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[Sarah, Sarra]

(b 1592; d Venice, 1641). Italian poet and amateur singer. In 1614 she married Jacob Sullam, son of the Jewish Mantuan banker Moses Sullam, who, along with his parents, was Salamone Rossi’s benefactor. With her husband and parents, she aided Leon Modena, a relative, in his publications (Modena was the moving spirit behind Rossi’s collection of Hebrew works, Hashirim asher lish’lomo, 1622/3). Copio hosted a literary salon in her home, where she served as patron to aspiring young writers, among them the Christians Giovanni Basadonna, Baldassare Bonifacio and Numidio Paluzzi. After reading Ansaldo Cebà's epic poem Ester (1615–6), she exchanged letters with the author during the years 1618–22; Cebà broke off the correspondence when he realized that he was making little progress in his attempt to convert Sara to Catholicism. Cebà published 53 of his own letters, omitting Sara’s, in 1623. In one, he refers to the pleasure of listening to Sara sing the heroic lament of Andromache from his epic, saying that old age and infirmity prevented him from leaving his native Genoa to hear her. Sara seems to have accompanied herself, on what may have been a Spanish guitar; in this she belongs to the Renaissance tradition of female poets who sang and played, with one difference: she is the only known Jewish female poet to have done so in her own time. Of her own poems, a handful were published among Cebà's letters and 14, some with noticeable musical imagery, were edited in ...

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Don Harrán

( b Venice, 1571; d Venice, 1648). Italian rabbi, cantor and scholar . He was a cantor in the Scuola italiana (Italian synagogue), Venice, from 1607 until his death. He appears to have introduced some form of polyphony, probably improvised, into the synagogue at Ferrara in 1604. Erudite in Jewish and humanist studies, Modena composed more than 40 writings, on subjects as diverse as Hebrew language and grammar, lexicography, Jewish rites and customs, Kabbalah, alchemy and gambling, as well as various plays, prefaces and rabbinical authorizations, translations, editions, almost 400 poems, and a highly personal autobiography. Music occupied a central place in his life and thought. Among his extended responses to questions put to him in his capacity as a religious authority, he wrote two essays on music, specifically polyphony: the first (1605) legitimizes its use in Jewish prayer services and celebrations, as well as for study; the second (from later years) addresses the issue of whether it is permitted to repeat the name of God (in a single voice or between voices)....