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The soundtrack of FARINELLI, which features the recreation of the castrato voice using a digitally 'morphed' mixture of a counter tenor (Derek Lee Ragin) with a soprano voice (Ewa Mallas Godlewska) was directed by Christophe Rousset, director and founder of Les Talens Lyriques and a celebrated harpsichord soloist. Derek Lee Ragin, an African-American born in New York, is in high demand for staged opera and studio recordings. Ewa Mallas Godlewska, born in Warsaw, made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1992.


Le projet Farinelli

The recreation of the voice of Farinelli, with its superhuman quality was unquestionably the greatest challenge faced by Gerard Corbiau when deciding to make FARINELLI.

Corbiau's first problem was the lack of recorded proof of what Castrati sounded like since all that exists is a recording by the last castratro, Alessandro Moreschi, dating from 1902 and some amateur recordings. Thus the only real way to research Farinelli's voice was to read written accounts about his performances.

The second problem was how to recreate Farinelli's voice. The first solution suggested by the musical team was to create a synthesized voice. The idea, however, was abandoned as it became obvious that the most powerful computers and fabulous synthesizers could not reproduce the unique richness, sensitivity and emotion of the human voice.

Since no single living person has the vocal range of a castrato (three and a half octaves), the musical team decided to try and work with two voices, a counter-tenor and a soprano, with the objective of digitally fusing them so they would sound like a single voice. So they began their search for two singers who had the quality they were looking for and who would be prepared to take part in this experiment.

Marc David, a musical consultant on the film, found the two singers: counter- tenor Derek Lee Ragin and soprano Ewa Mallas Godlewska. The sound-track was recorded over a period of many months during 1993 and 1994 in Switzerland under the guidance of Christophe Rousset. To create an appropriate acoustical sound, a concert hall was used for the recording, and the singers were backed by musicians to create a warmer, more sensual sound.

Then came the complicated job of editing the material. Sound engineer, Jean- Claude Gaberel, digitally fused the two voices. The process was lengthy and complicated, at times the music was edited note by note. This first stage of the editing process took ten months and involved three thousand edits.

Then came the work of the technical team from IRCAM whose objective was to homogenize the tone quality of the two singers so the voice of Farinelli was 'clean.' The vocal soundtrack of each singer was "photographed" and the constituent frequencies of the timbre of each voice was identified and analyzed vowel by vowel in order to establish a data base of information. Once this huge undertaking was over, the voices could be digitally fused to perfection.

This process is a type of "morphing" a technique hitherto used to treat visual images so one seems to fuse into another through the gradual modification of form, texture and contour.

The voice of counter-tenor, Derek Lee Ragin was treated first and then the voice of soprano, Ewa Mallas Godlewska was modified to approach that of the counter-tenor, using a computer program created specifically for this project.

Between Baroque and Classical Eras

The 18th Century was a period of transition, marked by two distinct musical styles: Baroque and Classical.

The Baroque style, born in Italy at the beginning of the 17th Century, was popular through the mid-18th Century. This passionate, emotive and extremely ornate musical style, quickly spread throughout Europe to become the dominant musical form. Key composers in this style include: In Italy: Monteverdi (1567-1643), Corelli (1653-1713), A. Scarlatti (1660-1725), Pergolesi (1710-1736), Vivaldi (1678-1741), Albinoni (1671-1750), D. Scarlatti (1685-1757); In France: Lully (1632-1687), M.A. Charpentier (1636-1704), Delalande (1657- 1726), Couperin (1668-1733), Rameau (1683-1764); In Germany: Pachelbel (1653-1706), Bach (1685-1750), Telemann (1681-1767), Hasse (1699-1783); In England: Purcell (1659), Handel (1685-1759).

The Classical style, exemplified by three great composers, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, developed essentially in the second half of the 18th Century and concluded with the appearance of the first Romantics, in the 19th Century. Unlike Baroque, the Classical style is characterized by its concern for balance as well as a sense of order and moderation. More than merely a reaction to the excesses of Baroque, the Classical style embraces logical musical development rather than abrupt change. Other important Classical composers include: Gluck (1714-1787), C.P.E. Bach (1714-1788), Cimerose (1749- 1801), Boccherini (1743-1805).


Riccardo Broschi (1698-1756) Qual guerriero in campo armato (excerpt from 'Idaspe')Ombra fedele anch'io (excerpt from 'Idaspe'), Son quai nave ch'agitata (excerpt from 'Artaserse' by J.A. Hasse), Se al labbro mio non credi (instrumental arrangement by C. Rousset.)

Georg Friedrich Handel (1685-1759) De Torrente (excerpt from 'Dixit Dominus), Cara sposa (excerpt from 'Rinaldo'), Venti turbini (excerpt from 'Rinaldo'), Lascia ch'io pianga (excerpt from 'Rinaldo'.)

Johann-Adolf Hasse (1699-1783) Overture de Artaserse, Generoso Risuegliati o core (excerpt from 'Cleofide.')

Giovanni-Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736) Salve Regina

Nicola Antonio Porpora (1686-1768) Alto Giove (excerpt from 'Polifemo')

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Last modified 16-August-1995.