English | Deutsch | Français

Francesca Caccini

The series RISM A-Z is moving on to the letter C, which today stands for the Baroque composer and performer Francesca Caccini (1587-c.1640). She was a musica in the Medici court in Florence from 1607 to 1627 and from 1633 to 1641: a composer, singer, instrumentalist, voice teacher, and concert organizer. In this position, she composed for the stage as well as for chamber ensembles. Most of her 17 theatrical works were performed at the court and she is thought to have composed hundreds of smaller vocal works. Today she is remembered as the first woman to have composed an opera--though at the time, it was called a ballettoLa liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d'Alcina (1625).

Unusually for a professional woman musician at the time, both the opera and her Primo Libro of vocal songs were published during her lifetime. RISM A/I lists both of these:

  • Il primo libro delle musiche a una, e due voci  (Firenze, Zanobi Pignoni, 1618)
    RISM A/I: C 2 (4 locations)
  • La liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d'Alcina. Balletto ... rappresentata nel Poggio Imperiale, villa della Serenissima Arciducessa d'Austria Gran Ducessa di Toscana (Firenze, Pietro Cecconcelli, 1625)
    A/I: C 3 (6 copies)


A digitized copy of the Primo Libro held by the Biblioteca Estense in Modena (I-MOe) can be found on IMSLP.

The RISM online database lists seven excerpts from La liberazione that are preserved in Rome. These copies date from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. For two choruses, "O bei pensieri volate" and "Tosche del sol più belle tosche," no fewer than 109 parts exist. They are preserved in a collection along with excerpts from operas by Cherubini, Gluck, and Rossini. This gives you an idea of how the choruses might have been performed in the hands of their previous owners at the Società Musicale Romana.

Below are highlights of a performance of La liberazione from the Australian premiere in 2012.



Bibliography: Suzanne G. Cusick, Francesca Caccini at the Medici court: Music and the Circulation of Power (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), with CD of excerpts from Caccini's compositions.

Francesca Caccini, Musik und Gender im Internet

Image credit: Anonymous cameo, Wikimedia Commons


Category: RISM A-Z

Next article >
< Previous article