Who is Barbara Strozzi?

“…. do you know who Barbara Strozzi actually is?” my Dad asked, as he was driving me back from a lovely lunch and dropped me off at the office at the Barbara Strozzilaan 201, in Amsterdam.

Luckily I knew we were driving on the Albinonistraat, around the corner from the office and I know he was a composer, so I assumed we were in the “composer neighbourhood”…

“I think he was a composer?”, I responded, thinking how weird it is that Italian men are called Barbara. However, I know a Daniele, and he is an (Italian) man, so, hey, why not.

 My dad set me straight and explained….

 Barbara Strozzi was an Italian female composer and singer, and was born in 1619 as a (bastard) daughter of the then famous poet Giullio Strozzi. As a young girl she obtained fame as a singer, and in 1649 she published her first of many compositions.

She was a meritorious singer, made virtuoso compositions and excelled on the lute (yep). Furthermore, she contributed regularly to the discussions that were going on at the “Accademia degli Incogniti“, a leading institution for literature, art, religion, and, of course, music, that was founded by her father.

Summarized, she was very successful in her time. She composed an enormous amount of music and was very musical, was smart, and beautiful. These days they call that a ‘triple threat’.

If you think about it, it is quite an amazing story. A (single) woman, who developed so remarkably, that even in 2010 there is a street named after her in Amsterdam. Interesting detail is that most biographies about her, mention the fact that she may have been working as a ‘courtisane’ as well. Was that bickering by the jealous elite, or, did she do what she had to do, to feed her four (bastard) children? We will probably never know.

What we do know is that she composed beautiful music, which we, almost 400 years later, still can enjoy.