Porpora in England

A brief history of Porpora’s time at the Opera of the Nobility in England
Contributor: James Sanderson

Porpora was ‘sent for’ and brought to England in 1733 by the Opera of the Nobility as a rival to Handel. His first opera in London was Arianna in Nasso produced at the Theatre Royal in Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields on 29th December, 1733 using many of Handel’s former singers including Senesino, Montagnana, Cuzzoni (who only arrived in Spring 1734), Gismondi and Bertolli but Strada stayed with Handel. It seems certain that this opera was put on in direct opposition to Handel’s Arianna in Creta, HWV 32 which had its first performance on January 26th, 1734.

Despite having this all-star cast (including, as well, Farinelli who joined in 1734), the Opera of the Nobility under Porpora did not establish a clear superiority over Handel’s company and he left England in 1736 having written 5 operas for the company, Arianna, Enea nel Lazio, Polifemo, Ifigenia in Aulide and Mitridate. He also wrote 12 solo cantatas dedicated to the Prince of Wales, a serenata, Festa d’Imeneo and an oratorio, Davide e Bersabea while in London.

Interestingly, Porpora seems to have been regarded as secondary in importance to Senesino by the Opera of the Nobility. Lincoln’s Inn Fields’ opera house was called ‘Senesino’s House’ or ‘The Prince of Wales’ House’, never Porpora’s.

Porpora returned to Italy following his ‘London experience’ and the position of Maestro di Coro at the Venetian Ospedale (Piet√†, Incurabili and the Ospdaletta).