Barbara Strozzi, La Virtuosissima Cantatrice

If you thought Clara Schumann was the only woman ever allowed to hover ’round the margins of the Western musical canon, you (and I) were wrong: Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677), the contemporary of Monteverdi and Cavalli, left a stunning legacy of secular vocal music.

The Viola da Gamba Player ('Gambenspielerin'), believed to be Barbara Strozzi. Painted by Bernardo Strozzi c. 1630-1640, now owned by the Gemäldegalerie in Dresden.
The Viola da Gamba Player (‘Gambenspielerin’), believed to be Barbara Strozzi. Painted by Bernardo Strozzi c. 1630-1640, now owned by the Gemäldegalerie in Dresden.

Here’s her heart-breaking L’Eraclito amoroso (Udite, amanti), sung by Anne Sofie von Otter:

[Lyrics below]

Very much worth browsing is the most comprehensive archive on La Strozzi found on the web. In 2007, Bloomsbury published a novel in which Strozzi — or rather, the fantasy of her — plays a prominent role, My Tango with Barbara Strozzi by Russell Hoban.  Montreal composer John Rea chose the poems by Strozzi’s librettist (not to mention father) Giulio Strozzi for his segment of the triptych Beauty Dissolves in a Brief Hour, which Queen of Puddings Music Theatre premiered last month in Toronto.

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2.14. 
Udite amanti la cagione, oh Dio,
ch’a. lagrimar mi porta:
nell’adorato e bello idolo mio,
che sì fido credei, la fede è morta.

Vaghezza ho sol di piangere,
mi pasco sol di lagrime,
il duolo è mia delizia
e son miei gioie i gemiti.
Ogni martie aggradami,
ogni dolor dilettami,
i singulti mi sanano,
i sospir mi consolano.

Ma se la fede negami
quell’incostante e perfido,
almen fede serbatemi
sino alla morte, o lagrime!

Ogni tristezza assalgami,
ogni cordoglio eternisi,
tanto ogni male affliggami
che m’uccida e sotterrimi.

4 thoughts on “Barbara Strozzi, La Virtuosissima Cantatrice

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