Barbara Strozzi was a singer and composer of madrigals, arias, and cantatas published in Venice between 1644 and 1664. Her use of these vocal forms places her directly within the cantata tradition of the mid-seventeenth century, along with such major figures as Rossi, Carissimi, and Cesti. With the notable exception of Francesca Caccini (1587 – c. 1640), she is the only known woman among the many aria and cantata composers of seventeenth-century Italy, and is, presumably, among the very few women of the period to have pursued a career as a composer and to have achieved some measure of public recognition.
This historical distinction attracted attention to her works early in the present century, even when the music if most of her male contemporaries, and,indeed, most women composers of any era, remained relatively ignored. But appreciation of her style was limited by prevailing convention to an isolation of its supposedly feminine qualities: “great spontaneity, exquisite grace, marvelously fine taste.” Such an appreciation now appears irrelevant as well as polemical in its incompleteness because we are in a better position – with regard to both historical knowledge and social awareness – to attempt a more precise evaluation of a somewhat anomalous figurelike Barbara Strozzi.
Born in 1619 in Venice, she grew up in the home of Giulio Strozzi, a renowned poet and leading figure among Venetian intellectuals. Barbara’s presence in Giulio’s household guaranteed her and early and full exposure to Venetian musical and literary society. Indeed, she was able to enter a world that was, apparently, closed to other members of her sex. Similarly, Francesca Caccini, the most prominent and successful Italian woman composer of the period, was the daughter of professional musicians and therefore exposed to music for infancy. This parallel suggests that such an environment may have been essential for the development of a female composer.
But though Strozzi’s music certainly shares fully the aesthetic aim of her contemporaries, and of the baroque in general – to move the passions - her life and her work distinguishes her form these contemporaries in various ways. Whereas other composers sought (and found) a public forum for their effective expression in the theater and the Church, her world remained more private. Strozzi was a singer in Venice, surrounded by opera librettists and impresarios at a time when opera was the main cultural interest of a large segment of Venetian society, yet she apparently never sang in opera, nor did she write an opera. She is not a composer of dramatic works; her songs are addressed to a more intimate audience, expressing less the feeling of fictive characters than her own: “These harmonic notes,” she writes, “are the language of the soul, and instruments of the heart.”
1. According to the passage, Barbara Strozzi’s music attracted attention early in the twentieth century because of
A) Its uniquely private character
B) Its influence on Francesca Caccini
C) The scarcity of seventeenth-century women composers
D) The conventionality of its forms
E) The historical importance of Giulio Strozzi.
2. The author’s use of word “supposedly” in the line 20 implies which of the following?
A) The author doubts the historical authenticity of the quotation that follows.
B) The author doubts the accuracy of the facts she is reporting.
C) The author disagrees with the judgment she is discussing.
D) The author does not believe that Stozzi’s music has the qualities cited in the quotation.
E) The author is not sure of the significance of the quotation.
3. With which of the following statements would the author of the passage be most likely to agree?
A) The music of the seventeenth-century Italy is less frequently performed today than it was 50 years ago.
B) Contemporary music historians no longer discuses the music of a given composer in terms of its particular individual style.
C) The cantata tradition of seventeenth-century Italy is much better understood today than it ever has been.
D) Late-twentieth-century music historians have more accurate historical information than their early-twentieth-century counterparts.
E) Music historians of the early twentieth century were uninterested in the details of social life in seventeenth-century Venetian musical circles.
4. The author of the passage bases her assertion that Strozzi is one of the very few seventeenth-century Italian women composers (lines 7-12) on which of the following assumptions?
A) Public recognition is an indispensable part of a career as a composer.
B) Strozzi and Caccini were influenced by the same composers.
C) The music of any woman composer whom her seventeenth-century contemporaries regarded as noteworthy would be known to modern scholars.
D) The cantata tradition of the mid-seventeenth-century includes composers and performers of madrigals and arias as well as cantatas.
E) More women pursued careers as composers in seventeenth-century Italy than is evident from music published in the seventeenth-century.
5. The author of the passage quotes Barbara Strozzi in lines 55-57 most probably in order to
A) Support the claim that strozzi’s works are self revealing
B) Qualify the point concerning strozzi’s dramatic work
C) Illustrate Strozzi’s confident approach to her art
D) Show why Strozzi avoided opera as both composer and performer
E) Suggest that Strozzi’s viewpoint was typical of baroque musicians
6. The passage provides information to answer which of the following questions?
A) What was the exact family relationship between Giulio Strozzi and Barbara Strozzi?
B) What is the evidence that indicates that Barbara Strozzi never sang in an opera?
C) Were Barbara strozzi’s compositions know to her contemporaries?
D) Did Barbara Storzzi know Francesca Caccini?
E) What instruments provide the accompaniment for Barbara Strozzi’s vocal works?