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Farinelli (24 January 1705 – 16 September 1782[1]), was the stage name of Carlo Maria Broschi, celebrated Italian castrato singer of the 18th century and one of the greatest singers in the history of opera.[2]


Early years

Broschi was born in Andria (in what is now Apulia) into a family of musicians. As recorded in the baptismal register of the church of S. Nicola in Andria, his father Salvatore was a composer and maestro di cappella of the city's cathedral, and his mother, Caterina Barrese, a citizen of Naples. The Duke of Andria, Fabrizio Carafa, a member of one of the most prestigious families of the Neapolitan nobility, honoured Maestro Broschi by taking a leading part in the baptism of his second son, who was christened Carlo Maria Michelangelo Nicola (in later life, Farinelli wrote: "Il Duca d'Andria mi tenne al fonte" - "the Duke of Andria held me at the font"). In 1706 Salvatore also took up the non-musical post of governor of the town of Maratea (on the western coast of what is now Basilicata), and in 1709 that of Terlizzi (some twenty miles south-east of Andria). Unlike many castrati, who came from poor families, Farinelli was well-to-do, and was related to minor nobility on both sides of the family.

From 1707, the Broschi family lived in the coastal city of Barletta, a few miles from Andria, but at the end of 1711, they made the much longer move to the capital city of Naples, where, in 1712 Carlo's elder brother Riccardo was enrolled at the Conservatory of S. Maria di Loreto, specialising in composition. Carlo had already showed talent as a boy singer, and was now introduced to the most famous singing-teacher in Naples, Nicola Porpora. Already a successful opera composer, in 1715 Porpora was appointed maestro at the Conservatory of S. Onofrio, where his pupils included such well-known castrati as Giuseppe Appiani, Felice Salimbeni, and Gaetano Majorano (known as Caffarelli), as well as distinguished female singers such as Regina Mingotti and Vittoria Tesi; Farinelli may well have studied with him privately.

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