Born: Friday, September 18, 1587 in Florence, Italy
Died: c. 1640 in Florence, Italy
Nation of Origin: Italy
The Liberation of Ruggiero (1625) is still performed today
La stiava, (1607)
Francesca Caccini was one of the few women to achieve individual success and recognition for her artistic endeavors during a time when such a status for women was unheard of. A large part of this was due to her father, Guilio Caccini, who was a well known composer and musician. He raised Francesca to be an independent spirit, as well as an excellent composer and musician. She is the first known female composer of an opera.
Francesca Caccini was raised in a family of professional musicians. Her father and her mother were both well known for their musical talents. It was this musically concentrated atmosphere that started Francesca as a musician at an extremely young age. She became extremely proficient, and recognized for her skills in keyboard (primarily harpsichord), lute, guitar, harp, and vocal performance. This is not to disregard her extensive knowledge of composition, music theory, and literature.
Francesca's debut came as a singer at the extremely young age of thirteen in the first performance of her father's opera, "Euridice". This was very significant to music history because Guilio Caccini was one of the key members of an intellectual group of Florentine composers known as the "Camerata." They have been accredited with the introduction of "melodrama" into music, which in turn assisted with the motion of music into the Baroque. This particular performance of her father's new and innovative music attracted the attention of King Henry IV of France, who wanted to add her talents to his Parisian court as a paid employee.
Francesca declined the King's generous offer on the order of the Grand Duke Ferdinand. He was the master of her family's resident court as well as the Medici's, her fiancee's court. Francesca rose quickly in the familiar surroundings of the Medici court. By the age of 36, she stood as the court's highest paid singer and lead composer. Despite the tremendous amount of success that Francesca Caccini received during her life time, the exact date and cause of her death is unknown. Her burial spot, however, is well documented. She rests peacefully in a tomb with her father, sister, and an unidentified loved one known as Dianora. She did, however, leave behind a son. The documentation of the passing of his guardianship to his uncle in 1645 does give us some idea as to the date of her death.
Regardless of the success and the recognition that Francesca's compositions received, none of them were published until after her father's death in 1618. Furthermore, very few of her works have been fully recovered to this day. Yet, Francesca Caccini remains one of the most prominent female composers and performers to this date. She made her mark on the world as one of the first professionally trained and actively employed female vocalists, as well as the first woman to compose a full opera and countless other recovered and unrecovered works. Even in the absence of her tangible music, her courage, independence, and intelligence are an active inspiration to female artists everywhere.
Erin Dorothea Salm
Temple University Student, Fall 2000
Used by permission of the author
Essay contributed by:
Erin Dorothea Salm
Bukofzer, Manfred F., Music in the Baroque Era, from Monteverdi to Bach, W.W. Norton & Company, November 1947, ISBN: 0393097455
Palisca, Claude V. Baroque Music, Prentice Hall, December 1990, ISBN: 0130584967
Slonimsky, Nicolas and Kuhn, Laura; Editors, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Gale Group, December 2000, ISBN: 0028655257
Sadie, Stanley and Tyrrell, John; Editors, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Groves Dictionaries, Inc., January 2004, ISBN: 0195170679
Rutherford-Johnson, Tim, Kennedy, Michael, and Kennedy, Joyce The Oxford Dictionary of Music, Oxford University Press, 6th Edition, 2012, ISBN: 0199578109
Links to essays at other sites: