Two issues confront us here: 1) Is this a good album?, and, more controversially, 2) Does this sound like what Farinelli must have sounded like? The answers:
1) Indubitably. As other reviewers have noted here, this recording is pure pleasure from beginning to end, as much for the wonderful accompaniment of Rene Jacobs and the Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin as for Ms. Genaux herself.
2) In recent years I've greatly enjoyed the performances of various modern countertenors (Bowman, Chance, Daniels, Ragin, Scholl, Fouchecourt, et al. and Jacobs himself) in baroque castrato roles. But in an accompanying essay to this recording, Jacobs makes the case that countertenors can't cover these roles the way a good mezzo of a certain color and weight (such as Ms. Genaux) can. While I'm not 100% persuaded, recordings such as this have me leaning strongly in this direction. Genaux's combination of flexibility and power make it easy to imagine that, indeed, Farinelli may have sounded something like this. All the arias here are heavily ornamented, just as a bravura castrato would have done. The CD begins with two arias by Nicola Porpora, the Neapolitan composer and singing instructor of Farinelli (Carlo Broschi), that are the most beautiful on the disc. (Note to baroque conductors: MORE PORPORA OPERA RECORDINGS NOW. The Handel lode is nearly played out, and Porpora, Handel's competitor in London for a brief period, has many works which are almost if not equally as sublime.)