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Ensemble La Cigale to Release Analekta : La Grazia Delle Donne

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Ensemble La Cigale and soprano Myriam Leblanc introduce musical creations of women in Baroque Italy.

Ensemble La Cigale to Release Analekta : La Grazia Delle Donne

With the launch of the album La Grazia Delle Donne on October 15, Ensemble La Cigale and soprano Myriam Leblanc introduce musical creations of women in Baroque Italy. Antonio Vivaldi taught music to some of them, and the orchestra formed by his most talented students attracted international acclaim. Some women, many of them from families of musicians, pursued careers as performers and composers at Italian courts. Their works were published and shared, and they were well respected.

• Isabella Leonarda, an Ursuline nun, rose through the ranks to become Mother Superior. She was the first woman to publish instrumental sonatas, and her opus includes some 200 compositions spanning almost a half-century, though most of her writing took place after the age of 50.

• Vittoria Aleotti, an Augustinian nun, was something of a prodigy, first learning by listening to her older sister's lessons but soon overtaking her as she quickly mastered the harpsichord and singing. By the age of six or seven, she was advanced enough to be sent to the San Vito convent in Ferrara, an institution famous for nurturing musical talent.

• Vittoria Aleotti was also the composer known as Raffaella Aleotti, or possibly her sister. Raffaela won praise for her talent and her ability to lead an ensemble of 23 nuns. She sometimes drew criticism for her enjoyment of complex polyphony and dissonance, where pleasure might get in the way of piety.

• Francesa and Settimia Caccini grew up performing for the Medici family as singers in Il Concerto Caccini with their father, Giulio Caccini, a pioneer of monophonic music, their stepmother Margherita and their brother Pompeo. As an adult, Settimia was admired as a singer. A few of her compositions survived, published in collections of works by assorted composers of the period. Francesca worked for many years at the Medici court as a composer, performer and arranger. She was the highest-paid musician at the court, a testament to her ability. A prolific composer, her "comedy ballet", La liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d'Alcinaest, was the first opera entirely composed by a woman. She contributed music to 16 other operatic works.

• Barbara Strozzi is the best known of the women in this program. She was the most widely published composer of her time, with eight books of her compositions in circulation. Her success allowed her to survive without regular patronage from the church or the support of a husband.

• Finally, Alessia Aldobrandini is the Baroque alter ego of modern lutenist Donatella Galletti. Galetti created this 18th-century noblewoman who composed for the archlute and theorbo, because it seemed to her that women composers were only appreciated after death. Alessia Aldobrandini has taken on a life of her own, with her music being featured in the play Le Voyage De Filiberto Tula.

Formed in Montréal in 2006, Ensemble La Cigale specializes in music of the Renaissance and Baroque eras on period instruments. It presents original programs that blend formal and traditional styles and bring little-known masterpieces to light. The group's first CD, Tiorba Obbligata, showcased the theorbo as a solo instrument and featured several world premiere recordings, and was nominated for a Prix Opus. A second album, Up in the Morning Early, was released to critical acclaim in 2017. La Cigale frequently performs in concert halls in Canada and Mexico.

A rising star of Canadian operatic art, Myriam Leblanc is a versatile artist who is equally at home in Classical, Bel Canto and Baroque repertoire. She his recognized for her warm, supple voice and pure timbre. She pairs technical mastery with exquisite musical expression. Her recent projects include the roles of Milica in Svadba and Gilda in Rigoletto, both with the Opéra de Montréal, and Micaëla in Carmen at the Opéra de Québec. She also sang solo in Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 2 Lobgesang with the Orchestre Métropolitain, Bach's Magnificat with Les Violons du Roy, and Bach's Christmas Oratoria with Ensemble Caprice.


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