In 1733 a group of aristocrats led by Frederick, Prince of Wales, set up the Opera of the Nobility. The company was created in order to rival the (Second) Royal Academy of Music under Handel which was backed by George II. The controversy between Bononcini and Handel was recorded in a satirical epigram by John Byrom in which the phrase ‘Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee’ made their first appearance in print. Based at a theatre at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the anti-Handel clique appointed Naples-born Nicola Porpora as musical director and had Siena-born Senesino (who had fallen out with Handel) as its lead singer.
The arrival of castrato singer Farinelli (stage name of Carlo Maria Michelangelo Nicola Broschi) temporarily solved the company’s financial problems. Both the critics and the public adored him. During one of his performances a lady was so overwhelmed that she famously exclaimed: ‘One God, one Farinelli!’ The incident was immortalised by William Hogarth in a detail of the second plate in ‘A Rake’s Progress’. The company went bankrupt in 1737.