Farinelli is the artistic name of Carlo Broschi, a young singer in Handel's time. He was castrated in his childhood in order to preserve his voice. During his life he becomes a very famous ...
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Corbiau repeats the Farinelli formula, artistic rivalry and social private drama expressed in dazzling, sometimes excessively lavish baroque scenery, music and costume, but this time in its... See full summary »
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Enrico Lo Verso,
Farinelli is the artistic name of Carlo Broschi, a young singer in Handel's time. He was castrated in his childhood in order to preserve his voice. During his life he becomes a very famous opera singer, managed by his mediocre brother (Riccardo).Written by
Michel Rudoy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Miranda Richardson and Armin Mueller-Stahl were offered roles. See more »
LIGHTING. In scenes that show stage lights and chandeliers, the focus on them is softened, but it can still be seen that the "lamps" and "candles" are in fact far too steady, and too smokeless, to be or to contain live flame. Gaslight was not brought into theatres until just after 1800 (in England), and limelight -- with real quicklime -- around 1820. Also, some outdoor lighting -- outside palaces, etc. -- is obviously too bright, blue- or green-shaded, smokeless, and sharp-edged to come from a bonfire. See more »
Fascinating World of Castrati Overshadowed by Brotherly Co-Dependency
Something seems strangely amiss with what could have been a fascinating historical glimpse into the world of the castrati (castrated male opera singers) in 18th-century Europe. This 1994 Belgian film is an opulent production full of stunning costumes and set decorations, but director Gerard Corbiau is far more focused on the co-dependency between two real-life brothers, Carlo Broschi, the swoon-worthy castrato known to the world as Farinelli, and his marginally talented composer brother Riccardo. Although there are glimpses of the castration that occurred when Carlo was ten, the narrative deals very little with the psychological anguish of this act, instead showing extravagantly vainglorious scenes of Farinelli's impact on audiences at the time. It's as if the story structure of the Baroque operas written at that time took over the sensibility of the screenplay and trivialized the human complexities into exaggerated melodrama.
Despite a valiant effort by Stefano Dionisi in the title role, Farinelli is portrayed as a moody, self-centered egotist rather than a misunderstood artist. Compounding the problem is the fact that his masculine speaking voice is at odds with his ethereal singing voice (obviously a creative decision so as not to alienate the general audience from the character's plight). Moreover, the computerized melding of countertenor Derek Lee Ragin and soprano Ewa Mallas Godlewska into Farinelli's voice simply does not sync up well with Dionisi's lip and throat movements. In other words, you simply don't believe it's Dionisi's voice coming out of him. When the film finally takes flight in the last third of the film, it's because the focus has shifted to the competitive, intense relationship between Farinelli and the great composer of the age, Handel. Jeroen Krabbe - familiar to American audiences for his nasty turn as Barbra Streisand's condescending husband in "The Prince of Tides" - plays Handel with such passionate fury that I wish the film was more about his character. This sequence climaxes with the film's musical highlight, a trio of wonderful, truly classic arias from Handel's "Rinaldo".
Unfortunately, the remaining musical performances are not nearly as absorbing and rather repetitive. The film again flails toward the end when we are given a rather silly scene involving a solar eclipse and gratuitous nudity with a ménage a trois among Farinelli, Riccardo and Alexandra, the woman who is - quite literally - between them. The remaining performances are fine with Enrico LoVerso conveying his Salieri-like inferiority with appropriate fervor, Elsa Zylberstein beguiling as Alexandra and Caroline Cellier doing a fine Jeanne Moreau impersonation as the jaded Margareth Hunter. Overall it's still a relatively disappointing movie saved by Handel's musical genius. Except for a few trailers, there are no extras with the DVD. For those interested in the world of the castrati in more penetrating detail, I suggest reading Anne Rice's 1982 novel, "Cry to Heaven", and the "Rinaldo" arias are better served by countertenor David Daniels and mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli on their 2002 cast recording conducted by Christopher Hogwood.
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