Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

‘Il suon, lo sguardo, il canto’: Virtuose of the Roman conversazioni in the mid -seventeenth century
by Brosius, Amy, Ph.D., New York University, 2009, 475; 3380297
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the social and political culture of female singing in mid-seventeenth-century Rome. At the beginning of the seventeenth century many influences converged to create an elite culture that highly valued the presence of female singers of virtuosic vocal music in many different types of elite gatherings. I examine what types of social and cultural work were being performed in the elite spaces in which these singers – called virtuose – performed.

An intense interest in virtuosa performance coincided with an expanding culture of collection in Rome that placed a high value on sounding arts like music and rhetoric. Elite males, who demonstrated their social worthiness through their conoisseurship of musical performances, offered up virtuosa performances as experiences to be collected, assessed, remembered, and re-collected through the act of conversation in gatherings called conversazioni. Men also used different artistic mediums to inspire conversation about virtuose, in the event of the absence of these women at conversazioni. I examine two of these mediums: texts written by elite men recounting the experience of virtuosa performances and images of singing women or actual virtuose. Such artifacts reveal a range of fantasies these women fulfilled for an elite male audience.

Men were not the only patrons of Roman virtuose. The rise of a misogynistic trend in literature on women during this period has helped to conceal the active role of female patrons and other elite women in singing culture. It has also perpetuated the traditional polarizing narrative of female singer as either chaste and noble court singer or dangerous seductive courtesan. In addition to the writings of elite men, I use archival documents and scholarship from several historical disciplines to construct a more complex view of the virtuosa and her patrons and supporters. I will present two case studies of virtuose that examine the different roles they played in the political, cultural, and social environment. These studies challenge the traditional narrative about Roman virtuose and reveal them as not only objects to be collected, displayed, and re-collected in fantasy, but as active agents in their own self-fashioning and career.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Cusick, Suzanne G.
Commitee: Cox, Virginia, Dell'Antonio, Andrew
School: New York University
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 70/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Music
Keywords: Baroni, Leonora, Female patronage, Female singers, Rome, Seventeenth century
Publication Number: 3380297
ISBN: 978-1-109-50748-5
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