Francesco Martini, Raphaella Aleotti, Sisto Reina, Lucrezia Orsina Vizzana, Giovanni Maria Nanino, G. Cavaglieri, Maria Xaveria Perucona, Adriano Banchieri, Claudio Monteverdi, Aquilino Coppini, Alba Tressina, Pietro Pace, Agostino Soderini, Natale Monferrato, Giovanni Antonio Mangoni, Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, Isabella Leonarda.
Soror mea, sponsa mea - The Song of Songs in the Convents of 16th- and 17th-Century Italy
The Song of Songs, one of the most beautifully sensual texts to be found in the Bible, was also one of the most often set to music in the 17th century, both outside and inside the convent walls, in music written both for and by Italian cloistered nuns. These women, eternally married to Christ (with, or all too often, without their consent) identified strongly with the florid and passionate imagery of the bride and the beloved, and the poetry of this book represented an important–and ambiguous–allegory with diverse levels of interpretation. In the ecclesiastical exegesis of the Canticle, the Sponsa symbolized a variety of personages: the individual soul, the follower of monastic life, and at times the Church itself. The Canticle’s Sponsus was of course identified in Christ. And though theologians throughout the centuries emphasized a symbolic reading, the sensuality of the poetry could not be ignored. Indeed, a Venetian decree from 1633 governing music in the convents entitled “Ordini da osservarsi nelle musiche che si fanno nelle chiese di Monache” states: “It is ordered that the words which are sung must be taken solely from the Holy Scripture, excepting, however, the Canticle, which is completely prohibited in Music.” Nonetheless, the poetry of the Song of Songs was often sung in the convents. One of the most popular texts of the period was “En dilectus meus”, an example of which comes from the Bolognese convent of Santa Cristina.