Paper Session
Nov 11, 2021 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM(America/Chicago)
20211111T1000 20211111T1050 America/Chicago Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe AMS 2021
Barbara Strozzi’s “La sol fà, mi, rè, dò”: Code for Courtesan?
Individual Paper 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 16:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 16:50:00 UTC

In the arietta "La sol fà, mi, rè, dò" from opus 2 of 1651, Barbara Strozzi offers a lyrical portrait of a singer who proclaims the value of her song to a male admirer who narrates. Communicating exclusively through notes in solfege syllables, rather than in words of speech, she expects payment for each note. For instance, her phrase "do fa mi" not only sounds as an ascending fourth descending to a third but has the double entendre of a command: "give me a present" ("do[n] fa mi"). The arietta is the fruit of Strozzi's collaboration with Giovanni Battista Maiorani, who wrote the _poesia per musica_. While this "solfege song" initially might strike one as amusing, below the surface it suggests the struggles of a courtesan who needs to be paid for what she does with the skills of her voice and body. In his portrait of Barbara Strozzi, Bernardo Strozzi painted the accoutrements of the Renaissance musical courtesan: her instruments-viola da gamba and violin-and her voluptuous body. He provided a point of comparison between Barbara Strozzi's attributes and the intellectual skill, independence, and erudition of some of the foremost "honest courtesans" of the Renaissance: Tullia d'Aragona, Gaspara Stampa, and Veronica Franco.


In this paper, I draw on the work of Margaret Rosenthal, Martha Feldman, Bonnie Gordon, Amy Brosius, and others to explore the notion that-with the coded language of solfege in her arietta-Strozzi describes the work of a woman who is neither a whore (_puttana_) nor a prostitute (_meretrice_) but, rather, an honest courtesan (_cortigiana onesta_). Rosenthal uses the term for women who were able to acquire capital "through intellectual and literary projects." Through the protagonist of the arietta, might Strozzi have wished to represent herself as an honest courtesan? Might the "virtuosissima cantatrice" have considered this song to be the musical counterpart to her portrait? Ultimately, the arietta as well as what we are coming to know about the courtesans' lives reveal the challenges of earning a living as an independent early modern woman, whether pursuing a career as a writer, composer, or musician.

Claire Fontijn
Wellesley College
Experiencing Motherhood: The Significance of the Replacement Aria “Ahi perché” in the First Revival of _Rodelinda_ (December 1725)
Individual Paper 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 16:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 16:50:00 UTC

Handel evidently thought carefully about the experience of motherhood in _Rodelinda_. The sundry revisions in the autograph, performing score, and first revival display aria amendments that either dull or hone Rodelinda's maternal expressivity. For example, Handel labored over "Ho perduto" (Act 1, Scene 1) in the autograph and performing score (February 1725): he ultimately cut the original B section, in which Rodelinda chooses to live for the sake of her son - a cut that refocuses the aria on the essential theme of Rodelinda's widowhood and curtails her motherhood. Conversely, Handel sharpened the maternal dimensions of Rodelinda in the first revival (December 1725). Handel replaced the heart-breaking lament "Se'l mio duol" (Act 3, Scene 4) with another equally moving aria "Ahi perché, giusto Ciel." In both, Rodelinda mourns the assumed death of her husband, but in "Ahi perché" she acknowledges her son and their shared sadness.

This paper explores how "Ahi perché" engages the experience of motherhood in two ways. First, "Ahi perché" dims the emphasis on Rodelinda's widowhood (the primary topic of "Se'l mio duol") and underlines the complexities of her motherhood. Notably, the B section of "Ahi perché" cites "Vieni, o figlio" from _Ottone_ (1723), a poignant aria sung by the mother Gismonda to her ill-fated son. Second, "Ahi perché" brings to light an association between Rodelinda and Francesca Cuzzoni, who Handel employed as the title character in the premiere and first revival of _Rodelinda_. Suzanne Aspden has argued that London audiences appreciated an "interplay of performer and character" expressed by Cuzzoni, her roles, and her music. "Ahi perché" enriches this intersection, though in a remarkably material way. Cuzzoni gave birth to a daughter on August 22, 1725 - just months before the 1725 revival. _Rodelinda_ thus betokens a metatheatrical connection, wherein Rodelinda references Cuzzoni and Cuzzoni references Rodelinda. 

Regina Compton
Music Instruction for the Bourgeois Woman?: Transgressing Gender and Genre in Byrd’s “A voluntarie” from _My Ladye Nevells Booke_
Individual Paper 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 16:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 16:50:00 UTC

The concluding piece "A voluntarie" stands out among William Byrd's free works for keyboard in _My Ladye Nevells Booke_ (1591; hereafter MLNB). Stylistic elements within the work point to the organ, not the virginal, as Byrd's imagined instrument for performance. In addition to bearing the organ-like title "A voluntarie", the piece shows Byrd writing almost entirely in a three-voice polyphonic texture, avoiding the lowest short octave keys that were unavailable to the organ, and relying on figuration more reminiscent of organ versets than his other keyboard fantasias. Byrd's apparent choice to end a virginal book with a piece seemingly idiomatic to the organ might coincide with Byrd's desire, as John Harley conjectures, "to make an authoritative collection of his keyboard music comparable to his printed collections." However, such a conjecture fails to avoid the pitfalls of anachronistic analysis steeped in the Romantic work-concept. 

Instead, I argue that through the concluding voluntary from MLNB, Byrd transgressed gender expectations and provided Lady Nevell with access to a masculine gendered performance tradition in Tudor England–that of improvised voluntaries at the organ. Having established the uniqueness of MLNB's concluding voluntary through comparative analysis with Byrd's other free keyboard works, I connect this unique voluntary to the traditions of improvised polyphony taught to choirboys. The skills required to improvise the Elizabethan organ voluntary represents a continuation of choirboy training, relying on the same counterpoint rules while replacing the chant cantus firmus with a free subject. On the other hand, the musical training of sixteenth-century bourgeois women, like that of Lady Nevell, would not have incorporated the rigors of improvised vocal polyphony necessary to improvise such an organ voluntary. The expected avenues for participating in the performance tradition of the organ voluntary would therefore have been otherwise inaccessible to Byrd's dedicatee for MLNB. The contrast in musical education provided to bourgeois women with that provided to choirboy-organists shows that Byrd's inclusion of a notated organ voluntary in MLNB transgresses gendered boundaries of pedagogical access. 

Matt Bickett
Yale University
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