Five Centuries of Women Singers

Five Centuries of Women Singers

Five Centuries of Women Singers

Five Centuries of Women Singers

Synopsis

Five Centuries of Women Singers explores the careers of twenty singers from the late sixteenth century to the middle of the twentieth. In addition to personal information, the stories of these singers tell a great deal about contemporary musical life, about musical and dramatic ideals of the time, and about performance practice. The experiences of the singers also reveal much about the business of music - how women were dealt with by teachers, impresarios, composers, and audiences- and the perseverance and pluck that were and are crucial ingredients of a successful career. The twenty singers were selected on the basis of their contribution to and influence on the art of singing, their significance in the history of performance, what their careers reveal about the life of a professional female musician, and finally for the originality of their achievements. All of the singers included reached the pinnacle of their art with persistence, ingenuity, and unsurpassed musicianship.

Excerpt

"Women singers" conjures up immediately an image of opera divas. And certainly opera has proved to be a central arena for women to display their vocal powers. But the thought that this is the only arena is far from the truth. Indeed, the first professional female singers in modem history seem to be the well-educated women of the upper middle class or minor nobility who appeared in the late years of the sixteenth century at the courts of Ferrara, Mantua, Florence, hired to sing in the concerti delle donne-—the consorts of ladies. They sang madrigals, pantomimes, intermedi, balli—all genres that merged into opera before the end of the century. When opera did appear, the next generation of ladies often took on dominant roles in the new art form, although they were soon competing for opportunities, money, and attention with the castrati who from the earliest days of opera sang the heroic male roles. (In Rome, thanks to the ban on women in stage productions imposed in 1585 by Pope Sixtus V, castrati often sang the female roles as well.) Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni were probably the first women to achieve the star status and concomitant financial rewards enjoyed by the castrati virtuosos of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Undeniably, opera was for several centuries the most important genre for women singers who were not permitted to sing in church until late in the eighteenth century. Opera was, in fact, the only truly public musical genre until the second half of that century. Both women and men sang in private concerts at court or in the homes of the wealthy; typically they sang arias or scenas from operas. The increasing importance of the concert in the late eighteenth century gave rise to new repertoire, the "concert aria," composed for example by Mozart for Nancy Storace and for Josepha Duschek, and eventually in the nineteenth century the art song, especially the lied, for the increasingly more intimate ambiance of the recital. Singers excluded from the opera stage by the nature of their voice, their personality, or operatic politics could work in this new chamber setting, which . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.