Barbara Strozzi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Viola da Gamba Player, c. 1630–1640, by Bernardo Strozzi, believed to be of Barbara Strozzi. It is unclear whether the painter is immediately related to the Strozzi family.

Barbara Strozzi (also called Barbara Valle; baptised 6 August 1619  – 11 November 1677) was an Italian composer and singer of the Baroque Period. During her lifetime, Strozzi published eight volumes of her own music, and had more secular music in print than any other composer of the era.[1] This was achieved without any support from the Church and with no consistent patronage from the nobility.

Personal life[edit]

Early life and childhood[edit]

Barbara Strozzi (at birth, Barbara Valle) was born in Venice in 1619 to a woman known as "La Greghetta" (in other sources she is also referred to as Isabella Griega or Isabella Garzoni).[2] She was baptized in the church of Santa Sofia in the Cannaregio district of Venice. Although Barbara's birth certificate does not provide information on her father's identity, it is assumed that her biological father may have been Giulio Strozzi, a poet and librettist,[3] a very influential figure in seventeenth-century Venice. Giulio Strozzi was a member of the Accademia degli Incogniti, one of the largest and most prestigious intellectual academies in Europe and a major political and social force in the Republic of Venice and beyond.[1] He wrote in many literary media, for example, poetry, operas, prose, plays and lyrics for songs.[4] Little is known about Barbara's mother, but historians suspect that Isabella was a servant of Giulio, as both Barbara and Isabella lived in Giulio's household and were listed in his will.[2] Although Barbara was an illegitimate child, her father Giulio referred to her as his "adoptive daughter" and was instrumental in helping her establish her career as a musician later in her life.[5]

More detailed accounts of Barbara's life concern the end of her childhood and early adolescence. Throughout her childhood, Venice had suffered plagues that had killed much of its population. Barbara and her mother survived. She reached the age of 12 by the first Festa della Salute in 1631. By this time, she had begun to develop as a musician and started to demonstrate virtuosic vocal talent. Alongside this, she developed the ability to accompany herself on the lute or theorbo. In her book Sounds and Sweet Airs, historian Anna Beer states that Strozzi's musical gifts became more evident at the time of her early adolescence, which led Giulio to arrange lessons in composition for her with one of the leading composers at the time, Francesco Cavalli.[1] By the age of 15, Barbara was described as "la virtuosissima cantatrice di Giulio Strozzi" (Giulio Strozzi's extremely virtuosic singer).[1] Around Barbara's 16th birthday, Giulio actively started to publicise her musical talents, ensuring dedications of works for her. Giulio subsequently established the Accademia degli Unisoni, a subsidiary of the Incogniti, which welcomed musicians into the privileged social circle.[6] Unisoni, operating from the Strozzi household ensured Barbara opportunities of performing as a singer, as well as semi-public performances of her own works. In 1637, at the age of 18, Barbara took her father's last name, Strozzi, keeping it until her death.

Later life, children and death[edit]

Little is known of Strozzi's life during the 1640s. However, it is assumed that she was the concubine of a Venetian nobleman, Giovanni Paolo Vidman. Vidman was a patron of the arts and was an associate of Giulio Strozzi.[7] Although Strozzi therefore never married this man (or any man for that matter), this relationship led to at least three, possibly four, children. Vidman was the father of her son Giulio, then of two further children, Isabella in 1642 and Laura in 1644, and possibly of a fourth, Massimo. Nonetheless, her two daughters joined a convent, and one of her sons became a monk.[8] A letter written after Strozzi's death reports she "was raped by Count Vidman, a Venetian nobleman. She had a son who also [that is, like her father] bears the name Giulio Strozzi." It has been suggested that the rape allegation may have been a story circulated to protect Strozzi's reputation, as she had children out of wedlock. However, there is evidence to suggest that she was coerced into that relationship.[7]

During this time, there were financial dealings between Strozzi and Vidman. It is believed that she gave out a loan that would have to be repaid after Vidman's death. The near 10% interest might have been a way of ensuring some support for Strozzi and her children after Vidman's death.

Strozzi died in Padua in 1677 aged 58. She is believed to have been buried at Eremitani.[9] She did not leave a will when she died, so on her passing, her son Giulio Pietro claimed her inheritance in full.[10]

Professional Life[edit]

Life as a young musician[edit]

By her late teens, Strozzi had started to gain a reputation for her singing. In 1635 and 1636, two volumes of songs were published by Nicole Fontei, called the Bizzarrie poetiche (poetic oddities), full of praise for Strozzi's singing ability.[11] The performance experience that she had at Unisoni equipped her with the vocal expertise that also manifested itself in her later publications, signifying her compositional talent.

As a young musician, Strozzi sought out patronage, but was not always successful. Her opus 2, dedicated to Ferdinand III of Austria and Eleanora of Mantua on the occasion on their marriage, went unnoticed. Other notable dedicatees include Anne de' Medici, the Archduchess of Austria, Nicolò Sagredo, later Doge of Venice, for whom she dedicated her opus 7, and Sophia, Duchess of Brunswick and Lüneburg. She is also assumed to have composed several songs for the Duke of Mantua in 1665, a year after her last known published works.[12]

Professional career[edit]

Title page of Diporti di Euterpe, Strozzi's Opus 7, consisting of 8 cantatas.

Strozzi was said to be "the most prolific composer – man or woman – of printed secular vocal music in Venice in the middle of the [17th] century."[13] Her output is also unique in that it only contains secular vocal music, with the exception of one volume of sacred songs.[14] She was renowned for her poetic ability as well as her compositional talent. Her lyrics were often poetic and well-articulated.[15]

Compositional style[edit]

Nearly three-quarters of her printed works were written for soprano, but she also published works for other voices.[7] 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.[16] 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 Strozzi may have written her own texts.[2] There are seven printed volumes of her compositions which have survived. Likewise, much more of Strozzi's unpublished works are currently in collections in Italy, Germany, and England in manuscript form. Her music's irregular barring has been modernized to accommodate modern performances.

Like many of her contemporary composers, Strozzi mostly utilized texts from the poet Marino. These Marinist texts would serve as a vehicle to express herself as well as to challenge the gender roles of her time. Il primo libro di madrigali, per 2–5 voci e basso continuo, op. 1 (1644), was dedicated to Vittoria della Rovere, the Venetian-born Grand Duchess of Tuscany. The text is a poem by her father, Giulio Strozzi. Strozzi published one known work of religious pieces. Her opus 5, written in 1655, was dedicated to the Archduchess of Innsbruck, Anna de Medici. Her motet "Mater Anna" paid homage not only to the Catholic saint/mother of the virgin Mary but also to the archduchess. Strozzi was highly sensitive to the subliminal meaning in her texts, and, as is the case with Arcangela Tarabotti, the texts she set often hinted at underlying issues regarding gender.

Publications, recordings and performances[edit]


  • 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)


There are numerous recordings. Some of them contained Barbara's works exclusively, others only indexed few pieces.

  • Barbara Strozzi: La Virtuosissima Cantatrice (2011)[17]
  • Barbara Strozzi: Ariette a voce sola, Op. 6 / Miroku, Rambaldi (2011)[18]
  • Barbara Strozzi: Passioni, Vizi & Virtu / Belanger, Consort Baroque Laurentia (2014)[19]
  • Barbara Strozzi: Opera Ottava, Arie & Cantate (2014)[20]
  • Barbara Strozzi: Lagrime Mie (2015)[21]
  • Due Alme Innamorate – Strozzi, etc / Ensemble Kairos (2006)[22]
  • A Golden Treasury of Renaissance Music (2011)[23]
  • Lamenti Barocchi Vol 3 / Vartolo, Capella Musicale Di San Petronio (2011)[24]
  • Ferveur & Extase / Stephanie D'oustrac, Amarillis (2012)[25]
  • La Bella Piu Bella: Songs from Early Baroque Italy (2014)[26]
  • Dialoghi A Voce Sola (2015)[27]
  • O Magnum Mysterium: Italian Baroque Vocal Music (2015)[28]
  • Barbara Strozzi: La Voce Sola, Renata Dubinskaite (Mezzo Soprano) with Canto Fiorito (2021)[29]


With the flourishing of the historical performance movement, an increasing number of performances featuring Strozzi's works have been staged over the past few years.

  • Chamber Music Foundation of New England, Music of Claudio Monteverdi & Barbara Strozzi (2017)[30]
  • Early Music America's 2018 Emerging Artists Showcase during the Bloomington Early Music Festival.(2018)[31]
  • Old First Concerts, Ensemble Draca performs Amante Fedele, August 12, 2018.(2018)[32]
  • WWFM radio broadcast, Brooklyn Baroque Presents Barbara Strozzi and Her World (2018)[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Beer 2016, p. 81
  2. ^ a b c Rosand, Ellen (1978). "Barbara Strozzi, "virtuosissima cantatrice": The Composer's Voice". Journal of the American Musicological Society. 31 (2): 241–281. doi:10.2307/830997. ISSN 0003-0139. JSTOR 830997.
  3. ^ "Giulio Strozzi". Archived from the original on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  4. ^ Glixon 1997.
  5. ^ "This is the amazing story of Baroque composer Barbara Strozzi". Classic FM. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  6. ^ Magner, Candace (5 May 2020). "Barbara Strozzi — My life in 1600s Venice (A Brief History)". Retrieved 15 August 2021.
  7. ^ a b c Kendrick 2002.
  8. ^ Anna Cypess, Barbara Strozzi, Italian singer and composer at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  9. ^ Glixon 1999.
  10. ^ Glixon 1999, p. 141.
  11. ^ Beer 2016, p. [page needed].
  12. ^ Rosand, Ellen; Glixon, Beth L. (2001). "Barbara Strozzi". Grove Music Online. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.26987.
  13. ^ Glixon 1999, p. 135.
  14. ^ Heller 2006.
  15. ^ Glixon 1999, p. 138.
  16. ^ Rosand 1986, p. 170.
  17. ^ "Barbara Strozzi: La Virtuosissima Cantatrice – Saydisc: SAR061". Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  18. ^ "Barbara Strozzi: Ariette a voce sola, Op. 6 / Miro ... – Tactus: TC616901". Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  19. ^ "Barbara Strozzi: Passioni, Vizi & Virtu / Belanger ... – Stradivarius: STR33948". Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  20. ^ "Barbara Strozzi: Opera Ottava, Arie & Cantate – Glossa: GCDC81503". Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  21. ^ "Barbara Strozzi: Lagrime Mie – Querstand: VKJK 1303". Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  22. ^ "Due Alme Innamorate – Strozzi, etc / Ensemble Kairo ... – Urtext: UMA2020". Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  23. ^ "A Golden Treasury of Renaissance Music – Saydisc: SAR065". Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  24. ^ "Lamenti Barocchi Vol 3 / Vartolo, Capella Musical ... – Naxos: 8503241". Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  25. ^ "Ferveur & Extase / Stephanie D'oustrac, Amarillis – Ambronay: AMY027". Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  26. ^ "La Bella Piu Bella: Songs from Early Baroque Italy – Glossa: GCD922902". Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  27. ^ "Dialoghi A Voce Sola – Raum Klang: RK3306". Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  28. ^ "O Magnum Mysterium: Italian Baroque Vocal Music – Bergen Digital: 28907589". Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  29. ^ Brilliant Classics No. 96436
  30. ^ Music of Claudio Monteverdi & Barbara Strozzi on YouTube
  31. ^ Adriana Ruiz, soprano – Songs of Barbara Strozzi – EMA's 2018 Emerging Artists Showcase on YouTube
  32. ^ Ensemble Draca performs Amante fedele (Non pavento io) by Barbara Strozzi on YouTube
  33. ^ Brooklyn Baroque Presents Barbara Strozzi and Her World on YouTube


  • Beer, Anna (2016). Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music. London: Oneworld Publications. ISBN 978-1-78074-856-6.
  • Glixon, Beth L. (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. (1999). "More on the life and death of Barbara Strozzi". The Musical Quarterly. 83 (1): 134–141. doi:10.1093/mq/83.1.134.
  • Heller, Wendy (2006). "Usurping the place of the muses: Barbara Strozzi and the female composer in seventeenth-century Italy". In Stauffer, George B. (ed.). The World of Baroque Music: New Perspectives. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 145–168. ISBN 978-025334798-5.
  • Kendrick, Robert (2002). "Intent and intertextuality in Barbara Strozzi's sacred music". Recercare. Rivista per lo Studio e la Practica della Musica Antica. 14: 65–98. JSTOR 41701379.
  • Rosand, Ellen (1986). "The voice of Barbara Strozzi". In Bowers, Jane; Tick, Judith (eds.). Women Making Music: The Western Art Tradition, 1150–1950. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. pp. 168–190. ISBN 978-025201204-4.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ellen Rosand with Beth L. Glixon. "Barbara Strozzi", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (subscription required).
  • Magner, Candace A. (2002). "Barbara Strozzi: a documentary perspective", Journal of Singing, 58/5.
  • Mardinly, Susan J. (2002). "Barbara Strozzi: from madrigal to cantata", Journal of Singing, 58 (5) 375–391.
  • Mardinly, Susan J. (2009). "A View of Barbara Strozzi", International Alliance for Women in Music Journal, 15 (2).
  • Mardinly, Susan (2004). Barbara Strozzi and the pleasures of Euterpe, PhD Diss., University of Connecticut, 2004.
  • Rosand, Ellen (1978). "Barbara Strozzi, virtuosissima cantatrice: the composer's voice", Journal of the American Musicological Society, 31, (2) 241–281.
  • Schulenberg, David (2001). "Barbara Strozzi", Music of the Baroque, Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 110–115. ISBN 0-19-512232-1.

External links[edit]