Saturday, September 18, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

This weekend we have another heroine to add to the musical parade we've had here lately! Francecsa Caccini, Italian composer, singer, lute player, and teacher, was born on this day in 1587.

Caccini was born in Florence, the daughter of musician Giulio Caccini (like most female musicians and artists of the day, she was following in the family business and had an early teacher in her father), and she received a rare-for-a-woman classical education of Latin and Greek, modern languages, and mathematics and sciences. She first appeared as a singer at the wedding of Marie de Medici and King Henri IV of France in 1600, and Henry told her "you are the best singer in all of France" and invited her to live at his court. But she returned to Florence and went on composing and performing in her father's home, as well as taking pupils. Her whole family, including siblings, were well-known for their performances and talent.

In 1607 she went to work for the Medici court, after the great success of her Carnival masque La stiava. She worked there as a teacher, performer, and rehearsal manager for many years, writing music for at least 16 staged works. That year she also married, to musician Giovanni Signorini. They had one daughter, Margherita. It's known that she wrote a great deal of music for the theater, but little of her work survives, except for a collection of 36 songs (solos and duets) called Il primo libro delle musiche.

When her husband died in 1626, she married again, to a nobleman named Tommaso Raffaelli, and for a time she no longer performed publicly and had a son, though after this second husband's death she went back to service with the Medici and taught her 2 children music. She left the court in May 1641 and nothing more is known about her. But in her time she was a popular and well-known composer and sought-after teacher, "a master of dramatic harmonic surprise."

Some sources:
Suzanne Cusick, Francesca Caccini at the Medici Court: Music and the Circulation of Power (2009)
Carolyn Raney, "Francesca Caccini" in Historical Anthology of Music by Women (1986)
Kelley Harness, Echoes of Women's Voices: Music, Art, and Female Patronage in Early Modern Florence (2006)

Classical Composers Database

Music Academy Online

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