<< -- 4 -- Robert Hugill HANDEL'S SINGERS
But singing for Handel had its limitations. He rarely put on major works by major composers other than himself; he does not seem to have been able to bear a seriously talented composer to be working alongside him. This was limiting for singers, who always had one eye on their international career. So it is not surprising that, when the rival Opera of the Nobility was started up in 1733 by the Prince of Wales, most of Handel's singers should take the opportunity of decamping to his rivals -- Merighi amongst them. They would, after all, be working with the composer Nicola Porpora (1686-1768). Merighi did sing with the Opera of the Nobility, but she also spread her wings by singing in Italy during this period. She was back in London by 1737, when the Opera of the Nobility collapsed.
When this happened, Handel took a number of singers back including Merighi and the bass Montagnana. Merighi, though, would only last another season, singing in a revival of Partenope, in Faramondo and creating the role of Amastre in Serse. She is last heard of in 1740, singing in Munich during the carnival season.
Handel never did write many male roles for her but it is interesting that he wrote roles of Amastre and Rosmira in which she is called upon to disguise herself as a man. It would be nice to think that this was some reflection of Merighi's character. Realistically, such roles are part of the stock in trade of opera seria and we cannot read too much in to it.
Charles Burney was quite dismissive of her voice, but Handel's friend Mrs Pendarves was more enthusiastic: 'her voice is not extraordinarily good or bad ... she sings easily and agreeably'. Over the years the compass of her voice seems to have narrowed from a flat to f'' in Lotario to c' to d'' in Serse.
Copyright © 28 December 2003
Robert Hugill, London UK