The Renaissance (“rebirth”) in Italy paved the way for incredible discoveries in all areas of human existence. It was a time of great invention, scientific exploration, and lavish expression through art and music.  A renewed focus on the classicsled to many new musical art forms such as opera, and its related focus on philology greatly impacted compositional style.

At the end of the 16th century, the Duke of Ferrara began hosting private events shrouded in secrecy featuring the concerto delle donne, an ensemble of renowned professional women musicians who were hired to entertain guests of the court. By all accounts, these women were phenomenally gifted and they inspired composers to write extraordinarily florid and virtuosic music for them. Rival courts throughout Italy quickly mimicked the original trio to form other concerti delle donne.

During this time of extraordinary creativity, there was greater awareness and limited acceptance of the many women who were composing and performing.  A few stand-outs were Barbara Strozzi, Francesca Caccini, Antonia Bembo, Isabella Leonarda, and Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, among many.  Some lived and worked in wealthy courts while others lived in convents that allowed for surprising freedoms, but it was clear that these women participated handsomely in the world of music during their day.

TENET’s modern take on the tradition of concerti delle donne is rooted in a love of music and history.  For this project, we focus our attention on 17th century Italy in a program featuring sopranos Jolle Greenleaf, Molly Quinn and Virginia Warnken, who have teamed up to share the story of these amazing women and the musical world they inhabited while shedding light on the courtly culture known as as Musica Segreta (“secret music”).

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