Farinelli (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gérard Corbiau
Produced by Véra Belmont
Written by Marcel Beaulieu
Andrée Corbiau
Gérard Corbiau
Starring Stefano Dionisi
Enrico Lo Verso
Elsa Zylberstein
Music by Johann Adolf Hasse (composer: additional music)
Nicola Porpora (composer: additional music)
Ewa Malas-Godlewska (singer)
Derek Lee Ragin (singer)
Cinematography Walther van den Ende
Edited by Joëlle Hache
Stéphan Films
Italian International Film
Alinea Films
Union Generale Cinematographique
France 2 Cinéma
Studio Image
Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics (Region 1 DVD)
Release dates
  • 7 December 1994 (1994-12-07) (France)
  • 16 March 1995 (1995-03-16) (Italy)
Running time
111 minutes
Country Italy
Budget $8.9 million
Box office $11.5 million[1]

Farinelli is a 1994 internationally co-produced biographical drama film directed by Gérard Corbiau and starring Stefano Dionisi, Enrico Lo Verso, Elsa Zylberstein and Jeroen Krabbé. It centers on the life and career of the 18th-century Italian opera singer Carlo Broschi, known as Farinelli, considered the greatest castrato singer of all time; as well as the relation with his brother, composer Riccardo Broschi.


Although based on real-life events, dramatic license was taken to a great extent, and only the basic facts of Farinelli's life are correct, while the plot line is completely fictional and far removed from what is known about real-life Carlo Broschi (1705–1782). For example, the ambiguous relationship between the Broschi brothers, the stormy one with rival composer Handel, and Farinelli's own amorous escapades and over-the-top "rockstar" attitude are totally spurious. Additionally, Farinelli's brother is given much more importance than he actually had in his brother's career, while Porpora's own (and that of other composers of the Neapolitan School as well) is de-emphasized; the movie also offers a different explanation for how Carlo Broschi came to take the stage name Farinelli than what has been historically ascertained. George Frideric Handel, played by Jeroen Krabbé, is made out to be somewhat of a villain, a portrait based on the competition between the London theater at which Handel's music was played and the rival theater at which Farinelli sang for a short period.


Actor Role
Stefano Dionisi Carlo Maria Broschi
Enrico Lo Verso Riccardo Broschi
Elsa Zylberstein Alexandra
Jeroen Krabbé George Frideric Handel
Caroline Cellier Margareth Hunter
Renaud du Peloux de Saint Romain Benedict
Omero Antonutti Nicola Porpora
Marianne Basler Comtesse Mauer
Pier Paolo Capponi Broschi
Graham Valentine Prince de Galles
Jacques Boudet Felipe V
Delphine Zentout Young admirer


Although Dionisi provided the speaking voice (originally in French), Farinelli's singing voice was provided by the Polish soprano, Ewa Malas-Godlewska and a countertenor, Derek Lee Ragin, who were recorded separately then digitally merged to recreate the sound of a castrato. Its musical director was the French harpsichordist and conductor Christophe Rousset. The musical recording was made at the concert hall, the Arsenal in Metz, with the orchestra Les Talens Lyriques.

The movie is not dubbed into English; it is spoken in French and Italian, with subtitles. This matches fairly well the actual situation at the time, when French was the lingua franca of Europe, much as English is throughout the world today, and most letters, commentaries, official documents and books were written in that language, even well beyond the borders of France. In many scenes, Riccardo Broschi speaks to his brother in Italian, while Carlo replies in French; also, the English court visiting the Covent Garden Theatre speaks in French to the actors and composers, and that also is fairly acceptable from an historical standpoint.

Controversy over historical depictions[edit]

Although settings, scenery, costumes and props are true to the era, the producers also took many liberties with the physical appearances of the characters. According to some critics, the Broschi Brothers do not look anything like their original portraits show them to be and they maintain modern hairstyles and mannerisms. Nicola Porpora's disheveled, unshaven and scruffy appearance, although credible for a commoner of the era, does not make any sense for a person of his status from that period. Additionally, none of them ever wears a wig, which was almost mandatory for anybody, gentry level and up, well into the second half of the 18th century.


It was released in 1994 and won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film in 1995. It was also nominated for an Academy Award in the same category.[2]

DVD release[edit]

The film's "R" rating MPAA is due to depictions of adult themes and sexuality. The movie is available on a Region 1 DVD with a spoken track in French and Italian with a little English, and English and Spanish subtitles.

A director's cut Blu-ray edition is available from France, Italy or South Korea, but all of them lack English subtitles. The Korean version also includes a DVD-Audio 2.0 disc.

Japan is set to release a Blu-ray of the movie in September 2013.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]