Georgian Prima Donnas

Research output: Contributions to specialist professional publicationsArticle


Siena Rosso in Netflix’s hit series Bridgerton is a talented opera singer, but she is also highly sexualized, first appearing on-screen naked and in bed with viscount Anthony Bridgerton. Such a depiction is not modern sensationalism but is grounded in history. The British Georgian press loved to publish on the scandalous love affairs of operatic stars including Elizabeth Billington (1765?-1818), Gertrud Mara (1749-1833), and Nancy Storace (1765-1817). Such narratives presented the prima donna as an immoral hussy, willing to flaunt her talents on stage and in the bedroom. While some prima donnas, such as Mara, and Storace, did have an affair, it was not as titillating as the newspapers suggested. Even Billington, who was married throughout her working life, was accused of adultery and incest.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
JournalBBC History Magazine
Publication statusPublished or Performed - 25 Nov 2021