Personalities | Senesino (Francesco Bernardi) | Late Baroque | Opera
c. 1680–c. 1759, Italian
Francesco Bernardi was nicknamed ‘Senesino’ after his birthplace, Siena. His first known performance was at Venice in 1707–08, and he sang for Caldara at Bologna in 1709. He was dismissed from Dresden in 1720 because he refused to sing an aria during rehearsals for Johan David Heinichen’s (1683–1729) Flavio Crespo (1720). He joined the Royal Academy of Music in London in 1720, and remained with the company until its dissolution in 1728, during which time he sang in operas by Bononcini, Ariosti and Handel. Senesino was popular in London, which explains why Handel re-engaged him in 1730 despite their often-troubled working relationship. Senesino defected to the ‘Opera of the Nobility’ in 1733. After he left London in 1736 he sang at Florence and Naples, but his singing had fallen out of fashion by the end of the decade.
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