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Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Volume 17 (2011) No. 1

Published 2015


Beth L. Glixon

1.1 Among opera singers active in Venice during the 1660s and early 1670s, none were more acclaimed or more highly paid than Vincenza Giulia Masotti, known at the time as Giulia, or “Dori,” after one of her most famous roles in Cesti’s eponymous opera. Although Masotti has been the subject of numerous studies, newly discovered documents—the fifty-one letters that the singer wrote to Cardinal Sigismondo Chigi, transcribed here as the Masotti Correspondence (MC), as well as various sources housed in Vienna—now allow us to broaden our understanding of this important artist. The four articles in this issue of the Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music each explore Masotti’s life and the music she performed from a different point of view.

1.2 Colleen Reardon looks at the Masotti correspondence for what it can tell us about the Cardinal Sigismondo Chigi. The literature on his relatives Pope Alexander VII (Fabio Chigi) and Cardinal Flavio Chigi is vast, but because Sigismondo died at such a young age, it has long been assumed that he contributed little if anything to the musical culture of his time. The letters from Giulia to Sigismondo, along with other newly discovered documentary materials, help to place Sigismondo in the fabric of his extended family and provide a partial portrait of his musical tastes. An examination of all these sources provides some clues as to the kind of patron Sigismondo might have become had he lived longer.

1.3 Beth Glixon examines Masotti’s career in Venice from its beginnings in 1663 to its end ten years later. Her article looks at the different impresarios Masotti worked with and the difficulties she endured as a result of the recruitment process. The newly uncovered letters between her and Sigismondo Chigi highlight Masotti’s evolving relationship with members of the Grimani family and various aspects of her social life in Venice, including her friendship with another noble family, the Dolfin. Finally, the article examines one of Masotti’s most heroic roles and the new prominence afforded to her during her last three years on the Venetian stage.

1.4 The correspondence between Giulia Masotti and Sigismondo Chigi reveals her preference for operas by Antonio Cesti composed to librettos by Giovanni Filippo Apolloni. Valeria De Lucca discusses the ways in which, through the help of her powerful protector, the Roman nobleman Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna, Masotti was able to influence the repertories of theaters in and outside of Venice by fostering the production of Cesti’s operas, particularly La Dori and L’Argia. Furthermore, Masotti’s comments, criticism, and praise of La Dori, L’Argia, and L’Alcasta, as well as other operas she saw in Venice, help to reveal her tastes.

1.5 In 1673 Giulia abandoned the Italian stage and moved to Vienna, joining the household of Empress Claudia Felicitas, second wife of Emperor Leopold I. Janet K. Page’s article draws on documents in Viennese archives to trace Giulia’s life and musical activities in the context of women’s music-making at the Habsburg court. Giulia was an anomaly for her time, as she arrived in Vienna without an accompanying husband or parent, and she received a professional salary. She parlayed her talent into a comfortable and secure later life, marrying a court musician from a recently ennobled family. Her high salary and status prepared the way for the prima donnas of the next generation in Vienna.

1.6 These four articles expand on the session the authors presented on Masotti at the Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society in 2008. Amy Brosius introduced our session by placing Masotti in the context of virtuose in Rome. In addition to the four articles we are publishing Masotti’s correspondence with Sigismondo Chigi in its entirety, and references to the letters in our articles are linked to the Masotti Correspondence. We are indebted to Nello Barbieri and Jonathan Glixon for their assistance in deciphering the correspondence as well as a number of other documents.

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