Despite the fact that few of her compositions have survived to this day, Barbara Strozzi helped forge the identity of early Baroque Italian music through the originality of her writing.
Her mother was a servant of Giulio Strozzi, a poet and playwright actively involved in the Academy of Rome and the Academy of Venice, and who founded the Accademia degli Unisoni. As the author of numerous opera librettos, he played a major role in the development of Venetian opera. Giulio Strozzi recognised Barbara, who was born illegitimate, as his adopted daughter, and allowed her to perform in his Academy, singing and performing her own compositions.
Barbara Strozzi later studied composition with Francesco Cavalli and was recognised in the humanist circles she attended as an excellent performer and a very talented composer. Her compositions are all vocal pieces, either secular (madrigals, cantatas and ariettas) or sacred. Many of her works are settings of texts by G. Strozzi. Between 1644 and 1664, she published, in Venice, eight volumes of vocal pieces for one or two parts, accompanied by a continuo or a small instrumental ensemble.
Barbara Strozzi was the unwedded mother of four children, and the first professional woman composer in the history of music. The texts she set to music were very often written by either herself or her adoptive father.
Landmark dates in the life of Barbara Strozzi:
1644: published her only Book of Madrigals for two, three, four or five parts, Op. 1
1656: Cantatas, ariettas and duets, Op. 2
1664: Aria for solo voice, Op. 8