Agricola [née Molteni], Benedetta Emilia
- E. Eugene Helm
(b Modena, 1722; d Berlin, 1780). Italian soprano, wife of Johann Friedrich Agricola. She was the first of the three leading ladies (the other two were Giovanna Astrua and Elisabeth Schmeling Mara) at the Berlin Opera under Frederick the Great. A pupil of Porpora, Hasse and Salimbeni, she made her début as prima donna in C.H. Graun’s Cesare e Cleopatra (1743). The arrival of Giovanna Astrua in 1748 forced her to take second place, but strengthened her impulse towards oratorio: thus, for example, she sang the leading solo soprano part in Graun’s Tod Jesu at its première in 1755. Burney (Present State of Music in Germany, 1773) wrote of her singing: ‘she is now near fifty years of age, and yet sings songs of bravura, with amazing rapidity … her compass extends from A in the base, to D in alt, and she has a most perfect shake and intonation’. When her husband died in ...