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Ferrani [Zanazzio], Cesira

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Ferrani [Zanazzio], Cesira

(b Turin, 8 May 1863; d Pollone, nr Biella, 4 May 1943). Italian soprano. She studied with Antonietta Fricci in Turin, where she made her début in 1887 as Micaëla and later sang Gilda. After singing in Venice and Genoa, where she took part in the first performance of Mascagni’s Le maschere (1891), she created the title role in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at Turin (1893), repeating the role in Buenos Aires, Rome and other cities. She sang Suzel (L’amico Fritz) at Monte Carlo (1895), then created Mimì in La bohème at Turin (1896). At La Scala she sang Mélisande in the first Milan performance of Pelléas et Mélisande with Toscanini (1908). Her repertory included Juliet, Massenet’s Sapho and Charlotte, Amelia (Simon Boccanegra), Elisabeth (Tannhäuser), Elsa and Eva (Die Meistersinger). She retired from the stage after a final appearance as Mélisande (Rome, 1909), a role in which she was much admired, and devoted herself to teaching in her native city, opening her salon to the intellectuals of Turin.

At the same time as Gemma Bellincioni, the first Santuzza, was established a model of the dramatic soprano entirely in the grip of passion, Ferrari succeeded in asserting her aristocratic style, emphasizing polished singing over sheer volume. While this made her the Puccini soprano par excellence, it inevitably precluded her from singing Tosca.

Her voice is preserved on a series of discs recorded by the Gramophone and Typewriter Company in Milan in 1903.



City in the Emilia region of northern Italy. The history of music there divides into two periods, corresponding to its political and cultural history. From 1240 to 1598 the city was under the continuous political rule of the Este family and was the centre of a small but politically important marquisate, later a duchy, that at its height included Modena, Reggio nell'Emilia, Rovigo and the Polesine; after 1598, when the Estensi lost the city to the papacy and transferred to Modena, Ferrara’s musical activity lost its autonomous importance but continued to flourish.

At the beginning of the 11th century Guido of Arezzo was educated and began his teaching and theoretical writing in the nearby Benedictine abbey of Pomposa, a traditional centre for plainsong instruction which continued to the 16th century. In the 15th century the court of Ferrara experienced a remarkable rise to the status of an internationally important musical centre. The chief impetus was the patronage of four successive members of the Este family, who ruled during this period: Niccolò III, Leonello, Borso and Ercole I.

During the reign of Niccolò III (1393–1441) the first musicians were engaged at court on a regular basis. Beginning in the 1420s Niccolò employed several trumpeters, three ‘pifferi’ (wind players), a certain Leonardo dal Chitarino (1424) and a Niccolò Tedesco cantore, defined in one source as cantor suavissimus et pulsator eximius (active there c1436–62). Niccolò Tedesco may be the Nicolaus Krombsdorfer who worked for the Habsburg Duke Sigismund from 1463. In 1429 the celebrated humanist Guarino of Verona was brought to Ferrara, and his presence may be partly responsible for a more active cultivation of music at court, as it certainly was for the arts and letters. In 1433 a libro de canto was copied for the young Leonello, son of Niccolò III and pupil of Guarino, and in 1437 a volume of regole de canto was made for his use. Du Fay, who wrote a ballade for Niccolò III, may have visited the court in 1433; he certainly did so in 1437. No doubt the convocation that year of an ecumenical council provided further impetus to the gathering of musicians there.

With Leonello d’Este, despite the brevity of his reign as marquis (1441–50), the great flowering of Ferrarese art and literature really began, and music too received powerful stimulus. Leonello founded a court cappella ‘in the royal manner’ and brought in singers from abroad to staff it. From four singers in 1436 he increased the cappella to at least ten in 1450, including, at various times, Johannes Fede, Niccolò Tedesco, Giovanni de Leodio, Andrea da l’Organo and Zoanne de Monte. Musicians both native and foreign were present not only at the court but also at Ferrara Cathedral and at the university, which had been founded in 1395 and revived under Leonello. At the cathedral the organists had included the composer Bartolomeo da Bologna (1405–27) and were later to include the theorist Ugolino of Orvieto (to 1457) and Benedetto Camelli da Pistoia (1458). The presence at the university of a group of English students was specially noteworthy at that time (see Scott, 1972) and may well be closely related to the large representation of English composers in two important musical manuscripts from Ferrara of this decade (P-Pm 714, see Pirrotta, 1970; I-MOe α.X.1.11, see Hamm and Scott, 1972). Scott has even conjectured that Ferrara may have been a meeting place for Du Fay and Leonel Power in 1438 or 1439.

Under Borso d’Este (1450–71), who became Duke of Modena in 1452 and the first Duke of Ferrara in 1471, the former corps of singers was all but suppressed at court in favour of instrumentalists, led by the famous Pietrobono del Chitarino, one of the most celebrated lutenist-singers of his time. Pietrobono was praised in extravagant terms by Cornazano and the humanist writers Beroaldo, Battista Guarino and Paolo Cortese, and also by Tinctoris. Borso was better known for his patronage of art, which included the splendid frescoes of the Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara (containing representations of musical instruments and domestic life at court; fig.1) and illuminated manuscripts from local workshops that later produced music manuscripts.

Ercole I d’Este (Duke of Ferrara, 1471–1505) can be counted the greatest Ferrarese cultural patron of the 15th century, and of all Italian princes of the era perhaps the most keenly interested in music. Early in his reign he established a court cappella, called in singers from abroad and made a special effort to create something new by founding a double choir, one of men and one of boys from Germany, which lasted until 1482. An early appointment was that of Johannes Martini, who remained a leading figure in the chapel from 1472 until his death in 1497 and was the music teacher of Isabella, later Duchess of Mantua. While maintaining and even increasing the staff of instrumentalists left from Borso’s reign, Ercole added still more singers to his cappella. To attract and hold these musicians he obtained benefices for them and negotiated with each succeeding pope the right to confer such benefices on as many as 20 of his singers. By further offering good salaries, houses in Ferrara and special favours, he was able to obtain excellent singers and maintain a large and balanced cappella. Among its better-known members, besides Martini, were Jean Japart (1477–9), Jachetto da Marvilla and Johannes Ghiselin (1491–3). In 1487–8 Obrecht visited the court and was nearly engaged, but Pope Innocent VIII turned down a benefice for him at Ferrara, evidently wanting him for the papal chapel. Ercole’s lavish patronage is further shown by his decision to engage Josquin at 200 ducats when he was urged to engage Isaac who would come for 120 (see Lockwood, 1971); Josquin was in the duke’s service in 1503–4 and was replaced in 1504 by Obrecht, who was there until his death in 1505. Josquin's Missa ‘Hercules dux Ferrariae’ drew on the vowels of Ercole's formal name for its basic musical subject, and was thus a special kind of musical tribute.

The two eldest sons of Ercole, Duke Alfonso I and Cardinal Ippolito I, were both important patrons. Alfonso (reigned 1505–34) maintained the ducal cappella, though on a smaller scale than before, negotiating benefices as Ercole I had done. After the death of Obrecht he secured Antoine Brumel as maestro di cappella. Cardinal Ippolito I (1479–1520), whose ecclesiastical empire included holdings in Hungary, Milan, Ferrara and elsewhere, was particularly fond of secular and instrumental music. In 1516 he employed 12 musicians while the ducal cappella had ten. The cardinal’s musicians included the young Adrian Willaert (who was in his service by at least mid-1515 and went to Hungary with him in 1517) along with Jusquino Cantore (not Desprez, it seems, but perhaps the Josquin Doro who was later in the papal chapel), as well as a number of instrumentalists. Still other important musical activity in Ferrara at this period took place under the tutelage of Alfonso’s little-known brother, Sigismondo (1480–1524), and Alfonso’s wife, the famous Lucrezia Borgia. The trend was towards writing, copying and procuring secular music rather than sacred, though many of the manuscripts known from this time contain motets. The leading figures of the period from 1515 to 1534 are Willaert (who went to Venice in 1527), Zoanne Michiele (a copyist and singer), Maistre Jhan (later an important motet composer), Simon Ferrarese and the members of the Dalla Viola family, especially the young Alfonso, later an important madrigalist. In 1515 Alfonso I was directly in touch with Jean Mouton at Milan (then in the retinue of François I) and during the next several years sought his music through emissaries in France. Ferrara was specially important as a conduit for the importation of French music into Italy, and was musically on a level of patronage equal to that of the French and papal courts. This tendency was fortified by the marriage of Alfonso’s son and successor, Ercole II, to Princess Renée of France in 1528.

Under Ercole II (1534–59) the chief musicians were Maistre Jhan, Alfonso dalla Viola and Cipriano de Rore (maestro di cappella, 1546–59). Ercole II continued the important tradition of court theatre that had been begun by Ercole I in 1486 and continued under Alfonso, for whose wedding to Lucrezia Borgia in 1502 Tromboncino composed a ‘musicha mantuana’ (probably a frottola) for a performance of a Plautus play, one of the first examples of music used as intermedi. Music between the acts or at the end of such plays as G.B. Giraldi Cintio’s Orbecche (music by Alfonso dalla Viola) and Egle (music by Alfonso del Cornetto) was written by these court musicians between 1541 and 1567. Another form of spectacle which took shape in Ferrara about the middle of the century was a sort of musical play which introduced a tourney. In Ferrara Vicentino, who was in the service of Ercole II’s brother Cardinal Ippolito II, invented his arcicembalo and finished his treatise (1555), in which he calls himself ‘musico del Cardinale Ippolito II’.

With Alfonso II (1559–97) the last great flowering of music in Ferrara took place. He was the patron and the dedicatee of the Musica nova (1559) of Willaert, who had never lost touch with Ferrara. The most famous of Alfonso’s own musicians were Luzzasco Luzzaschi, Francesco dalla Viola, Lodovico Agostini, Paolo Isnardi and, as a frequent visitor from Mantua, Giaches de Wert. The performances given at court as part of its musica secreta by various singers became particularly well known in the later 16th century. The presence of Luzzaschi (Frescobaldi’s teacher) implies not only the increased importance of instrumental music but the development of expressive monody alongside a flourishing tradition of madrigals written for performance by virtuosos (see NewcombMF). The wealth of musical activity in Ferrara and in the Estense dominion towards the end of the century is emblematically testified to by the collection of madrigals Giardino de’ musici ferraresi (Venice, 1591), in which 21 composers resident in Ferrara are represented. An important political event with strong musical implications was the marriage of Leonora d’Este, Alfonso II’s niece, to Gesualdo in 1594. The wedding festivities, described in Bottrigari’s La mascara, included a favola boscareccia, I fidi amanti, composed specially for the occasion by Ercole Pasquini. The late 16th-century adaptation of music to theatre in Ferrara, above all in the pastoral dramas of Guarini and Tasso, significantly foreshadows the rise of opera at Florence a few years later.

With the removal of the Estensi to Modena in 1598 and the annexation of Ferrara to the Papal State, the city did not fall into cultural decline; it became instead an important centre for the origin and growth of theatre and instrumental music. The Accademia degli Intrepidi (to whom Monteverdi dedicated his fourth book of madrigals, 1603) provided entertainment in two theatres: the Teatro della Sala Grande (or Grande di Corte, built 1610) and the Teatro degli Intrepidi (or Teatro di S Lorenzo, built 1604–5). Both were designed by the Ferrarese architect G.B. Aleotti and organized according to the same plan as that of buildings for tourneys: a series of large boxes superimposed in three or four rows in the shape of a horseshoe, where the lower rows were reserved for the nobility and the upper for foreign visitors and the bourgeoisie. This organization, exactly reflecting the structure of the society attending the performances, anticipates that of the modern opera house. Both theatres were used for court celebrations and spectacles, which consisted primarily of tourneys and spoken dramas with musical intermezzos; one of the most important performances at the Teatro della Sala Grande was that of Michelangelo Rossi's Andromeda (to a text by Ascanio Pio di Savoia) in 1638 for the wedding of Cornelio Bentivoglio and Costanza Sforza (fig.2). Important scenic innovations also took place in Ferrara, mainly the work of Alfonso Rivarola (Il Chenda); he invented the various machines for the movements on the stage and for the changes of scenery. Through Marquis Enzo Bentivoglio, a nobleman who held important diplomatic offices at the courts of Mantua, Turin, Parma and Rome, the Ferrarese theatrical inventions spread through Italy; thus Aleotti and Rivarola built a large court theatre in Parma in 1618, the Teatro Farnese, the oldest surviving theatre with a mobile stage, based on Ferrarese models. Pio Enea degli Obizzi, a Paduan nobleman who had strong theatrical interests, acquired the Teatro degli Intrepidi, renamed it after his family, and had performed there, among other works, Le palme d’amore (1650, music by A. Mattioli), Calisto ingannata (1651) and Endimione (1655, music by G. Tricarico); the theatre was rebuilt in 1660 (fig.3) but was burnt down in 1679. The Teatro della Sala Grande burnt down in 1660. Equally important during the 17th century in Ferrara was the Teatro Bonacossi, built in 1662; notable performances there included Legrenzi’s Achille in Sciro (1663) and Zenobia e Radamisto (1665), Bassani’s Alarico re de' Goti (1685) and Fortunato Chelleri’s La caccia in Etolia (1715; the libretto by Valeriana was set by Handel in 1736 as Atalanta). The tradition of a musical play as a prologue for a tourney continued in the 17th century with Gli sforzi del desiderio (text by Francesco Berni, music by Mattioli, 1652) for the arrival in Ferrara of Anna de’ Medici, wife of the Emperor Ferdinand III of Austria, and with Oritia (text by Passarelli, music by Mattioli, 1655) to celebrate the brief visit of Queen Christina of Sweden.

Academies with devotional aims fostered the growth of instrumental music, much of which, however, took place outside Ferrara: the Accademia della Morte, founded in 1592, had among its organists Luzzaschi, Ercole Pasquini and Frescobaldi, and among its maestri di cappella Ippolito Fiorini (1594), Giulio Belli (1597), Alessandro Grandi (from 1597 and probably until at least 1610), Maurizio Cazzati (between 1640 and 1654, perhaps not continuously), Biagio Marini (1652–3) and Luigi Battiferri (1653–7 and 1660–62), who for a time was also maestro di cappella of the other devotional academy, the Accademia dello Spirito Santo. Indeed the shift from the position of organist to maestro di cappella, from one institution to the other and to the cappella of the cathedral was common in the second half of the century; thus G.B. Mazzaferrata, formerly organist of the Accademia della Morte, became its maestro di cappella by 1668 and was later maestro at the cathedral. G.B. Bassani also followed this pattern; further, when he was maestro di cappella at the cathedral in 1710, he wrote a series of settings of the Proper for the major feasts of the liturgical year, still in the archives of Ferrara Cathedral. G.B. Legrenzi was maestro di cappella at the Accademia dello Spirito Santo (1656–65), and during this period, like many other composers active in Ferrara after him, he also wrote for the theatre.

During the 18th century, opera in Ferrara was mounted mainly by touring companies, subject to the approval of the papal legate; a lively account of the various difficulties involved can be gathered from the only surviving letters of Vivaldi, which deal with performances of his operas in Ferrara by his company (see Cavicchi, 1967). Significantly these letters come from the Bentivoglio archive, showing this aristocratic Ferrarese family’s continuing interest in opera. The Teatro Nazionale (now Teatro Comunale) was opened on 2 September 1798 with M.A. Portugal’s Gli Orazi e i Curiazi; among the operas to have their first performances there was Rossini’s Ciro in Babilonia (1812). The theatre was closed from 1945 to 1964, and reopened only after substantial renovation; it now operates under the auspices of the Associazione Teatri Emilia Romagna, a regional circuit for touring companies.

Public teaching of music began in 1740 with the founding of the Scuola di Musica; it was continued during the 19th century largely through the activity of Antonio Mazzolani (1819–1900), who founded a choral society, the Adofili dell’Alleanza (later named Orfeonica), mainly to extend music education to the working class. The city-supported Liceo Musicale G. Frescobaldi was founded in 1869 and recognized by the state in 1939; it is now a conservatory.

The Società del Quartetto was founded in 1898 for the performance of chamber music. Concert activity is entrusted to the Amici della Musica, an association that organizes chamber music performances at the conservatory.





ES (E. Povoledo)


Grove6 (L. Lockwood) [incl. earlier bibliography]




Vander StraetenMPB, vi

C. Savonuzzi: Il Teatro comunale della città di Ferrara (Ferrara, 1965)

A. Cavicchi: ‘Inediti nell’epistolario Vivaldi–Bentivoglio’, NRMI, i (1967), 46–59; suppl. by C. Vitali, NRMI, xiv (1980), 404–12

R. Renzi: Ferrara: storia, costumi e traditioni (Bologna, 1969)

N. Pirrotta: ‘Two Anglo-Italian Pieces in the Manuscript Porto 714’, Speculum musicae artis: Festgabe für Heinrich Husmann, ed. H. Becker and R. Gerlach (Munich, 1970), 253–61

C. Hamm and A.B. Scott: ‘A Study and Inventory of the Manuscript Modena, Biblioteca Estense, [alpha].X.1.11 (ModB)’, MD, xxvi (1972), 101–43

A.B. Scott: ‘English Music in Modena, Biblioteca Estense, [alpha].X.1.11 and other Italian Manuscripts’, MD, xxvi (1972), 145–60

H.M. Brown: ‘A Cook’s Tour of Ferrara in 1529’, RIM, x (1975), 216–41

A. Cavicchi: ‘Sacro e profano: documenti e note su Bartolomeo da Bologna e gli organisti della cattedrale di Ferrara nel primo Quattrocento’, RIM, x (1975), 46–71

L. Lockwood: ‘Pietrobono and the Instrumental Tradition at Ferrara in the Fifteenth Century’, RIM, x (1975), 115–33

M. Schuler: ‘Beziehungen zwischen der Konstanzer Domkantorei und der Hofkapelle des Herzogs Ercole I. von Ferrara’, AnMc, no.15 (1975), 15–20

L. Moretti: ‘Dopo l'insuccesso di Ferrara: diverbio tra Vivaldi e Antonio Mauro’, Vivaldi veneziano europeo: Venice 1978, 89–99

P. Tagmann: ‘Ferraras Festivitäten von 1529’, Schweizer Beiträge zur Musikwissenschaft, iii (1978), 85–105

L. Lockwood: ‘Jean Mouton and Jean Michel: New Evidence on French Music and Musicians in Italy, 1505–1520’, JAMS, xxxii (1979), 191–246

L. Lockwood: ‘Music and Popular Religious Spectacle at Ferrara under Ercole I d'Este’, Il Teatro italiano del Rinascimento, ed. M. de Panizza Lorch (Milan, 1980), 571–82

J.A. Owens: ‘Music in the Early Ferrarese Pastoral: a Study of Beccari's “Il Sacrificio”’, Il Teatro italiano del Rinascimento, ed. M. de Panizza Lorch (Milan, 1980), 583–601

E. Peverada: ‘Vita musicale nella cattedrale di Ferrara nel Quattrocento: Note e documenti’, RIM, xv (1980), 3–30

L. Lockwood: ‘Musicisti a Ferrara all'epoca dell'Ariosto’, L'Ariosto: la musica i musicisti, ed. M.A. Balsano (Florence, 1981), 7–29

A. Frabetti: ‘Il Teatro della sala grande a Ferrara e i tornei aleottiani’, Musei ferraresi, xii (1982), 183–208

I. Godt: ‘A Major Angel Concert in Ferrara’, Musei ferraresi, xii (1982), 209–17

C. Molinari: ‘Per una storia di alcuni teatri ferraresi’, Teatri storici in Emilia Romagna, ed. S.M. Bondoni (Bologna, 1982), 107–26

P. Natali and G. Stefanati: ‘Le presenze orchestrali a Ferrara dalla fine del Settecento al Novecento’, Orchestre in Emilia-Romagna nell'Ottocento e Novecento, ed. M. Conati and M. Pavarini (Parma, 1982), 297–323

E. Peverada: ‘Il contratto per l'organo di S. Paolo in Ferrara e altre notizie di storia organaria del Quattrocento’, L'organo, xx (1982), 37–56

E. Peverada: ‘La musica nella cattedrale di Ferrara nel tardo Cinquecento’, Analecta pomposiana, viii (1983), 5–21

E. Peverada: ‘Pratica musicale del clero della cattedrale e in cura d'anime a Ferrara nel Cinquecento’, Analecta pomposiana, ix (1984), 172–90

M. Vecchi Calore: ‘Musica e teatro a Ferrara nei ricordi di un cavaliere bolognese’, Atti e memorie della deputazione provinciale ferrarese di storia patria, 3rd ser., xxx (1984), 123–46

A. Cavicchi: ‘L'organo della cattedrale nella tradizione musicale e organaria ferrarese: una proposta di ricostruzione ideale’, San Giorgio e la Principessa di Cosmè Tura: dipinti restaurati per l'officina ferrarese, ed. J. Bentini (Bologna, 1985), 95–122

L. Lockwood: ‘Adrian Willaert and Cardinal Ippolito I d'Este: New Light on Willaert's Early Career in Italy, 1515–21’, EMH, v (1985), 85–112

W. Prizer: ‘Isabella d'Este and Lucrezia Borgia as Patrons of Music: the Frottola at Mantua and Ferrara’, JAMS, xxxviii (1985), 1–33

C. Annibaldi: ‘Il mecenate “politico”: ancora sul patronato musicale del cardinale Pietro Aldobrandini (ca.1570–1621)’, Studi musicali, xvi (1987), 33–93; xvii (1988), 101–78

G. Nugent: ‘Music against Heresy: Ferrara in the Epoch of Renée of France’, IMSCR XIV: Bologna 1987, iii, 737–43

T. Walker: ‘“Gli sforzi del desiderio”: cronaca ferrarese 1652’, Studi in onore di Lanfranco Caretti, ed. W. Moretti (Modena, 1987), 45–75

E. Peverada: ‘Il contratto del 1429 per l'organo della cattedrale di Ferrara’, L'organo, xxv/xxxxvi (1987–88), 187–202

Ferrara: riflessi di una rivoluzione, Palazzo Paradiso, 11 Nov – 31 Dec 1989 (Ferrara, 1989) [exhibition catalogue]

P. Starr: ‘The “Ferrara Connection”: a Case Study of Musical Recruitment in the Renaissance’, Studi musicali, xviii (1989), 3–17

D. Mele: L'accademia dello Spirito Santo: un'istituzione musicale ferrarese del sec. XVII (Ferrara, 1990)

G. Nugent: ‘Anti-Protestant Music for Sixteenth-Century Ferrara’, JAMS, xliii (1990), 228–91

M. Pade, L. Waage Petersen and D. Quarta: La corte di Ferrara e il suo mecenatismo 1441–1598 (Modena, 1990)

P. Fabbri: ‘Ferrara: musica e università’, La rinascita del sapere: libri e maestri dello studio ferrarese, ed. P. Castelli (Venice, 1991), 331–8

E. Peverada: Vita musicale nella chiesa ferrarese del Quattrocento (Ferrara, 1991)

F.A. Gallo: Musica nel castello: trovatori, libri, oratori nelle corti italiane dal XIII al XV secolo (Bologna, 1992; Eng. trans., 1995)

L. Lockwood: ‘Music at Florence and Ferrara in the Late Fifteenth Century: Rivalry and Interdependence’, La musica a Firenze al tempo di Lorenzo il Magnifico: Florence 1993, 1–13

P. Fabbri: ‘Il conte Aventi, Rossini e Ferrara’, Bollettino del Centro rossiniano di studi, xxxiv (1994), 91–157

For further bibliography see Este.

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