A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Hasse, Faustina

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HASSE, Faustina Bordoni, the wife of the foregoing, was born at Venice, 1700, of a noble family, formerly one of the governing families of the republic. Her first instruction was derived from Gasparini, who helped her to develop a beautiful and flexible voice to the greatest advantage. In 1716 Bordoni made her début in 'Ariodante' by C. F. Pollarolo, achieved at once a reputation as a great singer, and was soon known as the 'New Syren.' In 1719 she sang again at Venice with Cuzzoni and Bernacchi, whose florid style her own resembled. In 1722 she sang at Naples, and at Florence a medal was struck in her honour. She visited Vienna in 1724, and was engaged for the Court Theatre at a salary of 15,000 florins. Here she was found by Handel, who immediately secured her for London, where she made her début May 5, 1726, in his 'Alessandro.' Her salary was fixed at £2000. 'She, in a manner,' says Burney, 'invented a new kind of singing, by running divisions with a neatness and velocity which astonished all who heard her. She had the art of sustaining a note longer, in the opinion of the public, than any other singer, by taking her breath imperceptibly. Her beats and trills were strong and rapid; her intonation perfect; and her professional perfections were enhanced by a beautiful face, a symmetric figure, though of small stature, and a countenance and gesture on the stage, which indicated an entire intelligence of her part.' Apostolo Zeno, in speaking of her departure from Vienna, says—'But, whatever good fortune she meets with, she merits it all by her courteous and polite manners, as well as talents, with which she has enchanted and gained the esteem and affection of the whole Court'.

In London she stayed but two seasons, and then returned to Venice, where she was married to Hasse. In 1731 she went to Dresden, and remained there till 1756. During the war, she and her husband went to Vienna, and resided there until 1775, when they retired to Venice, where they ended their days, she in 1783 at the age of 90 [App. p.669 "83"], and Hasse not long after, at nearly the same age [App. p.669 "in the same year"].

Faustina has seldom been equalled in agility of voice; 'a matchless facility and rapidity in her execution; dexterity in taking breath, exquisite shake, new and brilliant passages of embellishment, and a thousand other qualities contributed to inscribe her name among the first singers in Europe' (Stef. Arteaga). In London she divided the popular favour with Cuzzoni. 'When the admirers of the one began to applaud, those of the other were sure to hiss; on which account operas ceased for some time in London' (Quantz). In a libretto of 'Admeto,' Lady Cowper, the original possessor, has written opposite to Faustina's name, 'she is the devil of a singer.'

Fétis mentions her portrait in Hawkins's History; but he seems not to have known the fine print, engraved by L. Zucchi after S. Torelli, which is a companion to that of Hasse by the same engraver, and represents Faustina as an elderly person, handsomely dressed, and with a sweet and intelligent countenance. This portrait is uncommon.

[ J. M. ]