This study considers how the emergence of opera, its evolution, and the rise of the prima donna influenced literary and musical culture during the seventeenth century. I focus on the remarkable careers and voices of two Roman singers, the sisters Margherita and Anna Francesca Costa, to consider two over-arching questions: first, how were women’s voices—whether in song, in speech, or in writing—received and represented by their contemporaries during the first century of opera? And secondly, how did women singers and writers fashion their public voices—and consequently, their livelihoods—against shifting notions of women’s creative authority, gender norms, and the dynamics of power? Chapters One and Two reconstruct the lives and performance histories of the Costa sisters and use their experiences as a springboard for an investigation of the social and cultural forces that shaped the performances and patronage strategies of seventeenth-century women singers. Chapter Three investigates the cultural context of the persistent alignment between women singers and prostitutes, investigating the complex relationship between singing and onestà using the archives of the Monastery of S. Maria Maddalena delle Convertite al Corso—a religious institution founded to house repentant prostitutes—to show how the control and regulation of women singers’ behavior influenced both their public images and their financial futures. Chapter Four uses the image of Saint Cecilia as a starting point for an analysis of the complexities of self-fashioning for a singing woman in the seventeenth century, analyzing how three socio-cultural phenomena playing out during this time—the emergence of opera, the climate of religious reform, and the rediscovery of Saint Cecilia’s incorrupt body—shaped the ways in which women singers fashioned their public images and shaped their careers during a period that saw major shifts in norms and prescriptions for women’s speech and song. I focus in particular on Margherita Costa’s narrative poem, Cecilia martire, to show how Costa fashioned herself as a secular Cecilia to appeal to her Barberini patrons in 1644. Chapter Five tells the story of how Anna Francesca Costa stepped beyond the role of prima donna to become one of the few female impresarios of the seventeenth century. Letters exchanged between Anna Francesca and her patron in Florence, Giovan Carlo de’ Medici show that she single-handedly organized successful performances of the opera Ergirodo in Bologna in 1653. Through new archival evidence, I show that the opera was first performed in Paris, where Anna Francesca had sung in the first Italian operas presented at the French court from 1644 to 1647; the opera was conceived to legitimize Anne of Austria’s new regency, explaining its preoccupation with the Salic law used there to exclude women from the throne. Through its reconstruction and analysis of the extraordinary careers of the Costa sisters, Performing Women shows how women singers, writers, and impresarios fashioned their voices against the same issues that were dramatized in Ergirodo and other operas of the period: new ways of conceiving and resisting women’s power: whether that authority was used to rule empires, to sing, to write, or to take charge of creative enterprises such as the production of opera itself.

Performing women: opera, sexuality, and the female voice in Seventeenth-Century Italy / Quaintance, Courtney. - (2022 Sep 23).

Performing women: opera, sexuality, and the female voice in Seventeenth-Century Italy

QUAINTANCE, COURTNEY
2022

Abstract

This study considers how the emergence of opera, its evolution, and the rise of the prima donna influenced literary and musical culture during the seventeenth century. I focus on the remarkable careers and voices of two Roman singers, the sisters Margherita and Anna Francesca Costa, to consider two over-arching questions: first, how were women’s voices—whether in song, in speech, or in writing—received and represented by their contemporaries during the first century of opera? And secondly, how did women singers and writers fashion their public voices—and consequently, their livelihoods—against shifting notions of women’s creative authority, gender norms, and the dynamics of power? Chapters One and Two reconstruct the lives and performance histories of the Costa sisters and use their experiences as a springboard for an investigation of the social and cultural forces that shaped the performances and patronage strategies of seventeenth-century women singers. Chapter Three investigates the cultural context of the persistent alignment between women singers and prostitutes, investigating the complex relationship between singing and onestà using the archives of the Monastery of S. Maria Maddalena delle Convertite al Corso—a religious institution founded to house repentant prostitutes—to show how the control and regulation of women singers’ behavior influenced both their public images and their financial futures. Chapter Four uses the image of Saint Cecilia as a starting point for an analysis of the complexities of self-fashioning for a singing woman in the seventeenth century, analyzing how three socio-cultural phenomena playing out during this time—the emergence of opera, the climate of religious reform, and the rediscovery of Saint Cecilia’s incorrupt body—shaped the ways in which women singers fashioned their public images and shaped their careers during a period that saw major shifts in norms and prescriptions for women’s speech and song. I focus in particular on Margherita Costa’s narrative poem, Cecilia martire, to show how Costa fashioned herself as a secular Cecilia to appeal to her Barberini patrons in 1644. Chapter Five tells the story of how Anna Francesca Costa stepped beyond the role of prima donna to become one of the few female impresarios of the seventeenth century. Letters exchanged between Anna Francesca and her patron in Florence, Giovan Carlo de’ Medici show that she single-handedly organized successful performances of the opera Ergirodo in Bologna in 1653. Through new archival evidence, I show that the opera was first performed in Paris, where Anna Francesca had sung in the first Italian operas presented at the French court from 1644 to 1647; the opera was conceived to legitimize Anne of Austria’s new regency, explaining its preoccupation with the Salic law used there to exclude women from the throne. Through its reconstruction and analysis of the extraordinary careers of the Costa sisters, Performing Women shows how women singers, writers, and impresarios fashioned their voices against the same issues that were dramatized in Ergirodo and other operas of the period: new ways of conceiving and resisting women’s power: whether that authority was used to rule empires, to sing, to write, or to take charge of creative enterprises such as the production of opera itself.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11573/1655246
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