The Castrato and the King

It's no secret that Carlo, the castrato singing prodigy in my current novel project Cage of Nightingales, is named after the legendary Carlo Broschi, better known as Farinelli, who was born today in 1705 in Andria, Italy.  Among his many accomplishments, Farinelli spent over 20 years at the court of King Philip V of Spain, having been invited by the Queen, who believed Farinelli's singing could cure her husband's mental illness.

From my reading, I understand Farinelli to have been a kind, modest and generous man, who didn't let his international fame as a singer go to his head.  At Philip's court, he spent time every day singing to the king, playing the harpsichord, chatting to the king and praying with him.  Although it never completely cured the king's illness, it offered him a great deal of relief, and the royal family were extremely grateful.

One can only contrast this with the treatment forced on George III of Great Britain later in the century at the hands of the Willis brothers.  If I had to choose between being strapped in a chair, purged, and intimidated into sanity, and playing the harpsichord with a kindly singer - well, there wouldn't be much choice, would there?  It makes one wonder what the royal families of Europe were thinking, to come up with such highly contrasting treatments.  Thank heaven Farinelli's methods of music therapy and confidential listening have won out in our own day!

Research source: The World of the Castrati by Patrick Barbier (1996)


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