The Farinelli Manuscript
Arias by Latilla, Conforto, Giacomelli, Mele and Anon.
Ann Hallenberg (mezzo-soprano); Stile Galante/Stefano Aresi
Glossa GCD 923521 72:04 mins
Illustrated and described by the conductor within an excellent booklet, the manuscript the legendary castrato sent in 1753 to the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria contains six arias and two recitatives which the singer had sung ‘to the private comfort of my endearing sovereigns’ in Spain – though as Stefano Aresi explains, their story is not quite the one that most of us know.
Also unfamiliar are the names of the composers – Gaetano Latilla, Niccolò Conforto, Geminiano Giacomelli and Giovanni Battista Mele, as well as Anon (possibly Farinelli himself in one case, plus some of his own decorations). Fascinating for their historical associations, the arias are less exceptional purely as music.
Mezzo Ann Hallenberg’s tone is mature, but her voice is still fluent and her technique skilful, with a solid range from the top to the bottom of her voice and an effective trill; diction could be clearer, and her medium-scale mezzo doesn’t always ride the orchestra, but she’s able to negotiate the programme’s fabled technical difficulties with confidence, if perhaps less virtuosically than the singer of legend once did.
The playing of the 12-piece orchestra is colourful and immediate, with particularly brilliant horns, while the music moves very nicely under Stefano Aresi. Vital sound.