Italian friandises for the English palate: Farinelli in London

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Although London quickly developed into a leading centre of Italian opera after the genre’s introduction to the English capital, the drammi per musica composed or arranged for London differed considerably from their Italian counterparts, even allowing for divergences arising from local traditions and preferences. Scholars have noted, for example, the comparatively short recitatives and lesser dominance of Metastasian libretti. However, the modern understanding of Italian opera in London has been shaped largely by an almost exclusive focus in scholarship on Handel’s output, even though numerous operas by Italian composers were written or adapted for performance in London.

Eschewing both the emphasis on Handel and a composer-centred approach more generally, this paper examines the London roles of Farinelli, who appeared both in pre-existing Italian imports and new works by Italian composers between 1734 and 1737. Comparative analysis of these roles with the ones Farinelli sang in Italy, e.g., in Venice, sheds light on the idiosyncrasies of the dramma per musica in England, including aspects of musical form and style. It will offers insights into why, after his sensational debut and the triumphant 1734-35 season, Farinelli’s success with the London audience gradually declined to such an extent that, as Burney put it, he left the city ‘à la sourdine’.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2017
Event52nd International Musicological Colloquium Brno: South meets North: Italian music in transalpine regions during the 17th and 18th centuries - Department of Musicology, Masaryk University, Brno, Brno, Czech Republic
Duration: 23 Oct 201725 Oct 2017


Conference52nd International Musicological Colloquium Brno
CountryCzech Republic


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