Tarquinia Molza (1542-1617): A Case Study Of Women, Music And Society In The Renaissance

Joanne M. Riley, University of Massachusetts - Boston

The Musical Woman: An International Perspective, Vol II. Copyright (1987) by Judith Lang Zaimont, Catherine Overhauser, and Jane Gottleib. Reproduced with permission of ABC-CLIO, LLC.


Tarquinia Molza (1542-1617), an Italian musician of the late Renaissance, worked at the Este court of Ferrara in the 1580's with several other women collectively referred to at the time as the "concerto delle donne." The vocal virtuosity of this group of women supposedly inspired famous male composers to write madrigals featuring ornamented soprano parts that undermined the "equal-voiced" madrigal ideal, and paved the way for the "concertante" principle of the Baroque.

However, contradictions and questions still surround the historical contribution of the "singing Ladies of Ferrara"-- questions that can be satisfyingly answered after examining the roles of both women and men in the musical life of 16th century Italy.