Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/517

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FARINELLI.
505
 

emotion, if you would but be more simple and more expressive!' Farinelli adopted this admirable counsel, and became the most pathetic, as he was still the most brilliant, of singers.

Returning once more to Italy, he revisited with ever-increasing renown Venice, Rome, Ferrara, Lucca, and Turin. In 1734 he made his first journey to England. Here he arrived at the moment when the opposition to Handel, supported by the nobles, had established a rival Opera, with Porpora for composer, and Senesino, who had quarrelled with the great German, for principal singer. The enterprise, however, did not succeed, but made debts to the amount of £19,000. At this juncture Porpora naturally thought of his illustrious pupil, who obeyed the summons, and saved the house. He made his first appearance at the Theatre, Lincoln's Inn, in 'Artaserse,' the music of which was chiefly by Riccardo Broschi, his own brother, and Hasse. The most favourite airs were 'Pallido il sole,' set by Hasse and sung by Senesino; 'Per questo dolce amplesso,' by the same, and 'Son qual nave,' by Broschi, both the latter being sung by Farinelli. In the last, composed specially for him, the first note (as in the song in 'Eomene') was taken with such delicacy, swelled by minute degrees to such an amazing volume, and afterwards diminished in the same manner to a mere point, that it was applauded for full five minutes. After this, he set off with such brilliance and rapidity of execution that it was difficult for the violins of those days to accompany him. He sang also in 'Onorio,' 'Polifemo,' and other operas by Porpora; and excited an enthusiastic admiration among the dilettanti which finally culminated in the famous ejaculation of a lady in one of the boxes (perpetuated by Hogarth in the Rake's Progress)—'One God and one Farinelli!' In his first performance at Court, he was accompanied by the Princess Royal, who insisted on his singing two of Handel's songs at sight, printed in a different clef, and composed in a different style from any to which he had ever been accustomed. He also confirmed the truth of the story, that Senesino and himself, meeting for the first time on the same stage, Senesino had the part of a furious tyrant to represent, and Farinelli that of an unfortunate hero in chains; but, in the course of the first song, he so softened the obdurate heart of the enraged tyrant that Senesino, forgetting his stage character, ran to Farinelli and embraced him in his arms.' The Prince of Wales gave Farinelli a 'fine wrought-gold snuff-box, richly set with diamonds and rubies, in which was enclosed a pair of diamond knee-buckles, as also a purse of one hundred guineas.' This example was followed by most of the courtiers, and the presents were duly advertised in the Court Journal. His salary was only £1500, yet during the three years 1734, 5, and 6, which he spent in London, his income was not less than £5000 per annum. On his return to Italy, he built, out of a small part of the sums acquired here, 'a very superb mansion, in which he dwelt, choosing to dignify it with the significant appellation of the English Folly.'

Towards the end of 1736, Farinelli set out for Spain, staying a few months in France by the way; where, in spite of the ignorance and prejudice against foreign singers which then distinguished the French, he achieved a great success. Louis XV heard him in the Queen's apartments, and applauded him to an extent which astonished the Court (Riccoboni). The King gave him his portrait set in diamonds, and 500 louis d'or. Though the singer, who had made engagements in London, intended only a flying visit to Spain, his fortune kept him there nearly 25 years. He arrived in Madrid, as he had done in London, at a critical moment. Philip V, a prey to melancholy depression, neglected the affairs of the state, and refused even to preside at the Council. The Queen, hearing of the arrival of Farinelli, determined to try the effect of his voice upon the King. She arranged a concert in the next room to that which the King occupied, and invited the singer to perform there a few tender and pathetic airs. The success of the plan was instantaneous and complete; Philip was first struck, then moved, and finally overcome with pleasure. He sent for the artist, thanked him with effusion, and bade him name his reward. Farinelli, duly prepared, answered that his best reward would be to see the monarch return to the society of his Court and to the cares of the state. Philip consented, allowed himself to be shaved for the first time for many weeks, and owed his cure to the powers of the great singer. The Queen, alive to this, succeeded in persuading the latter to remain at a salary of 50,000 francs, and Farinelli thus separated himself from the world of art for ever. He related to Burney that during 10 years, until the death of Philip V, he sang four songs to the King every night without change of any kind. Two of these were the 'Pallido il sole' and 'Per questo dolce amplesso' of Hasse; and the third, a minuet on which he improvised variations. He thus repeated about 3,600 times the same things, and never anything else: he acquired, indeed, enormous power, but the price paid for it was too high. It is not true that Farinelli was appointed prime minister by Philip; this post he never had: but under Ferdinand VI, the successor of Philip, he enjoyed the position of first favourite, superior to that of any minister. This king was subject to the same infirmity as his father, and was similarly cured by Farinelli, as Saul was by David. His reward this time was the cross of Calatrava (1750), one of the highest orders in Spain. From this moment his power was unbounded, and exceeded that ever obtained by any singer. Seeing the effect produced on the King by music, he easily persuaded him to establish an Italian opera at Buen-retiro, to which he invited some of the first artists of Italy. He himself was appointed the chief manager. He was also employed frequently in political affairs, was consulted constantly by the minister La Enseñada, and was especially con-