'Il novello Orfeo' Farinelli: vocal profile, aesthetics, rhetoric

Desler, Anne (2014) 'Il novello Orfeo' Farinelli: vocal profile, aesthetics, rhetoric. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Although Farinelli has received a great deal of attention in scholarship, the early music performance scene and in popular culture, little has been written about his singing. The current perception of Farinelli’s musical profile is based almost entirely on the research of Franz Haböck from the beginning of the 20th century and the writings of Charles Burney. As a result of the emphasis of both writers on Farinelli’s bravura singing, the singer’s name has become synonymous with castrato virtuosity. This study takes a more diffentiated approach. It reconstructs the artistic persona of Farinelli from libretti, scores and documentary evidence, evaluates the veracity of anecdotal information pertaining to his singing that has so far been accepted largely at face value and considers the aesthetic implications of Farinelli’s singing.

Part I of this study seeks to reconstruct Farinelli’s vocal profile. In chapter 1, contemporary descriptions by earwitnesses are examined and evaluated with regard to important aspects of his singing, i.e., the sound quality, volume and range of his voice, technical elements such as his trill, agility and breath control, ornamentation and improvisation and, finally, his acting. Chapter 2 summarises the main stages of the singer’s operatic career. The purpose of this chapter is not to reiterate biographical information, but to provide an outline that can serve as a framework for the discussion of the development of Farinelli’s vocal technique, personal style and reception. The chapter also identifies important points of professional interaction between Farinelli and other famous singers. Chapter 3 falls into two parts. Firstly, the main elements of vocal technique, as described in the vastly influential vocal treatises of Tosi and Mancini, are outlined in relation to notational practice of 18th-century manuscript scores and their relevance to the music sung by Farinelli. Secondly, the development of Farinelli’s voice in terms of the singer’s vocal technique, range, volume and details of style is discussed on the basis of the analysis of Farinelli’s operatic roles. Chapter 4 focuses on the analysis and contextualisation of important stylistic changes that occured during Farinelli’s career. Throughout, Farinelli’s stylistic choices are discussed in relation to the aesthetic preferences of the different audiences he encountered.

Part 2 explores aspects of Farinelli’s artistic profile from the vantage points of aesthetics and rhetoric. Based on analyses of Farinelli’s arias on nightingale metaphors, chapter 5 discusses the conceptual frameworks and aesthetic issues that have often resulted in a critical reception of his virtuosity, both during his lifetime and in the 20th century. Chapter 6 examines the manner in which the principles of rhetoric have been applied to 18th-century music in recent scholarship. It argues for a different, more integrated approach that reflects the performance-centred period understanding of rhetoric, which, unlike the modern understanding, was not yet inflected by the author and work concepts. Chapter 7 analyses rhetorical strategies in Farinelli’s Venetian bravura arias and their implications with regard to the issues of authorship and the relationship between performer and audience. In chapter 8, the text-music relationship and communicative strategies in Farinelli’s slow expressive arias are scrutinised.

The conclusion briefly assesses the impact of Farinelli on Italian opera, theatrical performance practice and musical aesthetics.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Carlo Broschi Farinelli, dramma per musica, opera seria, 18th century opera, castrato, star singer, star persona, rhetoric, aesthetics, singing technique, singing style, Venice, Naples, Porpora, virtuosity, libretto, Metastasio, Nicolini, Mancini, Tosi
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Music
Supervisor's Name: Butt, Professor John
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Dr Anne Desler
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5743
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 18 Dec 2014 15:01
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2014 15:04
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/5743

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