Countertenor to Headline the Marquee on the Great White Way

By James Monroe Števko

The story of the famed castrato, Farinelli, will be arriving to Broadway this December for a limited engagement in “Farinelli and the King.”

This British production, written and composed by Claire van Kampen, is a real-life tale of one of history’s most famous Italian singers of the 18th century. After a premiere at the Shakespeare Globe, the production, directed by John Dove, transferred to the West End’s Duke of York Theater, where it won the title of the house’s highest grossing show.

Castrati, boys castrated before puberty, were a common occurrence in the earliest days of opera. With no male hormones to produce the transition from boy to man, their voices never dropped, leaving them with their unusually strong boy-soprano. Early 1700 is the period that these emasculated men took opera houses by storm, putting Farinelli right on time for a celebrity career.

His reputation of powerful vocals and virtuosic talent swept through Europe and upon his arrival in Madrid, his talents were summoned by the Queen of Spain with the hopes that his talent could cure her husband, King Philip the V’s, depression.

The play focuses on this piece of history in Spain, the period in which Farinelli becomes a chamber musician for the sad king, ending his public-performing career. Grammy-award winning countertenor, Iestyn Davies, is cast as the ghost singer, providing the vocals for actor, Sam Crane.

Within the play, Handel arias originated by Farinelli himself are featured, accompanied by a band of period, baroque instruments set in a gallery above the stage.

With the Metropolitan Opera audience 20 blocks down the street and a countertenor whose reputation is comparable to that of Farinelli’s, this 3-month, Broadway run will have theater and opera fans alike clamoring for a ticket in the Belasco Theater.