Farinelli: A Portrait (Live in Bergen)

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COMPOSERS: Broschi,Giacomelli,Handel,Hasse,Leo,Porpora
LABELS: Aparté
ALBUM TITLE: Farinelli: A Portrait (Live in Bergen)
WORKS: Arias by Broschi, Giacomelli, Porpora, Hasse, Leo, Handel and Porpora
PERFORMER: Ann Hallenberg (mezzo-soprano); Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
CATALOGUE NO: AP 117

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In 1994 Christophe Rousset and his band recorded the music for the film Farinelli. Not only did the soundtrack sell over a million recordings, but it sparked numerous other Farinelli-themed CDs and DVDs. In 2011, Rousset reclaimed the 18th-century castrato’s music, creating a new Farinelli-centric programme sung by Ann Hallenberg, with which they toured. This recording is their performance at the Bergen International Festival.

It far surpasses the soundtrack. Hallenberg is a force of nature, in stark contrast to the synthetic singing of the film, for which sound engineers fused a mezzo with a male alto voice. Hallenberg’s voice is unmistakably her own, and the crackling tension of live performance fills every phrase. Her swaggering fireworks culminate in a final aria of almost ludicrous velocity. Her lyricism is equally powerful, thanks partly to Rousset. Creating hushed silences or soft tremolos, he subtly makes space for her vocal entries and colours. Aiding her further is Rousset’s programme: he has replaced about half the film soundtrack arias, improving the balance between bravura and pathos. The two arias recorded for the first time, by Leo and Giacomelli, are gems. Although a live recording, its sound quality is warm and clean.

Rousset uses his vision – as artist, scholar and impresario – to re-imagine music which had become faddish. Do replace any impressions from the film with this CD.

Berta Joncus

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Listen to an excerpt from this recording here.