Settimia Caccini

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Settimia Caccini (6 October 1591 – ca. 1638, Italy) was a well-known Italian singer and composer during the 1600s being one of the first women to have a successful career in music. Caccini was highly regarded for her artistic and technical work with music. She came from a family of well-known composers and singers, with her father being Giulio Caccini and her sister Francesca Caccini. Caccini was less well-known because she never published any of her own music composed pieces of music. Instead she was known much more for her talent as a singer, who sang for nobility across Italy. It is thought that she did compose her own music but instead of publishing and releasing it to be performed instead she kept it for herself to perform in private. One of her pieces was eventually published posthumously. Coming from a musical family, she was able to lead herself to her own fame and success.[1]


Settimia Caccini was born on October 6, 1591, in Florence, Italy. Her father was a famous and popular composer and a pioneer in monodic music. At a young age her father taught her about music and composition. Her mother, Lucia Gagnolanti, was a singer as well, but died when Caccini was a young age. Caccini was the youngest child of three. Her sister Francesca also became quite a renowned composer, and she had an older brother, Pompeo Caccini, who was a singer.[2] Her growing up in a household of musicians led her to learn and master music at such a young age that it later led to her fame and her own success (it was common among families to pass an entire career to each member of the family).[3][page needed]

Her father Giulio was employed by the Medici family, who ruled over much of Florence. Giulio passed down much of his career in to his family; he involved them in his music and even formed a singing family band. While working there Giulio was introduced to the concerto delle donne, a group of professional female singers hired by the court of Ferrara.[1] It is presumed that Giulio persuaded the concerto delle donne to train his daughters to sing in the same manner as they did. Instead of singing solo which was widely popular at the time, Giulio insisted they were trained to sing as a group, called Il Concerto Caccini.[1][4] Caccini and her sister were thought to perform and some of their father's works. Both Caccini and Francesca sang soprano.[5][page needed] In 1600, girl sisters sang their father's opera Il rapimento di Cefalo for the wedding of Maria de' Medici and Henry IV of France.[1]

Both Caccini and her sister grew up living very similar lives, performing together and learning how to sing and compose music together at the Medici theater. The family soon went their separate ways, each fulfilling their own music career. Caccini's became famous as a solo artist in 1608 when she went to Mantua, where she sang the role of Venus, soprano, in Monteverdi's opera L'Arianna.[6] During all of her success Caccini was offered many marriage proposals and employment offers, one being from the court of Mantua and from Enzo Bentivoglio in Rome, which she declined[2][7][page needed] Instead, in 1609 Caccini decided to marry singer and composer Alessandro Ghivazzani. Once they got married they left the Court of Medici and Florence, to go to Lucca where Ghivazzani was from.[1] Her marrying Ghivazzani put her in a position to be overlooked, for she was seen to be the subordinate underneath him.[6] This is not too surprising considering the time period, men took the lead and controlled most of everything when is came to careers.[3][page needed]

Although Caccini was acknowledged for her own personal performance when it came to singing, her being with Ghivazzani could explain why some of her work was never composed by her. Caccini and Ghivazzani usually were always employed by the same employer, meaning that she could be able to have a successful singing career but could never step out of her husband's shadow. Their work led them to many locations across Italy.[2] Caccini lived in this manner until her husband died (somewhere between 1630–1636). After Ghivazzani's death Caccini returned to Florence where she was offered a position on the Florentine court.[1] She remained on the court until her death sometime around 1638 to 1640. Her date of death is uncertain; there are court documents that have her name on it until 1660, but that is generally assumed to refer to her daughter.[2]

Career and works[edit]


Caccini is mostly known for starring and performing other composers' arias and in operas. She was a very well-known singer and highly regarded by her contemporaries. She was an active composer but none of her work was published by herself or while she was alive. She had quite a few pieces but most of them are lost to historians.[1] She started composing music at a young age. In 1611 she composed her own piece for the Mascherate delle Ninfe della Senna carnival, which one was one of the many masked carnivals in Venice.[2] For the most part her career was performing for high nobility and royalty. She sang for Henry IV, the king of France, with her sister when she was younger.

When she was older she was employed at the court of Duke Ferdinando Gonzaga at Mantua with her husband in 1613. The Gonzaga family were a powerful family in Mantua at the time, and there are records indicating that she was valued highly because of the high pay she received.[1] Next the couple found service in Parma under the service of Cardinal Farnese in 1622.[2] In 1628 Caccini was sought after by Monteverdi in Parma. Monteverdi approached her to perform his arias in his opera L'Orfeo for the Parma Festival. Monteverdi stated Caccini sang the arias with "superhuman grace and angelic voice".[8][page needed]

Since Caccini did not publish any of her music most of it was lost, only eight pieces survived, all of which are arias.[1] These pieces of music have expressive melodies and are usually done by single singers, perfect for her to sing for herself. She most likely composed this type of music as it was the same style as her father. Some of her arias are now published as piano arias, as this book 4 Arias. Her most famous piece that was published was a 3-line aria called Gia sperai non spero hor piu. It was published in a 17th-century collection of historic music.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Settimia Caccini at Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ a b c d e f Whent, Chris. "Settimi Caccini". Here of a Sunday Morning. WBAI. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  3. ^ a b Bennett 1989.
  4. ^ Bobb Edwards.(2007), Find-a-Grave, Settimia Caccini
  5. ^ Caccini 2004.
  6. ^ a b c 16th & 17th Century Music & a Surprise (Media notes). Julie Kabat. New York City: Leonarda. 2006. LE350.
  7. ^ Ferraro 2001.
  8. ^ Whenham, John; Wistreich, Richard (13 December 2007). The Cambridge Companion to Monteverdi. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139828222. Retrieved 5 October 2017.


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