Naples, where he achieved a triumph in a Dramatic Serenade by Hasse, in which he sang with the celebrated cantatrice, Tesi. In 1726 he appeared in Fr. Ciampi's 'Ciro' at Milan; and then made his second visit to Rome, where he was anxiously expected. In 1727 he went to Bologna, where he was to meet the famous Bernacchi, the 'King of Singers,' for the first time. Meeting this rival in a Grand Duo, Farinelli poured forth all the beauties of his voice and style without reserve, and executed a number of most difficult passages, which were rewarded with tumultuous applause. Nothing daunted, Bernacchi replied in the same air, repeating every trill, roulade, or cadenza, which had been sung by Farinelli. The latter, owning his defeat, entreated his conqueror to give him some instruction, which Bernacchi, with equal generosity, willingly consented to bestow; and thus was perfected the talent of the most remarkable singer, perhaps, who has ever lived.

After a second visit to Vienna in 1728, Farinelli went several times to Venice, Rome, Naples, Piacenza, and Parma, meeting and vanquishing such formidable rivals as Gizzi, Nicolini, Faustina, and Cuzzoni, and everywhere loaded with riches and honours. In 1731 he visited Vienna for the third time. It was at this point that he modified his style, from one of mere brilliance and bravura, which, like a true pupil of Porpora, he had hitherto practised, to one of pathos and simplicity. This change is said to have been suggested by the Emperor Charles VI. 'You have,' he said, 'hitherto excited only astonishment and admiration, but you have never touched the heart; it would be easy to you to create

  1. D'Urfey wrote his song 'Joy to great Cæsar' in honour of Charles II. to 'divisions' on this bass; it must, therefore, have been composed before 1685.