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Vizzana [Vizana], Lucrezia Orsina locked

  • Craig Monson

(b Bologna, July 3, 1590; d Bologna, May 7, 1662). Italian composer, singer and organist . About 1598 she entered the Camaldolese convent of S Christina, Bologna, where she probably learnt music from her aunt, Camilla Bombacci, sometime convent organist, and from Ottavio Vernizzi, unauthorized music master at S Christina from about 1615 to about 1623. By contrast with the lavish, double-choir music by Adriano Banchieri, Gabriele Fattorini, G.B. Biondi and Ercole Porta dedicated to nuns at S Christina and almost certainly performed there, Vizzana’s own motets, published in Componimenti musicali de motetti concertati a 1 e più voci (Venice, 1623), chiefly solos or duets with continuo, betray the influence of the stile moderno in their delicately virtuoso ornamentation for rhetorical effect, frequent insertion of phrases in declamatory style, juxtaposition of chromatic chords a 3rd apart, and, most notably, in expressive leaps from suspended dissonances, a technique Vizzana probably learnt from works by Monteverdi or Porta. Some motets were conceived for feast days at the convent; the greatest number are directed to Christ as redeemer or spouse, or as the object of veneration in the sacrament or on the cross; others may reflect the political struggles at S Christina from 1620 onwards. Vizzana’s early retirement from music probably resulted from increasing ill health and from the convent’s notorious battles with the diocesan curia between 1623 and 1647, partly provoked by music. According to her confessor, Vizzana was so traumatized by these events that she lost her mind.


  • GroveW (C. Monson) [incl. further bibliography]
  • C. Monson: ‘The Making of Lucretia Orsina Vizzana’s Componimenti musicali (1623)’, Creative Women in Medieval and Early Modern Italy, ed. E.A. Matter and J.W. Coakley (Philadelphia, 1994), 297–323
  • C.A. Monson: Disembodied Voices: Music and Culture in an Early Modern Italian Convent (Berkeley, 1995)
  • C. Monson: ‘Lucretia Vizzana’, Women Composers: Music through the Ages, i: Composers Born before 1599, ed. M.F. Schleifer and S. Glideman (New York, 1996), 264–305
G. Schilling: Encyclopädie der gesammten musikalischen Wissenschaften, oder Universal-Lexicon der Tonkunst
E.L. Gerber: Historisch-biographisches Lexikon der Tonkünstler
F.-J. Fétis: Biographie universelle des musiciens
C. Schmidl: Dizionario universale dei musicisti
The New Grove Dictionary of Women Composers