Maddalena Casulana

We don’t know much about Maddalena Casulana (c. 1540 – c.1590) other than she was an Italian composer, lutenist and singer during the Renaissance and was one of the first (if not the very first) woman to have her music printed.

She is remembered for her madrigals – many of which were published in collections throughout her lifetime. Several dedications to Isabella de’Medici indicates a strong friendship between the two. Her work was respected and performed often; there is evidence that Orlando di Lasso conducted works by Casulana at the court of Albrech of Bavaria in Munich. More information about Casulana can be found in the New Historical Anthology of Music by Women. A total of 66 madrigals survive today, and her work is starting to become available in the public domain.

Though there are few other records of her life, she did leave strong words regarding her position as a woman in a profession dominated by men. In the dedication to Isabella de’Medici in her first collection of madrigals Casulana stated:

I want to show the world, as much as I can in this profession of music, the vain error of men that they alone possess the gifts of intellect and artistry, and that such gifts are never given to women.

Here is an example of her work: