Cuzzoni, Francesca


Famous singer of the Eighteenth Century, and one of the heroines of one of the greatest feuds ever recorded on the Italian staue. She was born, according to Burney, at Parma, and according to Hawkins at Modena, Italy, and received her first instruction from Lanzi, a noted teacher. She made her debut at Venice, with Faustina, in 1719, in Gasparini's Lamano, and after singing in various Italian cities, she came to England and shortly afterward married Sandoni, a harpsichord-player and composer of considerable prominence. Her first London appearance was in 1722, as Teofane in Handel's Otho. For this part she was specially engaged by Handel himself, who was so delighted with her success in it that he composed a number of airs to suit the peculiarities of her voice and style. Success followed success, and at one time she is said to have received a salary of 24,000 francs for one season from a manager in Italy. She made herself so popular in Coriolano, Flavio and Farnace that Durastanti and Anastasia Robinson were obliged to withdraw from the operatic stage before the superior attractions of the newly-arrived Cuzzoni. Her success might have continued for many years had it not been for her violent temper and arrogance. She took such liberties with Handel's music, which he had specially composed for her, that he never rested until he found a singer who could eclipse her. He finally succeeded in Faustina Bordoni, who was beautiful, talented and of agreeable manners, and who shortly afterward supplanted Cuzzoni in the hearts of the London opera-goers and eventually forced her out of England. Faustina had Handel on her side and had the good sense not to reject his music, as her rival had done. Shortly after her appearance on the scene the musical public became divided in its allegiance to the two singers and party feeling became so strong that when Cuzzoni's admirers applauded her the adherents of Faustina hissed, and vice versa. In 1728, at the close of the season, the managers became so provoked by the constant quarrels that they offered Faustina a larger salary than Cuzzoni, and the latter took her departure from England disappointed and humiliated. She next went to Vienna and sang at court, but her demands for her services were so enormous that she was prevented from securing engagements at the theatres. After a series of tours on the Continent she returned to London, in 1734, and appeared as Ariadne at the opera house in Lincoln Inn Fields established by Porpora in opposition to Handel. After a second tour abroad, she again returned to England, in 1750, but her voice had failed and she was now poor and friendless. She next went to Holland, where she was imprisoned for debt, and we hear of her next at Bologna, where she made a meager living by making buttons. She died there in the greatest poverty. In 1741 there was a rumor that Cuzzoni was to be beheaded for poisoning her husband, but the sentence, if pronounced, never was put into execution, and nothing more was heard of it.