Bordoni, Faustina (c. 1700–1781)

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Bordoni, Faustina (c. 1700–1781)

Italian mezzo-soprano. Name variations: Faustina Hasse. Born around 1700 in Venice, Italy; died on November 4, 1781, in Venice; married Johann Adolf Hasse (a composer), in 1730; studied with Michelangelo Gasparini.

Debuted in Venice (1716), Naples (1721), Rome (1722); Munich (1723); debuted in London as Rossane in Handel's Alessandro (1726); appeared on stages throughout Europe until 1751; appeared in concerts in Dresden until 1763.

Daughter of a Venetian patrician family, Faustina Bordoni trained under Michelangelo Gasparini and Alessandro and Benedetto Marcello. Age 16 when she appeared in Pollarolo's Ariodante, she performed in some 30 operas in Venice as her ability to memorize roles quickly made it possible for her to accept many engagements. Though travel at the time was difficult and time consuming, she maintained a schedule much like modern divas who have the advantage of air travel.

In 1726, Handel brought Bordoni to London where she was a huge success in his opera Allessandro. She created many roles for Handel, including Alcestis in Admeto, Pulcheria in Riccardo Primo, Emira in Siroe, and Elisa in Tolomeo. Bordoni was known for her intelligence and civility, but the latter was missing during one slug fest with her chief rival, soprano Francesca Cuzzoni . During a performance of Bononcini's Astianatte at London's Royal Academy of Music (managed by Handel) in 1727, the two singers came to blows. Fueled by an eager press and rowdy audiences of side-taking partisans, the rivalry between the prima donnas delighted opera lovers and sold plenty of tickets but it also effectively destroyed company cohesiveness. This, along with Bordoni's illness, closed the Royal Academy in 1728, and Bordoni returned to Italy.

Two years later, at age 30, she married Johann Adolph Hasse and moved to Dresden. The couple lived and performed there until 1763 when they moved to Vienna and Venice. A superstar in her era, Bordoni was much beloved throughout Europe. Her portrait by Rosalba Carriera hangs in the Ca'Rezzonico, Venice. Bordoni was also the subject of an opera by Louis Schubert, Faustina Hasse (1879).

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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