Italian culture abroad – Tribute to Farinelli in Mexico

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If you are unfamiliar with the strong influence of the Arts on Mexican culture, you can be forgiven for not knowing that productions of Italian opera and music are extremely popular in Mexico. The Teatro del Bicentenario in central Mexico figures prominently among venues for high quality productions that feature international guests as well as a host of local musicians and artisans. This year’s offerings are highlighted by a tribute to the great 18th century Italian castratto singer Carlo Maria Michelangelo Nicola Broschi, better known by his stage name, “Farinelli.” The tribute is an international effort, woven of the talents of many international stars, and is part of a wider festival celebrated in Leon, Guanajato, the wildly popular Cervantino Festival, an annual event dedicated to the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote.

Farinelli, the singer who is inspiring tributes almost three centuries after his career, was born into a family of musicians in 1705 in Andria, which is now Apulia, Italy. He made his first appearance in 1724 in Vienna, then subsequently appeared in Bologna in 1727, where he met the famous castrato Antonio Bernacchi. He had an illustrious and prosperous career in Europe and eventually retired in Bologna. Besides being a singer, he was also a harpsichord player and occasionally composed music. He had an enviable collection of keyboard instruments, especially a piano made in Florence in 1730 (called in the will cembalo a martellini), and violins by Stradivarius and Amati.

The threads of Farinelli’s life came together in the “Tributo a Farinelli” (Tribute to Farinelli) on October 25th. The French ensemble Les talens lyriques played the instruments, and interpreted baroque works by Broschi, Porpora, Hasse, and Leo. Swedish mezzosoprano Ann Hallenberg sang the parts that would have been Farinelli’s in a musical ensemble under the direction of the harpsichordist and conductor Christophe Rousset.

Opera and classical music were part of the language of the predominant culture in Farinelli’s time. All these years later, it is truly astonishing to see that his legend lives far beyond the borders of Italy; it came alive at the Teatro del Bicenentario in America.

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