Throughout the late 16th and 17th centuries, the chronicles of historians and travelers in Italy provide images of a fabulous musical world inhabited by women – singers, players and even composers. Such images are all the more intriguing, considering the truly draconian restrictions governing virtually every aspect of these cloistered women’s lives, especially their music. Moreover, a veil of mystery surrounds this repertoire: the music written by and for the nuns often includes parts for tenor and bass voices, and the use of instruments was officially forbidden in the convents. How was this music performed?
Cappella Artemisia is an ensemble of female singers and instrumentalists that attempts to provide some answers to this question. Dedicated to performing the music from Italian convents in the 16th and 17th centuries, its repertoire includes both forgotten works composed by the nuns themselves, as well as music intended for performance in the convents by better-known male composers, but presented here for the first time as it would originally have been heard, i.e., without male voices.
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