Francesca Caccini

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Entry by Danielle Roster, 2004

Francesca Caccini was born on September 18, 1587 in Florence. Her parents, Guilio and Lucia Caccini were singers at the court of the Archduke of Florence. Her mother died when she was still a child and her father remarried the singer Margherita della Scala. Both of them encouraged Francesca's musical talents. Around 1600, she often performed at Court musical festivities. As a family of professional musicians, Giulio, Margherita, Francesca, Settimia, and Pompeo Caccini formed a singing group of rapidly spreading fame. In 1604, the family was invited by Marie de Médicis to Paris, travelling through Modena, Milan, Torino and Lyon. The queen knew them well because Giulio Caccini's Il rapimento di Cefalo, in which Francesca had marked her debut as an opera singer, was performed during her wedding to Henri IV, in 1600. The emotion that came across in their singing delighted the royal couple and the courtesans, and their innovative singing method (that G. Caccini had described in his Nuove Musiche in 1602) stimulated the curiosity of French singers and musicians. Writing to Grand Duke Ferdinand I in February 1605, Guilio Caccini noted that in the French king's opinion, no group could compete with theirs and that no one in France sang better than Francesca. The king expressed the desire to keep her at his court; but the Grand Duke of Tuscany did not agree to yield his singer, and the family returned to Italy in June 1605. In the following years, she sang at the court in various entertainments and festivities, and even in religious ceremonies (officially, women were excluded from singing in church). She married the singer, instrumentist and composer Giovanni Battista Signorini in 1607. He too performed at court. She soon was one of the best-paid musicians of Florence. She founded and led a women's singing group and taught singing to girls. In 1618 she published the collection Il Primo Libro delle Musiché a una e due voci that included 36 sacred and profane works. She had a daughter, Margherita, in 1622, to whom she taught music and singing and who would later enter the San Girolamo monastery in Florence. In 1624, the regent Maria-Maddelena of Austria commissioned Francesca to compose a dramatic work with sets and production that would pull out all the stops for Prince Ladislas Sigismond of Poland's visit. Thus La Liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d'Alcina saw the light of day -a story taking place entirely in a world of women, with no heros. This first opera composed by a woman in the history of music was later performed in Poland, in 1628, and it was hence one of the first Italian operas performed outside of Italy. In 1626, Giovanni Battista Signorini died. The following year Francesca left the court of Florence temporarily and married Tomaso Raffaelli, a rich aristocrat from Lucca. In 1628 she gave birth to a son, the heir her husband desired. Raffaelli was a passionate music lover and instrument collector and a member of several music and literary academies where his wife naturally played a major role. She was involved as composer, singer and organizer in musical performances given by the Accademia degli Oscuri. Tomaso Raffaelli died in 1630. In the spring of 1633 Francesca Caccini's name reappeared on the Medici account books. From 1633 to 1637, with her daughter, she frequently lent her talents to Grand Duchess Christine de Lorraine and Grand Duchess Vittoria delle Rovere. The place, date and cause of her death remain unknown. Francesca Caccini's name is known in musical historiography and assessments are highly positive. Recently, Carolyn Raney pointed out the richness of her melodic, harmonic and rhythmic inventions in the Primo Libro, as well as the subtlety of the vocal ornamentation so well conceived for singing. She places the madrigal Maria, dolce Maria on the same level as the famous Lamento d'Arianna by Claudio Monteverdi. Suzanne G. Cusick qualified La liberazione as a theatrical-musical commentary on the means at women's disposal to wield power in a monarchic and patriarchal regime. Francesca Caccini's works have not yet been spotlighted as they deserve to be, whether by singers, publishers, record companies or concert organizers.

(translated by Sheila Malovany-Chevallier)


- 1607 : La stiava(«torneo», texte M. Buonarroti), création le 26 février 1607 à Pise, oeuvre perdue.
- 1611 : La mascherata delle ninfe di Senna(ballet, livret O. Rinuccini, musique Jacopo Peri, Marco da Gagliano, Vittoria Archilei, Settimia Caccini et Francesca Caccini), création le 14 février 1611 au Palazzo Pitti de Florence, oeuvre perdue.
- 1611 : La Tancia(comédie, texte M. Buonarroti), création le 25 mai 1611 au Palazzo Pitti à Florence, oeuvre perdue à l'exception de La pastorella mia,acte 2, scène 5, publié dans Il Primo Libro p.58, voir infra.
- 1614 : Il passatempo(ballet, livret M. Buonarroti), création le 11 février 1614 au Palazzo Pitti à Florence, oeuvre perdue à l'exception de Chi desia di saper,acte 1, et Io veggio,ballet du 3e acte, publiés dans Il Primo Libro p.90 et 56, voir infra, ainsi que Egloga pastorale Tirsi e Filli, acte 2 scène 1, inédit.
- 1615 : Il ballo delle Zingane'(ballet, livret F. Saracinelli), création le 24 février 1615 au Palazzo Pitti à Florence, oeuvre perdue.
- 1618 : Il Primo Libro delle Musiche a una e due voci [36 oeuvres sacrées et profanes], The Italian Secular Song 1606-1636, vol.1, Florence/New York/London, Garland Publishing, 1986, p.173-277 (fac-similé) -- Aucune édition moderne ne contient toutes les oeuvres. On trouve: Madrigal Maria, dolce Maria et Motet Laudate Dominum, éd. James R.Briscoe, in Id., Historical Anthology of Music by Women, Bloomington, Indiana, 1987; Motet Regina Coeli et Hymne Jesu corona Virginum, éd. Martha Schleifer et Sylvia Glickman, in Id., Women Composers. Music Through the Ages, vol.1, New York, G.K. Hall, 1996; The Secular Songs from Il primo libro delle musiche, éd. Ronald Alexander et Richard Savino, Indiana University Press, 1997.
- 1619 : La Fiera (comédie, texte M. Buonarroti), création le 11 février 1619 au Palazzo Pitti à Florence, oeuvre perdue.
- 1621 : Dove io credea (aria), in Ghirlandetta Amorosa, Orvieto, F. Constantini.
- 1622 : Il martirio di S Agata (intermède, livret J. Cicognini, musique de F. Caccini et Giovan Battista da Gagliano), création le 23 janvier 1622 à Florence, oeuvre perdue.
- 1625 : La Liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d'Alcina (opéra, livret F. Saracinelli), création le 3 février 1625 à la Villa Poggio Imperiale (Florence), Studio per edizione scelte, collection Archivium Musicum volume IV, Florence 1998 (fac-similé) -- Éd. Doris Silbert, coll. Smith College Music Archives, vol.7, Northampton (Mass.), Smith College, 1945.
- 1629 : Ch'io sia fidele (aria), inLe Risonanti sfere, Rome, Giambattista Robletti.
- ? : Feste delle Dame (livret M. Buonarroti), oeuvre perdue.
- ? : Rinaldo innamorato (opéra, livret?), oeuvre perdue.

Selected bibliography

- Cusick, Suzanne G. «"Thinking from Women's Lives": Francesca Caccini after 1627». The Musical Quarterly, 77, mars 1993, p.484-507.
- Cusick, Suzanne G. «Of Women, Music and power: A Model from Seicento Florence», in Ruth Solie (dir.), Musicology and Difference. Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship. Berkeley, CA, University of California Press, 1993, p.281-304.
- Raney, Carolyn. «Francesca Caccini, Musician to the Medici, and her Primo Libro (1618)». Thèse, New York University, 1971.
- Roster, Danielle. «Francesca Caccini», in id., Les Femmes et la création musicale. Les compositrices européennes du Moyen-Age au milieu du XXe siècle. Paris, L'Harmattan, 1998,p.33-56.
- Silbert, Doris. «Francesca Caccini, Called La Cecchina». The Musical Quarterly, 31, 1, 1946, p.50-62.

Web Links

- Acadia Early Music Resources: Francesca Caccini: contenant e.a. le fac-similé de Il primo Libro delle Musiche a una e due voci[1]
- International Alliance for Women in Music [2]


- «A Florence, [j'ai entendu] la fille de Signor Giulio Caccini, qui a chanté admirablement et joué du luth, de la guitare et du clavecin.» (Claudio Monteverdi à Ferdinand Gonzague, le 28 décembre 1610, cité par Henry Prunières, Monteverdi,New York, 1926, p.240).
- «À Florence, où je l'ai entendue dans ma jeunesse, Signora Francesca Caccini [...] a été, durant de longues années, profondément admirée, tant pour ses capacités musicales en matière de chant et de composition que pour les poèmes qu'elle écrivait non seulement en latin mais en toscan.» (Pietro della Valle, Della musica dell' età nostra [1640], in Lyra Barberina,Florence, 1763).
- (à propos de La Liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d'Alcina) «Avec sa composition qui reflète si fidèlement le visage de l'époque, Francesca a érigé un éclatant monument à son talent tout à fait exceptionnel. Dans sa musique, on distingue encore nettement les traits de son père Giulio, mais Francesca a également fort bien étudié Monteverdi, et avec grand profit, et elle représente même, à côté de l'Orfeo de son modèle, un point de vue sensiblement plus avancé. [...] Francesca était un génie, elle avait incontestablement plus de musique en elle que son célèbre père.» (August Wilhelm Ambros, Geschichte der Musik, Leipzig, 1881, vol. 4, p.295).
- «Elle a d'ailleurs toutes sortes de qualités féminines, une élégance de pensée, une coquetterie de réponses et de style, une finesse d'harmonie, un charme de séduction, bien faits pour le sujet... C'est un chant de printemps, le dernier chant de la "Primavera" florentine, jeune comme au premier jour.» (Romain Rolland, Histoire de l'opéra en Europe avant Lully et Scarlatti, Paris, Thorin, 1895, p.114-115).

Francesca Caccini
Also known as La Cecchina
Birth date 1587
Death Around 1645
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