Saturday,  March 11, 2023, First Parish, Wayland, and Online
Sunday, March 12, 2023, Old South Church, Boston

Sonata a 4 in G Major, op. 5 no. 4 (excerpt)        George Frideric Handel (1685–1759)
    A tempo ordinario — Presto                

Senti ti voglio ancor        Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679–1745)

Concerto for traverso, two violins, and continuo        Francesco Gasparini (1661–1727)
    Allegro • Siciliana • Allegro               

La sua disperazione        Pietro Torri (c. 1665–1737)

Sinfonia in D Major (Overture to Euristeo)        Johann Adolf Hasse (1699–1783)
    Staccato — Allegro assai— Grave e staccato      

Pallido il volto                Hasse

Sinfonia da camera in D Major, op. 2 no. 4        Nicola Porpora (1686–1768) 
    Adagio • Allegro                      
    Adagio • Alegro
Luci care, addio posate        Handel

[Gigue]                            Handel
Io son qual fenice            Handel

Teresa Wakim, soprano
Suzanne Stumpf, traverso
Sarah Darling and Jesse Irons, violins
Marcia Cassidy, viola; Daniel Ryan, cello Sylvia Berry, harpsichord

Program Notes

This program celebrates the remarkable career of the acclaimed 18th-century singer Faustina Bordoni (1697–1781). Our program features arias from operas in which she sang leading roles, along with a cantata and instrumental works by composers in her circle.
    Born in Venice, Faustina studied singing with Michelangelo Gasparini, making her debut in 1716 at the age of 19. She subsequently sang in opera houses all over Italy as well as in Munich, Vienna, Dresden, and London. Contemporary chroniclers described her singing as possessing a remarkable, effortless agility in executing passage work, superb breath control, and creativity and refined taste in ornamentation.     The composers who wrote for her highlighted these qualities, capitalizing on her talent in the ways they composed for her. The aria Senti ti voglio ancor by the Dresden court chapel composer and bass player J.D. Zelenka is a fine example. Its frequent trills, leaps, and opportunities for ornamentation highlight her brilliance in all of these areas. This aria comes from a set of eight that Zelenka composed in 1733 as his “audition” pieces for the post of vice Kapellmeister.
    One of the composers Faustina worked with in the early part of her career was Francesco Gasparini. She is known to have sung leading roles in his operas in 1719 and 1723. The brother of her teacher Michelangelo, Francesco primarily composed operas, oratorios, and other vocal music. The flute concerto included in this program is one of his few surviving works for instrumental ensemble. Its second and third movements seem very vocally conceived, with its melodically “singing” second movement and its third movement written in the form of a da capo aria. (The ensemble initally revived this “lost” work in 2011.)
    The recitative and aria La sua disperazione is from Pietro Torri’s opera Amadis di Grecia that premiered in Munich in 1724. Faustina sang the role of Melissa, the Queen of Sparta and a sorceress. Pietro Torri was the Hofkapell-Director at the Munich court. A prolific composer, he wrote nearly one opera per year from 1715 until his death in 1737. The powerful conflict and internal torment of this aria are supported by tumultuous passsagework in the strings.
    The beautiful and talented Faustina was pursued by many suitors, but in 1730, she finally found her life companion and married the composer Johann Adolf Hasse. Faustina became the prima donna in many of his operas. Along with Hasse, she was hired by the Dresden court in 1730, and the pair was granted great independence in their careers, traveling often to Italy and Austria for musical undertakings. While in Dresden, they also had frequent contact with Johann Sebastian Bach, and it is known that some of the soprano solos in his B Minor Mass were written with Faustina in mind.
    For decades, Hasse was one of the most widely admired composers in many places in Europe. His opera Euristeo premiered in Venice in 1732. Ironically, the cast included Francesca Cuzzoni—the alleged rival soprano to Faustina—but not Faustina. Its overture, included on this program, is composed not in the galant style that Hasse was largely credited with popularizing, but as a more traditional French overture, showing his contrapuntal skill in the fast middle section.
    As a member of the Dresden court, Faustina would surely have been involved in smaller-scale cantata performances. Hasse’s cantata Pallido il volto, included on this program, is one such cantata that could well have been sung by her, and our performance of this work on this program is likely a regional premiere.
    Nicola Porpora was one of several composers whose operas featured Faustina during her years at the Dresden court. She sang leading roles in his operas Tamerlano (1730) and Poro (1731). In 1733 Porpora was invited to London to set up a new opera company to compete with the flagging Royal Academy. Despite the inclusion of the superstar castrato Farinelli, whom he taught, this effort was ultimately unsuccessful. However, while there he published several works including the six opus 2 Sinfonie da camera, the fourth of which is included in this program. The piece is cast in the Corellian four movement format and shows Porpora’s prowess as a contrapuntist in the first and second movements, expressiveness in the third movement, and tuneful exuberance in the fourth movement.
    A pivotal point in Faustina’s career was Handel’s invitation to come to London to participate in his Royal Academy opera company in 1726. There she joined the established soprano Francesca Cuzzoni in several operas that Handel wrote to specifically feature these two prime donne. The passionate London audiences developed factional loyalties to each of the singers that the local press falsely promoted as a rivalry between Faustina and Cuzzoni. Handel’s opera Admeto, re di Tessaglia was the final opera produced by the Royal Academy, and its performances were marred by hisses and catcalls by each other’s fans when either Faustina or Cuzzoni sang. This scandal, along with a confluence of other internal and external financial problems, eventually brought about the demise of the Royal Academy.
    Our program includes three selections from Handel’s Admeto: the tormented aria Luci care, addio posate, an instrumental dance movement, and our closing selection on this program, Io son qual fenice. Our final aria was labeled for “Signora Faustina,” as a substitute aria for the closing of Act II. It was a common practice for composers to create substitute arias if their singers found the original ones did not fit their voice. Although it is not known why Handel composed this substitute aria, we are drawn to perform this little-heard, attractive work that highlights the extraordinary qualities of Faustina’s vocal execution.

                                —Suzanne Stumpf and Daniel Ryan

Porpora - trio sonata
Handel - Io son que qual fenice