Farinelli: A Portrait – Live in Bergen
Ann Hallenberg (mezzo-soprano)
Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
rec. live 26th May 2011, Bergen International Festival, Grieghallen, Bergen, Norway
Programme details at end of review
Sung Italian texts provided with translations in French and English
APARTÉ AP117 [69.00]
Released in 1994, the movie ‘Farinelli’, directed by Gérard Corbiau, won a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film (1995) and was nominated for an Academy Award, with the soundtrack selling more than a million copies. As a result, the name, life and career of the Italian castrato Carlo Broschi, known as Farinelli (1705-1782), are widely known worldwide. In addition, the success of the film and soundtrack, performed by Les Talens Lyriques directed by Christophe Rousset, contributed considerably to the international reputation of the period instrument ensemble. Incidentally, to replicate Farinelli’s castrato voice, the soundtrack employed a computerised fusion of two voices: American countertenor Derek Lee Ragin and Polish coloratura-soprano Ewa Mallas Godlewska.
For his concert at the 2011 Bergen International Festival, Christophe Rousset, with mezzo-soprano Ann Hallenberg and Les Talens Lyriques, decided on a programme that combined arias from the film with other scores from Farinelli’s repertoire. This Aparté album, the live recording of the Rousset/Wallenberg Bergen concert, serves as testimony to what was clearly a spectacular event.
Singing the castrato arias is Swedish coloratura mezzo-soprano Ann Hallenberg, a renowned Baroque specialist, in an eleven-aria programme of works from Broschi, Giacomelli, Porpora, Leo and Handel. The pair of Handel arias, although not forming part of Farinelli’s repertoire, was given by Hallenberg as encores at the concert. In addition, there is also an overture from Hasse’s opera seria Cleofide.
A highlight is the aria Son qual nave ch’agitata from the opera Artaserse by Farinelli’s brother, Riccardo Broschi. Here the hero Arbace in his squally aria compares himself to being on a ship during a storm at sea looking for the refuge of a harbour. In an uplifting performance full of invigorating energy, with her fluid and colourful voice, Hallenberg displays her coloratura to significant effect. Although not sung by Farinelli, the standout aria is Almirena’s Lascia ch’io pianga from Rinaldo,where, abducted and imprisoned by the sorceress Armida, she laments her future. This is an exquisite and highly affecting rendition of the Largo by Hallenberg, revealing her lovely smooth line with real clarity. Noticeable throughout the concert is Hallenberg’s innate ability to move effortlessly through her registers, and she is blessed with significant vocal power too. Under the authoritative direction of Christophe Rousset, classy Les Talens Lyriques perform immaculately, demonstrating elevated technical and artistic prowess. This is convincing playing on period instruments of invigorating vitality together with gratifying intonation and ensemble.
Recorded live from the festival at Grieghallen, Bergen, the engineers have excelled, providing closed recorded vividly clear sound with a satisfying balance between singer and orchestra. Difficult to understand is why an album as exceptional as this has taken over five years to appear. The well-produced booklet contains an instructive ten page essay titled ‘One God, one Farinelli’ by Laura Pietrantoni, plus a number of colour pictures, and I applaud Aparté for providing sung Italian texts with translations in French and English.
This captivating album of late-Baroque music strikingly sung by Ann Hallenberg is a veritable feast for the ear.
Riccardo BROSCHI (1698-1756)
1. Son qual nave ch’agitata (Arbace) – Artaserse [7.35]
2. Ombra fedele anch’io (Dario) – Idaspe [9.42]
Geminiano GIACOMELLI (1692-1740)
3. Giŕ presso al termine (Farnaspe) – Adriano in Siria [6.30]
Nicola PORPORA (1686-1768)
4. Si pietoso il tuo labro (Mirteo) – Semiramide riconosciuta [7.06]
5. Alto Giove (Acio) – Polifemo [10.19]
6. Passagier che incerto (Farnaspe) – Adriano in Siria [6.33]
Johann-Adolf HASSE (1699-1783)
7. Ouverture – Cleofide [7.35]
Leonardo LEO (1694-1744)
8. Che legge spietata (Arbace) – Catone in Utica [5.00]
9. Cervo in bosco (Arbace) – Catone in Utica [6.13]
Georg Friedrich HANDEL (1685-1759)
10. Sta nell’Ircana (Ruggiero) – Alcina [5.27]
11. Lascia ch’io pianga (Almirena) – Rinaldo [4.41]
12. In braccio a mille furie (Mirteo) – Semiramide riconosciuta [2.57]
APARTÉ AP117 [69.00]