The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera

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Faccio, Franco (b Verona, 8 Mar. 1840; d Monza, 21 July 1891). Italian conductor and composer. His first opera, I profughi fiamminghi ( 1863), led both to accusations of Wagnerism and to his friend Boito's claim in a celebratory ode that he would 'cleanse the altar of Italian opera, now stained like the walls of a brothel' -- a remark taken personally by Verdi to Boito's disadvantage. His greatest success was with Amleto ( 1865), which benefits greatly from Boito's libretto and responds with some vivid scenes, but is scarcely able to rise to the demands of the subject. Taking up a career as a conductor, he toured Germany and Scandinavia with Lorini's OC 1867; Milan, T Carcano, 1868; Milan, S, 1869, assistant cond. when he made warm friends with Verdi, chief cond. 187190, conducting prems. of Gioconda ( 1876), Otello ( 1887), and Edgar ( 1889), as well as many important Italian prems., especially of Wagner. Cond. first English Otello ( 1889) and Italian Meistersinger ( 1889). He would have been chosen by Verdi for the first Falstaff, but a syphilitic condition led to his mental decline and death. A pioneering figure as a conductor, he brought new quality to the Scala orchestra and thereby set new standards to which composers could respond. His sister Chiarina ( 1846-1923) was a soprano who sang in Trieste.

Fach (Ger.: 'division', hence 'subject' or 'speciality'). The term used, strictly in Germany and more loosely internationally, to describe the range of roles that a singer may be expected to perform.

Fafner. With Fasolt, one of the two giants (bs) in Wagner Das Rheingold. He has turned into a dragon by Siegfried.

Fair Maid of Perth. See JOLIE FILLE DE PERTH, LA.

Fairy Queen, The. Semi-opera in a prologue and 5 acts by Purcell; text an anon. adaptation (? by Thomas Betterton) of Shakespeare's comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream ( 1595-6). Prem. London, Dorset Garden T. 2 May 1692.

Falcon, Cornélie (b Paris, 28 Jan. 1812; d Paris, 25 Feb 1897). French soprano. Studied Paris with Henri and Pellegrini, later with Bordogni and Nourrit. Début Paris, O, 1832 ( Alice, Robert le diable). Her career lasted only until 1838, when she lost her voice through overwork, and had to retire; an attempted come-back in 1840 ended badly. Created Mme Anckarstroem ( Gustave III), Rachel ( La Juive), Valentine ( Les Huguenots), and many other roles; also a famous Donna Anna and Julie ( La vestale). She possessed a full, resonant voice, and, like Nourrit, exceptional dramatic talent (they were together responsible for improving the artistic standing of the Opéra). Her name, then synonymous with the dramatic soprano parts in which she was unapproachable, still survives as a description of her voice type.

Falla, Manuel de (b Cádiz, 23 Nov. 1876; d Alta Gracia, 14 Nov. 1946). Spanish composer. As a young man, he wrote a number of zarzuelas. La vida breve (The Short Life, 1913) is an early work, with a weak plot; but already Falla's authentic voice is to be heard behind the different manners he adopts. Despite unevenness, it is a work of genuine dramatic power. El retablo de Maese Pedro (Master Peter's Puppet Show, 1923) handles an incident in Don Quixote, turning Falla's understanding of contrasting styles to skilful use in a piece of puppet music theatre treating different levels of reality and illusion. The forces are miniature, but there is a disciplined refinement and intensity now present in Falla's mature style. L'Atlántida ( 1962) is closer to dramatic oratorio than opera, and Falla did not wish it to be staged; but it is his most ambitious dramatic work, and stage performances have proved effective.

falsetto (It., lit. dim. of falso: 'false, altered'; or poss. from Lat.fauces: 'throat'). An artificial method of voice production employed by male singers, using only a partial vibration of the vocal chords. Normally used in opera only for special effects, whether for extreme refinement and softness of tone, as perhaps at the end of the romance in Les pêcheurs de perles, or satirically, as usually by Falstaff imitating Mistress Ford allegedly sighing, Io son di Sir John Falstaff. There is a long


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