Barbara Strozzi and "The Pleasures of Euterpe"

Date of Completion

January 2004


Biography|Music|Women's Studies




This dissertation seeks to close the gaps in research on Barbara Strozzi by presenting modern transcriptions of eight cantatas from Opus 7, Diporti di Euterpe: ‘Sino alla morte’ (#1), ‘Fin che to spiri’ (#3), ‘Non volete ch'io mi dolga?’ (#5), ‘Cosi non la voglio’ (#6), ‘Tradimento’ (#9), ‘Basta cosi’ (#11), ‘Che v'ho fatto’ (#14) and ‘Non occorre’ (#15). These works have not been previously available for the modern performer. Chosen to demonstrate formal variety, these works reveal thematic and textual connections within the opus as well as demonstrating the evolution of the protagonist's state of mind. In-depth analysis of the first cantata, and a translation and discussion of the entire opus is supported by two analytical charts. These serve to illuminate the rhetorical derivation of Strozzi's wide variety of compositional techniques, highly influenced by the composers Claudio Monteverdi and Pier Francesco Cavalli. To understand the complex ideology of Barbara Strozzi, I have discussed the interwoven construction of her life, poetry and music. Strozzi's public persona was created through musical performances, a published debate, written reviews and a portrait. I investigate this image of Barbara within the context of seventeenth-century Venice, and the larger early-Baroque society spawned by the Medicis and their elite artistic, literary and scientific employees. This cultural milieu, which juxtaposed Roman Catholic Church practice with Greek revival, determined Strozzi's spiritual, personal and civic identity. My thesis also investigates the influence upon Barbara of other prominent women, including painter Artemesia Gentileschi, poet Veronica Franco and nun Arcangela Tarabotti. Strozzi's life and art were also molded by contemporary Venetian librettists, the foremost of whom was her adoptive father, Giulio Strozzi. I investigate these Marinisti concepts which influenced Barbara's own poetry, the greatest part of her texts. I include a brief discussion of Strozzi's entire output, including excerpts of musical scores and annotations to recordings. Strozzi's musical settings, although in the chamber genre, are more closely related to early seventeenth-century opera. Most of the composer's music is set for her own soprano voice, primarily representing her self-identification as a new Sappho: a channel for the muse of lyric poetry, Euterpe and the goddess of love, Aphrodite. Although Strozzi's public image was often associated with the erotic, her life and compositions disclose a highly educated woman, who was possessed of a developed spirituality, manifest throughout her oevre. Performance practice is viewed through the lens of publications from the Baroque era. ^