Tags; Music, Italy, place: Parma
Singer Francesca Cuzzoni was born in Parma on 2 April 1696, the daughter of a professional violinist. She made her operatic début at Parma in 1714 and became virtuosa di camera to Grand Princess Violante of Tuscany and performing in opera at Florence, Siena, Mantua, Genoa, and Reggio.
In autumn 1722, Handel’s Royal Academy of Music at Cannons, Little Stanmore, engaged her as leading soprano. They sent the composer and singing teacher Pietro Sandoni who was London-based to bring her to England. She later married him. Cuzzoni made a triumphant début at the King’s Theatre on 12 January 1723 as Teofane in Handel’s Ottone. During the next five years she was given a series of roles by Handel, with the castrato Senesino (real name: Francesco Bernardi) as leading man.
In the spring of 1726 Faustina Bordoni joined the company, stirring up an intense rivalry between the two stars. The opera company expenses were not sustainable and the Royal Academy collapsed in summer 1728. Cuzzoni travelled with Sandoni to the Continent and appeared in various theatres. They returned to London in April 1734 to join Senesino in the Opera of the Nobility, which had been set up in opposition to Handel’s company and had Nicola Porpora as its principal composer.
Here all attention was given to the great castrato Farinelli, who had joined in October 1734. Cuzzoni left the company in summer 1736. Her husband died in 1748 amongst rumours that she had poisoned him. Francesca herself died in poverty in Bologna in June 1778.