Chaste warriors and virgin martyrs in florentine musical spectacle

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


So complains the demon of lust (Asmodeo) to Lucifer in the very first scene ofMarco da Gagliano’s La regina Sant’Orsola, one of four fully-sung operas performed at the Medici court between 1624 and 1628 (see Figure 4-1). Although the work’s librettist, court poet Andrea Salvadori, claimed that with Sant’Orsola he inaugurated a new genre-sacred opera- its plot, including Asmodeo’s lament, was not without precedent in Medici theatrical.3 Just two years before, the court and its invited guests had witnessed a performanc e of Jacopo Cicognini’s prose play with music entitled Jl martiro di Santa Agata, whose characters register many of the same complaints against another opponent of lasciviousness, Saint Agatha.4 Throughout much of the decade, heroines of Florentine spectacles would strive to thwart the enemies of chastity, sacrificing their lives if necessary. Indeed the assertive female protagonist became the most visible dramatic symbol of the Medici court dur ing the decade of the 1620s, providing plots for the majority of musical spectacles intended to entertain visitors of state between 1622 and 1628.5 The theatrical advent of these courageous, virtuous women coincides with a unique period of Florentine history, namely, the only time in which women governed that city. The premature death of Grand Duke Cosimo II (1590-1621) had left a ten-year-old heir, Ferdinando II (1610-1670), necessitating a regency government from February 1621 until Ferdinando’s eighteenth birthday (14 July 1628). In his testament Cosimo II had anticipated such a conting ency, and he had stipulated a regency to be composed of his wife Archduchess Maria Maddalana d’ Austria (1587-1631) and his mother Cristina and Figure 4.1, Operas performed in Florence, 1621-1628 Title (date of publication)!.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGender, Sexuality, and Early Music
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages49
ISBN (Electronic)9781136533167
ISBN (Print)0815333943, 9781138870345
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2002 by Todd M. Borgerding.


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