This remarkable movie filmed in 1994 won the Golden Globe award for foreign language films a year later. It traces the career of Carlo Broschi (1715-1782) who was castrated as a child to preserve his voice and who, years later as Farinelli, became possibly the greatest opera singer in history. He was the rock star of his day and his amazing voice is said to have provoked musical orgasms, with women fainting in droves in his audiences. The movie admittedly capitalizes on his erotic proclivities. Very well.
Since apart from a few recordings of Alessandro Moreschi in the early 1900’s, we have no recordings of castrato singers, an amazing hi-tech audio fusion of a contemporary coloratura soprano and a counter-tenor was created to provide the vocals. The sound track is available on CD and since the arias are complete and aren’t cut to fit the scenes, this separate collection is much more satisfying.
For music lovers and particularly afficionados of Baroque music, this is a must-see … a treat for the ears and eyes. . The vocals are spectacular as are the costumes and settings.
I am pleased to be able to include a link to the full movie, since it is extremely hard to find online. You Tube offers tantalizing segments. I am opining that because this particular version is in Italian, it may not have been subject to the same copyright laws as the original which is in French and Italian.
And to help you even before those opening credits … the ever reliable Wikipedia offers an excellent biography of Farinelli …. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farinelli
I recently discovered a modern singer who perhaps can give us a glimpse into what the castrati may have sounded like. Michael Maniaci is a true soprano … and unlike other male sopranos who had endocrinal absnormalities and never went through puberty, Maniaci developed normally. But his voice never ‘broke’ .
The result is possibly the most amazing voice in the world. Here is a interesting link featuring four sopranos. A female, a counter tenor/soprano, a boy soprano … and lastly Maniaci. These four singers share an exquisite aria … Handel’s “Ombra Mai fu” … and a comparison of the four voices can easily be made.
After decades of living enveloped in music … this aria still makes tears flow and for a few moments I imagine the notes reverberating through time and space … illuminating the Cosmos.