Born in Venice, Barbara was adopted and baptized into the Strozzi family. She was most likely illegitimate, the daughter of Giulio Strozzi and Isabella Garzon, his long-time servant and heir. Giulio encouraged his daughter's talent, even creating an academy in which Barbara’s performances could be validated and displayed publicly. He seemed to be interested in exhibiting her considerable vocal talents to a wider audience. However, her singing was not her only talent. She was also compositionally gifted, and her father arranged for her to study with composer Francesco Cavalli.
It is conceivable that Strozzi may have been a courtesan, however, she also may have merely been the target of jealous slander by her male contemporaries. She appears to have led a quiet, if not slightly unusual life; there is evidence that at least three of her four children were fathered by the same man, Giovanni Paolo Vidman. Vidman (also spelled Widmann) was a patron of the arts and supporter of early opera. After Vidman's death it is likely that Strozzi supported herself by means of her savvy investments and by her compositions. He did not, apparently, leave anything to her or her children in his will.
Strozzi is unique among both male and female composers for publishing her works in single-composer volumes, rather than in collections. She was said to be "the most prolific composer - man or woman - of printed secular vocal music in Venice in the Middle of the century." Her output is also unique in that it only contains secular vocal music, with the exception of one volume of sacred songs. She was renowned for her poetic ability as well as her compositional talent. Her lyrics were often poetic and well-articulated.
Nearly three-quarters of her printed works were written for soprano, but she also published works for other voices. Her compositions are firmly rooted in the seconda pratica tradition. Strozzi’s music evokes the spirit of Cavalli, heir of Monteverdi. However, her style is more lyrical, and more dependent on sheer vocal sound. Many of the texts for her early pieces were written by her father Giulio. Later texts were written by her father's colleagues, and for many compositions she may have written her own texts.
- Il primo libro di madrigali, per 2–5 voci e basso continuo, op. 1 (1644)
- Cantate, ariette e duetti, per 2 voci e basso continuo, op. 2 (1651)
- Cantate e ariette, per 1–3 voci e basso continuo, op. 3 (1654)
- Sacri musicali affetti, libro I, op. 5 (1655)
- Quis dabit mihi, mottetto per 3 voci (1656)
- Ariette a voce sola, op. 6 (1657)
- Diporti di Euterpe ovvero Cantate e ariette a voce sola, op. 7 (1659)
- Arie a voce sola, op. 8 (1664)
- Glixon, Beth L. (Summer 1997). "New Light on the Life and Career of Barbara Strozzi". The Musical Quarterly 81 (2): 311–335. doi:10.1093/mq/81.2.311.
- Glixon, Beth L. 1997
- Glixon 1999, pg. 138
- Glixon, Beth L. (Spring 1999). "More on the Life and Death of Barbara Strozzi". The Musical Quarterly 83 (1): 134–141. doi:10.1093/mq/83.1.134.
- Glixon 1999, pg.141
- Glixon 1999, p. 135
- *Heller, Wendy. "Usurping the Place of the Muses: Barbara Strozzi and the Female Composer in Seventeenth-Century Italy," The World of Baroque Music: New Perspectives, ed. George B. Stauffer, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006; 145–168.
- *Kendrick, Robert. “Intent and Intertextuality in Barbara Strozzi’s Sacred Music,” Recercare: Rivista per lo Studio e la Practica della Musica Antica, 14 (2003): 65–98.
- Rosand 1986, pg. 170
- Ellen Rosand with Beth L. Glixon. "Barbara Strozzi", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (grovemusic.com (subscription access).
- Glixon, Beth L. “More on the life and death of Barbara Strozzi,” The Musical Quarterly, 83, no.1 (spring 1999): 134–141.
- Glixon, Beth L. “New light on the life and career of Barbara Strozzi,” The Musical Quarterly, 81, no.2 (summer 1997): 311–335.
- Heller, Wendy. "Usurping the Place of the Muses: Barbara Strozzi and the Female Composer in Seventeenth-Century Italy," The World of Baroque Music: New Perspectives, ed. George B. Stauffer, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006; 145–168.
- Kendrick, Robert. “Intent and Intertextuality in Barbara Strozzi’s Sacred Music,” Recercare: Rivista per lo Studio e la Practica della Musica Antica, 14 (2002): 65–98.
- Magner, Candace A. "Barbara Strozzi: A Documentary Perspective", The Journal of Singing, 58/5, 2002.
- Rosand, Ellen. “Barbara Strozzi, Virtuosissima Cantatrice: the Composer’s Voice,” Journal of the American Musicological Society, 31, no. 2 (summer 1978): 241–81.
- Rosand, Ellen. “The Voice of Barbara Strozzi,” Women Making Music, eds. Jane Bowers and Judith Tick, Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1986; 168-90
- Schulenberg, David. “Barbara Strozzi” Music of the Baroque, Oxford, New York: Oxford *University Press 2001 110-15
- Mardinly, Susan. “Barbara Strozzi: From Madrigal to Cantata,”Journal of Singing 58 (5) p 365
- Mardinly, Susan; “A View of Barbara Strozzi”, IAWM Journal, Volume 15, No.2, 2009.
- Mardinly, Susan. "Barbara Strozzi and The Pleasures of Euterpe”, PhD Diss., University of Connecticut, 2004.
- Free scores by Barbara Strozzi at the International Music Score Library Project
- Free scores by Barbara Strozzi in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
- Biography, discography, bibliography, and complete list of her works