Anna Zayaruzny | Cheshire, CT United States | 01/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is possibly my favorite movie, and I was shocked to see bad customer reviews of it on Amazon.com. To set matters right: The film is amazing, both as a look at 18th-century attitudes towards music, and as a story about the many different incarnations love takes. The film's sex scenes are probably some of the most beautiful around, and those that feel they are unnecessary to the film are probably looking at the past through puritanical filters. (The twentieth century did not, in fact, invent good sex...) Castrati were, in fact, very much sex symbols in their time and farinelli, when in the service of the spanish king, was summoned ot him "most nights to sing until one or two o'clock in the morning," interptet it as you will. For more information on Castrati, see "Eunuchs and Castrati, a Cultural History" and also The chapter on castrati in "Singers of Italian Opera".As far as authenticity is concerned, the film portrays baroque audiences, with theior liveliness and level of involvement, beautifully, and I find the director's portrayal of Farinelli quite satisfactory. The machinery and decadence of the opera of the time is conveyed to perfection, and much research has obviously gone into the film.Handel's music, of course, speaks for itself. It can be easy to get lost in a Handel opera sometimes, among Da Capo arias, but this movie reminds us that this is, in fact, some of the most beautiful music ever written."
A very worthwhile movie, especially if you like baroque
Anna Zayaruzny | 01/14/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a female, I wept buckets when watching this movie. The melodrama was, perhaps, a bit exaggerated but not to the point of losing emotional poignancy. The acting was, generally, quite good, including the singing scenes. Yes, the lip-synching was noticeable, but people who complain should try caraoke-ing the simplest coloratura piece in front of a mirror to see how well they would do! They'd notice that they were lucky just to stay within the tempo. From the standpoint of history, the movie is inaccurate. Handel's Rinaldo was composed and staged well before Farinelli ever got to England, while the movie implies that the score stolen by Farinelli's paramour was new. Likewise, I doubt that Handel ever promised Farinelli to never compose another opera ever again, because Handel continued composing afterwards. From the musical standpoint, the movie is also inaccurate. For example, Farinelli is shown singing both "Cara sposa," Rinaldo's aria, and then "Lascia ch'io pianga," the "sposa's" aria, in the same performance. Obviously, no single performer would sing both lead roles on stage at the same time. But this is really not important. The music was there to give flesh to Farinelli's sacrifice for the sake of art. Thus, "Lascia ch'io pianga" (Let me cry over my cruel fate) was there as a symbolic expression of Farinelli's pain, and not simply as a musical vignette. Pity, that it wasn't translated in the subtitles for the ones who don't know much about baroque opera. As a final point, although the soundtrack was pretty impressive, I know of a couple of countertenors who (without any electronic morphing) could do better justice to the legend of Farinelli. Dominique Visse would be my first choice."
A Second Review Of A Great Film
Rudy Avila | Lennox, Ca United States | 07/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Director Gerard Corbiau's Farinelli won Best Picture of 1995. The foreign film, mixed Italian and French, retells the story of the famous and greatest castrato singer Carlo Broschi. The film is exotic, intensely emotional and loaded with beautiful music of the Baroque Era (1600-1750). With all the good things about this movie, comes some things that might be rather disturbing or inappropriate for a younger audience. This is assuredly an adult film. There are two explicit sex scenes at the beginning and end of the film. This is a movie for an adult who is interested in the period, in the life of the castrati and in opera at this time. The opening introduces Carlo Broschi as a little boy singing in the church choir. Another young lad has been castrated to preserve his voice and is so mortified he leaps to his death. Eventually Carlo's brother Riccardo is obligated to do the same to his brother. We don't learn until later in the film that it was Riccardo and not Carlos' brother that conducted the castration. Here, Farinelli is usually quite ill and is forced to take opium as medicine. Farinelli does not seem to think highly of his brother's operas, which are written exclusively for his voice. Instead, he believes the greatest composer of this time is George Frederic Handel, played convincingly by Jerome Krabbe. In a dinner party, in which the Nobles insult Handel, Farinelli is outraged and declares that Handel will long be remembered and not the Nobles and their operas. This ends up being true since Handel is considered one of the greatest composers of this period togeter with Johann Sebastian Bach.The movie has some inaccuracies and are not historically true. Naturally, this being a costume drama, there are some elements which were entirely fictional created for the sake of sensationalism. Although it is true Riccardo Broschi did compose operas for his brother Farinelli, there is no real evidence they "shared" the women they bedded. In the movie, a Countess is so enamored with Farinelli that she jumps into bed with him only to discover he's castrated. Thus, Riccardo plants the seed and Farinelli only lures the women into bed and seduces them. This is fabricated material to "sex up" the movie. In real life, Farinelli I'm inclined to believe was chaste. He sung many times for religious services and was a devout Catholic. He may not have been at all bitter for his castration since he lived like a king all his life, surrounded in luxury. He was well acquainted with European royalty, all of Europe loved him and he died after years of singing in the chambers of King Phillip of Spain. The rivalry between the Nobles Theatre Opera and Handel's opera company is true. In fact, it remains the only true thing about this movie. The English in London disliked the German foreigner Handel and his prominence in London. He was so beloved that even King George and Queen Anne protected him. The Nobles schemed endlessly to get rid of Handel. The portrayal of Handel as a musical genius, a man of stubborn, perfectionist character is all true. I think the most moving scenes are those with Handel, such as the scene in which Farinelli is overhearing him play the organ in the church and is moved by the music and the scene of Farinelli singing "Lascio Chio Pianga" from Rinaldo which ultimately moves Handel to tears. All the scenes of opera and Farinelli singing in his majestic costumes in this movie are stunningly beautiful. Finally, this movie's soundtrack is incredible. It contains the combined voices of tenor Derek Rogin and soprano Ewa Mallas as the singing voice of Farinelli. The arias sung here are taken from Riccardo Broschi's operas Idaspe and Artaserse and from Handel's Julius Caesar and Rinaldo. A superb film and a must see for fans of Baroque opera."
Never more impressed
Tatyanna Patten | VA, United States | 01/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have eclectic tastes--I watch Fellini, Altman, Halstrom, Eastwood, and Campion with equal enjoyment. But I have never been more impressed with a film than with "Farinelli."This is a character-driven story, not a plot-driven one. In "Farinelli" the essential debate in all art is fully played out on film: From whence does artistic beauty spring? From the interpretive vehicle or the creative one? From the source of the inspiration or from the one who is inspired? It even dares to ask whether there is an element of destruction in the act of creation. The triangles outlining this debate abound. Handel-Broschi-Farinelli is underscored by the relationships between Farinelli-Broschi-Alexandra and between Performer-Composer-Audience. I have seen this film 6 or 7 times and I still rediscover parallels along these themes. It is an impressive achievement to use art to outline art's own tensions without ever once losing sight of the overriding storyline or forcing your actors into unnatural posturing for the sake of making a debate point.Others have praised the sets, acting, music, lighting--in short, the ambience and opulence of the film. All that is here. And yet all that is also in "Amadeus" and "Immortal Beloved." What this offers that the others does not is the insider's take: If you watch this movie, you will feel Farinelli's emotions, Broschi's emotions and Handel's emotions as they strive for recognition through their art. This is not a movie from which you walk away sympathizing with one character or another. This is a movie from which you walk away knowing you have lived someone else's experience for a brief time."
Baroque slice of life
M. FUSCO | NEW YORK, NY | 03/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lavish, lusty, imaginative, free-wheeling bio-pic about the life of opera singer Farinelli, one of the great superstars of the 18th century. The sets and costumes are appropriately extravagant. The Baroque aesthetic is flamboyantly genuine. As Carlo and Riccardo Broschi, Stefano Dionisi and Enrico Lo Verso are both darkly beautiful and splendidly sexy.
The Church prohibited women from singing in Rome and, in its infinite wisdom, condoned the castration of talented boys to provide treble voices for the Sistine Chapel. Families would send a musical son to a conservatory for this purpose just as they might send another to a seminary for the priesthood. The great castrati, far from being greeted with the aversion of a modern sensibility, were venerated. Women wept, swooned, fainted at their performances, and they lived lives of great comfort.
Born Carlo Broschi, Farinelli was a musical genius with a voice of extraordinary facility, power, and beauty; his older brother Riccardo is portrayed here as a second-rate composer whose notoriety is entirely dependent upon the genius of his younger brother. This is just one of the historical facts that have been altered or exaggerated for the sake of dramatic effect.
Riccardo was a successful, if minor, composer. Their brotherly disputes were the subject of much gossip, but not for the reason promulgated in the film. Carlo took his stage name to honor a benefactor named Farina. He was reportedly not much interested in sex, but many castrati were highly sensual as Farinelli is depicted in the film. He never sang for Handel but the composer was a jovial man and treated musicians with respect. The decision to portray him as an ogre is the film's greatest, and most unnecessary, distortion.
The star of the film, ultimately, is the resplendent music. The voice of Farinelli (miraculously synthesized from a soprano and a counter-tenor) is glorious. The performances are joyously Baroque. And, considering the extraordinary beauty of Stefano Dionisi and Enrico Lo Verso, it is a luxurious feast for eyes as well as the ears."