Happy 430th Birthday, Francesca Caccini!

Francesca Caccini (1587 – ca. 1640), along with Barbara Strozzi, was the most influential and famous woman composer and musician of the early seventeenth century.

Caccini's output is strongly marked by her own creative family, the Medicis, and the artistic atmosphere surrounding the Florentine court. Her career as a singer began in the concerto Caccini by her father Giulio Caccini, which enabled her to reach financial independence and develop her musical talent. Caccini may fit the usual picture of the female court singer and instrumentalist, but through her public appearances as a composer and voice teacher she was able to achieve much more.

Francesca Caccini was married several times and is known under multiple names: Francesca Signorini, Francesca Raffaelli, and her pseudonym "La Cecchina."

She is the first woman who composed an opera, but unfortunately only one is preserved today: La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’isola d’Alcina (Florence 1625, libretto: Ferdinando Saracinelli), the plot of which was taken from Ariosto's Orlando furioso. As early as 1618, Caccini published the collection Il primo libro delle musiche (Florence) with 36 monodies, including four duets. These publications alone set her apart from other professional women musicians of her day.

The opera La liberazione di Ruggiero has been revived in recent times (Cologne 1980, Hamburg 1990, Basel 2012) and now there is also a recording of it available with Elena Sartori conducting the Ensemble Allabastrina (Chandos/Glossa GS 3902, 2017).

The RISM online catalog lists nine sources for Francesca Caccini, including the printed editions of Il primo libro delle musiche a una, e due voci  (Florence: Zanobi Pignoni, 1618) and La liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d'Alcina. Balletto ... rappresentata nel Poggio Imperiale, villa della Serenissima Arciducessa d'Austria Gran Ducessa di Toscana (Florence: Pietro Cecconcelli, 1625). Excerpts from her opera are more numerous in handwritten form, which was the focus of a post we wrote back in 2014.

Image: "Care stelle d'amor" by Francesca Caccini, from Il Primo libro delle musiche a una e due voci (Florence: Zanobi Pignoni, 1618),p. 15. Biblioteca Estense, Modena (I-MOe).

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