Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Barbara Strozzi's "Moralita amorosa"

Barbara Strozzi (1619–1677) was primarily recognized during her life as a singer, but she also was a talented composer. After writing her First Book of Madrigals in 1644, she feared what the community response would be, since she was a woman. Unfortunately, her first attempt did not establish her in the great musical canon. She did not lose hope, however, writing seven additional volumes, hoping to assert her own voice rather than that of the controlling men in her life.

Barbara was actually quite talented at composition; the music writer Charles Burney stating 100 years following her death that she may have originated the cantata form in Italy! Listen to "Moralita amorosa" from her opus 3. This piece attacks women who lure men in with their enticing fashion. Note the lovely melisma at the beginning that sounds improvisatory. In reality, Barbara carefully noted every detail!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Barbara Strozzi

This month, Clef Notes is looking at talented women composers throughout music history. Today, let's introduce Barbara Strozzi (1619–1677) to the discussion. Adopted daughter of the librettist and poet Giulio Strozzi, Barbara grew up surrounded by intellectuals in Giulio's Venetian group, the Academy of the Unknowns. Once he discovered that Barbara exhibited musical talent, he formed a subset of the group, the Academy of the Likeminded, in which he allowed Barbara to reside over, singing and suggesting topics for group discussion.

Barbara was declared a virtuoso by 15, and Giulio did his best to publicize her throughout his circles in Venice. He even wrote many texts himself, and then worked to get the accompanying music dedicated to her. He also gave her lessons from Francesco Cavalli, doing everything he could to cultivate her talent. Some scholars believe that, in addition to helping along Barbara's musical ambitions, Giulio also planned for her to be a courtesan. She ended up having several children with the already-married Giovanni Paolo Vidman.

In addition to being a celebrated singer, Barbara Strozzi also composed. Next time, we'll look at an example of her work.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

An Opera by Caccini

Francesca Caccini (1587–1640) was a singer, composer, and teacher who spent much of her life working for the court of the Grand-Duke of Tuscany. While many of her works were lost following her death, several are still known and loved today. Let's look at her opera La liberazione diRuggiero dall'isola d'Alcina, written in honor of the future Polish king's visit to Florence in 1625.

Opera was in an early, experimental form at this point in history, and it's impressive to see a woman composer tackling a new and complex genre! The future Polish king was so impressed by Caccini's work that he requested it be performed in Poland, making it the first Italian opera to be performed there!

Next week, we look at the talented singer and composer, Barbara Strozzi.