Barbara Strozzi - Che si puo fare12:13

Barbara Strozzi - Che si puo fare


In the seventeenth century, Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677) was a Baroque composer that was way ahead of her time. Originally from Venice, Strozzi began as an opera singer among the high social class she and her family we members of. Because of her social status, Strozzi had the opportunity to study with highly regarded composers and teachers of the time including Francescso Cavalli (1602-1676) and Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). Unlike the other female opera singers of the time, Strozzi revealed her independence and skill by publishing eight collections of vocal music between 1644 and 1664. These collections include over one hundred madrigals, arias, and motets. As a result, these publications named Strozzi one of the most prolific Italian composers of the mid century. 

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Analysis Edit

After spending the majority of her life composing madrigals, cantatas, and motets, Strozzi composed her eighth and final collection in 1664. Op. 8 is a collection of twelve works in total composed of five cantatas, six arias, and one serenata. Due to the influence of Monteverdi, Strozzi's compositions were strongly rooted in seconda practica, with flexible form and often featuring ironic, poetic text. These stylistic elements become increasingly evident in her later works, especially Op. 8. This particular collection was dedicated to Sophia, Duchess of Brünswick-Lünburg. Strozzi's impecible poetic ability can be seen in the note of dedication she wrote for Duchess Sophia: "On the wings of immortality, and with the praise of Europe she flies. Trumpets do not do sufficient justice, nor can voices glorify enough, the immortal name of V[ostra] A[ltezza]. Is it not a wonder, that the earthshaking name of V.A. is admired as the Pallas of the universe, from her feet to that mind greater in wisdom than any owl" (2). One of the most recognized works in Strozzi's eighth collection is the aria for solo voice, "Che si puo fare." This meloncholic tune is scored for solo voice and lute accompaniment. For this particular work, Strozzi set music to poetry written by Italian librettist Aurelio Aureli (1652-1708). with text such as, "What can be done if heaven has no peaceful influence to soothe my sorrows," this work clearly intends to evoke a sense of heartache and despair (2). Strozzi executes this by carefully handled dissonances within a smooth, overall lyricism and a strongly metered feel. Besides being rooted in seconda practica tradition, "Che si puo fare" shares many other characteristics of other mid-century baroque arias. In typical aria form, this work is scored for solo voice and orchestral accompaniment, with several ritornellos interspersed within the vocal lines. Additionally, the vocal line frequently features ornamentation, melismas and repetition. Since this aria has a stronger sense of meter, the melodic tune is more lyrical and easier to follow. Edit

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Since Strozzi wrote primary for voice, it is interesting to compare her last publication to her first. Op. 1, entitled Il Primo Libro de Madrigali (first book of madrgials), is written for 2-5 voices with basso continuo. All 25 works in this collection are centered around sacred themes, evoking a sense of elation and joy. The second work in Op. 1 is entitled, "Canta de Bella Bocca" and includes uplifting text such as, "How sweet to listen to a delightful mouth joyously singing verses of love. Lovely, charming voice, with rapid scales, allures you, surrounds you, also touches you and sinks within almost to kiss your heart." In comparision to the works of Op. 8, both pieces share beautifully poetic writing, however the themes and  emotions represented are quite different. Due to Monteverdi's influence, these madrigals placed emphasize on the text as opposed to the music. As a whole, all of Strozzi's works showcase her meticulous text settings and beautiful lyricism. From 1644-1664, though still centered on sacred themes, Strozzi experimented with different moods and emotions as she continued to publish her works. 


I am intrigued by Barbara Strozzi because she was not just a priveleged opera singer with money and opportunity. Instead, she proved to the world that she was just as qualified as a male to be a composer. Not only was she a female composer in the 17th century, but she was one of the most prolific composers of the 17th century. It is interesting to know that she studied under Monteverdi, because after listening to her works, I can hear many similarities in style. 

Sources Edit

  1. Grout, Donald Jay. A History of Western Music. New York: Norton, 1960. Print.
  2. Magner, Candace, Dr. "Barbara Strozzi, La Virtuosissima Canatrice." Barabara Strozzi, La Virtuosissima Canatrice. Cor Donato Editions, n.d. Web. 01 May 2014.
  3. Sadie, Julie Anne., And Rhian Samuel. The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994. Print. 
  4. Strozzi, Barbara. Arie, Op. 8. IMSLP. Score. Accessed 31 April, 2014.,_Op.8_(Strozzi,_Barbara)

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