Mezzo-soprano Faustina Bordoni was born on 30 March 1697 in Venice. Her singing teacher was the composer Michelangelo Gasparini. She made her operatic debut at Venice in 1716 in Carlo Francesco Pollarolo’s Ariodante. Known as ‘Faustina’ and nicknamed the ‘new Siren’, her reputation grew outside Italy. On 5 May 1726 she made her London début in Handel’s Alessandro.
In a performance of Giovanni Bononcini’s Astianatte on 6 June 1727, a riot broke out in the audience between her followers and those of her rival Francesca Cuzzoni in the King’s Theatre, Haymarket, in front of Caroline, Princess of Wales. This furore seized the public imagination and the ‘battle’ of the prima donnas (the ‘Rival Queens’) was widely reported. They continued to work together for the Royal Academy until 1728 when the company went bankrupt.
Unlike Cuzzoni, Faustina never returned to England. She married the German composer Johann Adolf Hasse and became the most admired singer in Dresden. She retired from the theatre in 1751. The couple settled in Vienna until returning to Venice in 1773. She died in November 1781.