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Francesca Caccini

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Old 08-09-09, 01:05 AM
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Francesca Caccini
(Firenze 1587 - Firenze? 1640)
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Francesca Caccini, known as “the Cecchina”, was born in Florence in 1587, the first born child of Giulio Caccini. Under her father she first studied singing, lute and composition, to which was added a solid grounding in literature as her later works as a poetess testify. She began her career as a singer very early, initially with other members of her family with whom she performed the “Caccini concerts”. Later, her evident artistic skill put her firmly on the way to becoming a very successful soloist.

The first authenticated evidence of her employment at the Medicean court is dated 1602 and documents the performance of music for three choirs directed by her father who took with him his wife and three daughters to the cathedral at Pisa but there are some grounds to suggest that she had already participated in the nuptial celebrations of Caterina de’ Medici and Henry IV of France in 1600. In the meanwhile the fame of the Caccini family extended outwards from Florence to the whole of Italy and indeed abroad, where in France, the royal family asked of Ferdinand I de Medici to send the entire “consort”. Francesca, together with her father and her sister, Settimia, stayed in Paris for about six months between the end of 1604 and the beginning of 1605 and only the lack of permission from the Florentine court stopped her from remaining in Henry’s service. Once again in Italy she was officially employed by the Medici family in 1607 and stayed with them for approximately twenty years gaining recognition as a teacher, singer and composer.

As a virtuoso she performed outside Tuscany in long tours but she always returned to Florence, tied as she was by the now unbreakable link to the Medici’s, which link she had inherited from the Caccini family and it’s musical traditions. In line with the policies of magnificence and cultural promotion of the Medicean court, Francesca composed operas and music for feasts. It is not easy to define a clear musical structure of these pieces given the only approximate terminology of similar entertainment and also for the rarity of extant evidence.

In her theatrical repertoire one can note Il ballo delle zigane (The Dance of the Gypsies), a ballet that was performed at the Pitti Palace during the 1615 carnival and for which she personally designed the stage, and also worthy of note is her La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’isola di Alcina, which was inspired by the Ariosto character. The 1625 performance of this latter, given for the future Polish king Vladislao IV’s visit, was such a success with the prince that he requested a repeat performance for his own court using an Italian company. It was therefore that La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’isola di Alcina, became the first Italian opera to be staged outside Italy. Francesca Caccini’s production includes also a rich repertoire of pieces written for solo voice and bass continuo, in which she experiments all the possibilities of the human voice by means of rich ornamentation of the melodic line – the same attention to detail can be found in her choice of lyric, thanks also to the important collaboration she had with Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger. After her retirement from the Florentine musical scene little is known of her existence until about 1640, the probable year of her death.

(note - There is some debate about whether La Liberazione was actually performed in Poland in 1628, as suggested in this biography, or whether an edition with Polish translation was merely prepared for the Crown Prince as a remembrance of his visit to Tuscany.)
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Old 08-09-09, 01:08 AM
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A Librettist’s Choices: Saracinelli and La Liberazione di Ruggiero

To say that La Liberazione di Ruggiero is a “setting” of Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso (as I have in promotional materials for Magnificat’s upcoming production) is not entirely accurate. Rather it is a “reworking”, a “re-telling”, in which the librettist Ferdinando Saracinelli, a prominent figure and superintendent of performances for the Medici Court, was engaged in an ongoing tradition. The choices Saracinelli made in his libretto not surprisingly reflect the political agenda of his patroness, the Archduchess Maria Magdalena as well the concerns of the Florentine aristocracy in 1625.

In her survey of women at the Medici Court at the beginning of the 17th Century (Echoes of Women’s Voices: Music, Art, and Female Patronage in Early Modern Florence, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), Kelly Ann Harness points out that Saracinelli’s libretto draws as much from Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata as from Ariosto. His effort was another installment in the multi-generational life of a good yarn. Grazio Braccioli, the librettist for Vivaldi’s Orlando furioso, the unknown librettist of Handel’s Alcina, and many others carried on this process of re-telling in subsequent generations. More recently Italo Calvino has re-told these stories, for example, in The Non-Existent Knight.

The choice of Ruggiero’s tale and Saracinelli’s poetic decisions in the libretto were influenced by political consideration of the Medici Court in the 1620s. The elaborate festivities of which La Liberazione was a part were staged in honor of the visit to Tuscany of Wladyslaw Vasa, Crown Prince of Poland. The prologue praises, with some defential exaggeration, the Prince’s heroism in defeating the Ottoman army in the Balkans (though his “victory” was in fact more of a stalemate) and his heroism versus Muscovy (also indecisive, at least by 1625). Maria Magdalena (a Hapsburg) desired that Poland defend Catholicism and enter into the conflict that we now refer to as the Thirty Years War and in general to stop being so tolerant toward the Protestants in his own land. There were also personal concerns, as Harness describes:

Quote:
“Unsurprising in light of the archduchess’s plan to arrange a marriage between her daughter and Wladislaw, ensuring dynastic continuity through an appropriate marital alliance emerges as one of the central themes in La Liberazione. And once again Ariosto’s beneficent sorceress Melissa is crucial to the plot. In its principal source, Orlando furioso (cantos 7 and 8), Melissa – disguised as the old sorcerer Atlante and aided by a magic ring – must free Ruggiero from Alcina’s enchantment so that he might return to Bradamante and found the Este dynasty.”
Establishing the noble lineage of the Este dynasty, central to Ariosto and Boiardo before him in pleasing their Ferrarese patrons, was of less importance to Saracinelli of course and it is Melissa/Atlante’s call to battle that is emphasized. The magic ring is missing from Saracinelli’s libretto, rather it is the commanding presence of Melissa (transformed into Ruggiero’s protector Atlante) and her scolding call to military duty that “liberates” Ruggiero from his enchantment. Suzanne Cusick persuasively argues that Melissa – and specifically her relationship to Ruggiero – “can be read as a model of how a woman such as Maria Magdalena might effectively rule in a monarchical and patriarchal world.”

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Old 08-09-09, 09:01 AM
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Here she is:


Thank you very much for this. It's like an episode of 'The Sopranos' with high culture bolted on. I've not been to Italy for many years but this makes me want to return, and walk round Florence and Pisa putting names to places. When are you performing La Liberazione? Please, PLEASE post some clips here.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philidor View Post
Here she is:

As I understand it, there is no evidence to suggest that this very lovely painting by Artemesia Gentilescchi is a portrait of Francesca Caccini, though it is often presented as such. The only surviving image that scholars feel may actually represent Francesca is the emblem:



I wish it was Francesca!
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Old 08-09-09, 03:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Magnificat View Post
As I understand it, there is no evidence to suggest that this very lovely painting by Artemesia Gentilescchi is a portrait of Francesca Caccini, though it is often presented as such. The only surviving image that scholars feel may actually represent Francesca is the emblem:



I wish it was Francesca!
Woops. Well, she joins Zelenka in that very exclusive club - a major composer without a known portrait.
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Old 08-09-09, 03:44 PM
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I would also note that while Francesca was universally praised for her remrkable talents - as a singer, as an instrumentalist, as a teacher and of course as a composer - she was not praised for her physical beauty. This honor was usually reserved for her younger sister Settimia, also a gifted singer.

Among Francesca's most prized talents was her ability to improvise a setting of a poem, accompanying herself on the lute (or harpsichord?). Given the imagination and sensitivity to text demonstrated by the few compositions that survive, these improvisation must have been quite marvelous indeed.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philidor View Post
Woops. Well, she joins Zelenka in that very exclusive club - a major composer without a known portrait.

Oh, just to be clear, the cameo most likely is Francesca, so we do indeed have an image of her, unlike Zelenka and so many others.
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Old 16-09-09, 03:16 AM
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I mentioned to Suzanne Cusick, author of the remarkable Francesca Caccini at the Medici Court: Music and the Circulation of Power. (University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-13212-9) published earlier this year, that the Wikipedia article was a bit weak and she has apparently edited it significantly (and she, or someone, linked to this thread - hmm). The incorrect image is still there. So, to complete the circle I'm posting the Wikipedia entry here.

Francesca Caccini
[ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francesca_Caccini"]From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]

Francesca Caccini (September 18, 1587 – after 1641) was an Italian composer, singer, lutenist, poet, and music teacher of the early Baroque era. She was the daughter of Giulio Caccini, and was one of the best-known and most influential female European composers between Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century and the 19th century. Her stage work, La liberazione di Ruggiero, has been widely considered the first opera by a woman composer.

Contents

* 1 Life
* 2 Works
* 3 References
* 4 External links

Life

Caccini was born in Florence, and received a humanistic education (Latin, some Greek, as well as modern languages and literature, mathematics) in addition to early musical training with her father. Her first recorded appearance in public is as a singer in the all-sung stage works her father composed for the wedding of Henry IV of France and Maria de Medici in 1600. In 1604 when the entire Caccini family visited France, Henry praised her singing effusively—"you are the best singer in all of France"—and asked her to stay at his court; however the Florentine officials denied his request, and she returned to Italy, where she taught, performed and composed from her father's home. In 1607 her composition of a Carnival entertainment entitled La stiava seems to have led to her hiring as a musician in the service of the Medici court. That same year she married fellow court musician Giovanni Battista Signorini, with whom she would have one child, Margherita, born in 1622.

In her early life Caccini performed with her parents, her half-brother Pompeo, her sister Settimia, and possibly other unnamed Caccini pupils in an ensemble contemporaries referred to as le donne di Giulio Romano. After she was hired by the court, she continued to perform with the family ensemble until Settimia's marriage and resulting move to Mantua caused its breakup. Caccini served the Medici court as a teacher, chamber singer, rehearsal coach and composer of both chamber and stage music until early 1627. By 1614 she was the court's most highly paid musician, in no small part because her musical virtuosity so well exemplified an idea of female excellence projected by Tuscany's de facto Regent, Granduchess Christine de Lorraine.

Caccini is believed to have been a quick and prolific composer, equal in productivity to her court colleagues Jacopo Peri and Marco da Gagliano. Very little of her music survives. Most of her stage music was composed for performance in comedies by poet Michelangelo Buonarroti the younger (grand-nephew of the artist) such as La Tancia (1613), Il passatempo (1614) and La fiera (1619). In 1618 she published a collection of thirty-six solo songs and soprano/bass duets (Il primo libro delle musiche)that is a compendium of contemporary styles, ranging from intensely moving, harmonically adventurous laments to joyful sacred songs in Italian and Latin to witty strophic songs about the joys and perils of romantic love.

In winter 1625 Caccini composed all the music for a 75-minute "comedy-ballet" entitled La liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d'Alcina that was performed for the visiting crown prince of Poland, Ladislaus Sigismondo (later Władysław IV). Combining witty parodies of early opera's stock scenes (and self-importance) with moments of surprising emotional intensity, the score shows Caccini to have mastered the full range of musico-theatrical devices in her time, and to have had a strong sense of long-term musical design. La liberazione... so pleased the visiting prince that he had it performed in Warsaw in 1628.

After Caccini's first husband died in December 1626, she quickly arranged to marry again in October, 1627, this time to a bachelor, melophile nobleman in Lucca, Tommaso Raffaelli. She lived in Raffaelli's Lucchese homes, apparently bearing a son and having some musical relationship to the Buonvisi family in Lucca, until his death in 1630. Although as the wife of a nobleman she had declined at least one request to perform (in Parma, in 1628), once she was widowed Caccini immediately tried to return to Medici service. Her return delayed by the plagues of 1630-33, by 1634 Caccini was back in Florence with her two children, serving the court as music teacher to her daughter Margherita and to the Medici princesses who lived at or frequently visited the convent of La Crocetta, and composing and performing chamber music and minor entertainments for the women's court. Caccini left Medici service on 8 May 1641, and disappeared from the public record.

Works

Francesca Caccini wrote some or all of the music for at least sixteen staged works. All but La liberazione di Ruggiero and some excerpts from La Tancia and Il passatempo published in the 1618 collection are believed lost. Her surviving scores reveal Caccini to have taken extraordinary care over the notation of her music, focusing special attention on the rhythmic placement of syllables and words, especially within ornaments, on phrasing as indicated by slurs, and on the precise notation of often very long, melodically fluid vocal melismas. Although her music is not especially notable for the expressive dissonances made fashionable by her contemporary Monteverdi, Caccini was a master of dramatic harmonic surprise: in her music it is harmony, more than counterpoint, that most powerfully communicates affect. Further information about La liberazione di Ruggiero can be found at Brightcecilia Classical Music Forums.

References

* Cusick, Suzanne G. (July 2009). Francesca Caccini at the Medici Court: Music and the Circulation of Power. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-13212-9.
* Harness, Kelley (2006). Echoes of Women's voices: Music, Art and Female Patronage in Early Modern Florence. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-31659-9.
* Alexander, Ronald James; Richard Savino (November 1997). Francesca Caccini's Il Primo Libro Delle Musiche of 1618: A Modern Critical Edition of the Secular Monodies. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-21139-5.
* Raney, Carolyn (1986). "Francesca Caccini". in James R. Briscoe. Historical Anthology of Music by Women. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-21296-0.
* Raney, Carolyn (1980). "Francesca Caccini". in Stanley Sadie. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. London: Macmillan Publishers Ltd..
* Raney, Carolyn (1971). Francesca Caccini, Musician to the Medici and her Primo Libro, Ph.D. dissertation. New York University.
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Old 17-09-09, 03:10 AM
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(Suzanne Cusick has graciously provided the following essay on Francesca Caccini and La Liberazione di Ruggiero. The essay is an adaptation of remarks made on February 3, 2006 at Smith College on the occasion of a performance of La Liberazione directed by Drew Minter. The essay benefits from Professor Cusick's lifelong research into this remarkable woman and much of the material became part of her extraordinary monograph published earlier this summer: Francesca Caccini at the Medici Court: Music and the Circulation of Power (2009, University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-13212-9). The first part of her essay provides a biography of Francesca, and two subsequent parts will discuss La Liberazione more specifically.)

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Francesca Caccini was born in mid-September 1587, the first-born child of two singers then on salary to produce chamber and theatre music for the Medici court–Lucia Gagnolandi, and Giulio Caccini (who was himself the second son of an ambitious wood dealer from Pisa). By 1587 Giulio was already one of the best-known singers and singing teachers of his generation, and the one professional singer known to have regularly participated in the conversations at courtier Giovanni de’Bardi’s Fiesole villa (known as La Camerata) that are supposed to have led to the two most stunning musical innovations of the 17th-century–the invention of a new kind of solo song, and the closely-related invention of new ways of setting plays to music that led directly to the emergence of opera as a genre.

At 13 Francesca sang in the first more-or-less publicly performed opera, L’Euridice, joining her sister Settimia, her step-mother Margerita, and various other pupils of her father to sing the female and the choral parts of the show that had been assigned to Giulio’s composition. At 17, she so impressed the King of France, Henri IV, with the literary sensitivity of her singing in French that the King asked to have her as a musical servant to his household. In the winter before she turned 20 she composed her first theatrical work for the Medici court–a kind of mock sword fight preceded by musico-dramatic dialogue called a barriera. The show’s success seems to have led directly to her hiring by the Medici court as a musica (an all-round musical servant) two months after her 20th birthday; in keeping with local custom, she was married to another musical servant the same week she appeared on the court’s payroll (although, contrary to the prevailing custom, her dowry was paid by her father, not by the court).

According to a biographical sketch penned between 1627 and 1630 by a man who had then known her as a court colleague for 15 years, Cristoforo Bronzini, the adult Francesca was an industrious, talkative woman who compensated by talent, charm, cheerfulness and gracious manners for the fact that, in his words, “she had not been well endowed by nature”. Francesca had been alone among her father Giulio’s 10 children in receiving something close to a humanist education. This “girl of the sharpest intelligence”, as Bronzini called her, was taught Latin, some Greek, rhetoric, grammar, and languages well enough that she was remembered for writing, as a 12-year-old, a commentary on books 3 and 4 of the Aeneid, and for her adult ability to improvise songs to poetry in Latin, Italian, French, Spanish, German, and several Italian dialects. Constantly eager to learn new things, Francesca seems to have been especially interested in mathematics–arithmetic, geometry and astrology–in the occult sciences, and in philosophy, which, Bronzini says, “she would have studied further had she been able, like Astenia and some others, to wear boy’s clothing to attend the public schools”. Her musical studies, he tells us, were at first a minor part of her education, pursued as a pastime, and “to please her father”.

By the time she impressed the King of France, she was known as much for her skills on the harp, harpsichord, lute, theorbo and guitar as for her singing, and she was said to be able to play any stringed instrument well. Sometime before she was 20, Tuscan Granduchess Christine de Lorraine noticed her talent, and arranged for her to study counterpoint, to marry a handsome, impoverished, respectable tenor on the court’s staff, Giovanni Battista Signorini, and to be hired as a musician of the Granducal court.

In the 20 years that followed, Francesca Caccini performed regularly for the private pleasure of the Medici family–that is, for two Grand Dukes, and for their wives, children, cousins, nephews, nieces, and guests. Annually, during the last three days of Holy Week, Florentine melophiles could be sure of hearing her publicly, when she participated in the poly-choral performances of “the Offices”, singing from the balcony, and behind the grate where the ruling family themselves sat–as if her voice, mixing with those of her own family and pupils, sang in the place of the rulers’. Witnesses to her performances reported that:
"…whenever it suited her, this same woman ...could by her singing and playing kindle astonishment and boldness in the breasts of her listeners, so that they would agree to any undertaking, no matter how burdensome...with the soft sound of her playing and the sweetness of her song she invited every breast (even if opposed to chaste intentions) to pure self-containment and integrity...as matched her own…"
In addition, Francesca composed hundreds of songs and duets in the new style her father claimed to have invented, all but 36 of them lost; she taught the daughters of Medici servants or of Florentine professionals who aspired to musical positions at court, paid for her work either by the court or by the girls’ parents, and she taught music to the Medici children, to the daughters of their favorite government ministers, and perhaps to the daughter of Galileo (in whose home conversazione she is known to have participated); and, often collaborating with colleagues Marco da Gagliano and Jacopo Peri, she composed some of the music for at least 17 court-based entertainments–balli, comedies for Carnival, mascherate, sacred operas–many of them shows authored by and little shows put on by and for the households of the two Medici Grand Duchesses (that is, their dame and donne, their children, and such professionals as were needed to serve as ‘ringers’ or onstage coaches–these last were usually Caccini herself, along with some of her artisan-class pupils).

The show that Magnificat will present October 16-18, La liberazione di Ruggiero, is the only one of these to survive nearly intact (excerpts from several others exist). When she got the gig to compose it (probably working from a barely-sketched libretto and scenic plan), Francesca was the highest paid musician at the Medici court, an intimate of the royal’s domestic spaces (though always a servant in their eyes), and a person whose special gifts to the court were her ability as a composer to make her patrons “laugh from the heart” and her ability, as both a singer and musician, “to make her listeners do whatever she wanted...”

By the time Caccini’s first husband died in late December 1626, she had borne him only one child, Margerita, born 14 years after her parents married. Left only with the property her own dowry had bought, the household goods her husband’s will specified had all been purchased with her salary, and a nice collection of jewels given to her by those who admired her performances, she arranged immediately to remarry.

Two weeks after her 40th birthday, she married a minor nobleman from Lucca, Tomaso Raffaelli, a man about whom others noted his intense melophilia, the richness of his instrument collection, and his Ganymede-like manner. When Raffaelli died three years later, Francesca had borne him a son. As Raffaelli’s widow and the guardian of his noble son, Francesca enjoyed the lifelong usufruct of his estate and something even more precious–a tenuous but plausible hold on the noble status for which her education but *not* her 20 years of hard work had prepared her. She returned to Florence in 1634, where she again served the Medici women (never singing again in public, but apparently making music and teaching the princesses in their convent home) until her daughter Margherita was settled in life–life as a virtuosa musician in a convent that adjoined the principal Medici palace–in 1640.

In May, 1641, Francesca left Medici service forever, and disappeared from the public record.
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