The English clouded the legend of Farinelli in Spain

The English clouded the legend of Farinelli in Spain

Farinelli, as the Italian castrato Carlo Broschi went down in history (1705-1782), was one of the most famous singers of all time. He spent more than twenty years working in Spain at the service of Philip V Y Ferdinand VI, between 1737 and 1759, helping to strengthen the image of the Spanish monarchy abroad.

Now the researcher Daniel Martin Sáez, Doctor in Philosophy from the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), has studied for the first time the origin and genealogy of the Farinelli legend in Spain, in an article published in the Musicology Magazine.

Although it is one of the richest artistic and cultural episodes in the history of Europe, Martín Sáez argues that Farinelli's passage through Spain was marked by two myths that have overshadowed his role at court: “a 'entry myth' , where the castrato appears as the healer of the melancholic Philip V, and another ‘exit’, where a Carlos III lacking in musical taste would have mercilessly expelled him”.

Farinelli's fame as an excuse

Both myths were forged in the 18th century, when English ambassadors, writers, artists and historians used Farinelli's fame to criticize Spanish politics, in the middle of the war between England and Spain.

The researcher reviews several English press releases of the time, showing how Farinelli, who left England to work in Spain, became a curious casus belli (reason for war).

He also studies the correspondence of Benjamin Keene (English ambassador to Spain), the travel diaries of Johann George Keyssler (Fellow of the Royal Society), the musical historiography of John Hawkins and Charles Burney, or the work of Joseph baretti, then linked to the Royal Academy of Arts in London, demonstrating all kinds of mythopoietic inventions and plagiarism without contrast.

The nationalist musicology 19th century Spanish, which considered the historical influence of Italian musicians harmful, was the in charge of continuing the legend.

This can be seen in the works of Antonio Ferrer del Río, Soriano Fuertes, Barbieri, Carmena y Milan, Peña y Goñi, Mitjana, Cotarelo y Mori, Subirá and Martín Moreno, among others, that they repeat the myth without providing any source.

But so have his French and Italian biographers, from Giovenalle sacchi (1784) to Sandro Cappeletto (1995), going through René Bouvier (1943) and Patrick Barbier (1987), as well as the great dictionaries, as in the New Grove in the entries by Ellen T. Harris and Robert Freeman.

Resurgence of the same prejudices of the English press of the XVIII

In the last decade, according to Daniel Martín Sáez, we are attending a resurgence of the entry myth, both in the press and in historiography and in the artistic and theatrical sphere, where the mythological tradition around Farinelli also dates back to the 18th century.

The English historian Henry kamen He has repeated it lately in the article that he was commissioned for Broadway in December 2017, on the occasion of his compatriot Van Kampen's show on Farinelli, repeating the same prejudices of the English press of the 18th century.

The author pays special attention to the political, ideological and union motives that explain his survival in the present, from the black legend and Spanish nationalism to plagiarism or the use of inappropriate methodologies.

The results of this research, also defended in various international congresses of musicology, have been featured in recent months in new articles and radio shows.

Bibliographic reference:

M. MARTÍN SÁEZ, Daniel. "The legend of Farinelli in Spain: Historiography, mythology and politics", Magazine of Musicology, vol. XLI, No. 1 (2018), pp. 57-97. DOI: 10.2307 / 26452312.


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