Anna Guarini, Contessa Trotti, (1563 – May 3, 1598) was an Italian virtuoso singer of the late Renaissance. She was one of the most renowned singers of the age, and was one of the three concerto di donne at the Ferrara court of the d'Este family, for whom many composers wrote in a progressive style.
Life and murder
She was the daughter of the famous poet Giovanni Battista Guarini, author of Il pastor fido. Details of her early years are scanty, but it is known that she began her employment with the court of the d'Este family at the age of 17, and immediately attracted attention for the beauty and control of her singing voice. In addition to singing, she was a talented player of the lute. The Duchess of Ferrara, Margherita Gonzago d'Este, apparently kept her and the other two members of the concerto di donne (Laura Peverara and Livia d'Arco) as frequent companions wherever she went; and the three musicians sang so beautifully together that they became famous throughout Italy.
In 1585 she was married to Count Ercole Trotti. Circumstantial evidence suggests it was an arranged marriage; he was much older than she was, and there is also evidence that the marriage was not happy. In 1596 she was accused, evidently without justification, of having an affair with a member of the Duke's armed forces. Although Duke Alfonso had ordered Trotti not to harm Anna, the Duke died in 1597; and on May 3, 1598, Trotti surprised Anna in her bedroom while she lay ill with a fever, and aided by an accomplice — her own brother, Girolamo — he murdered her with a hatchet.
Trotti not only was pardoned by the new Duke of Modena, Cesare d'Este, but increased in prestige. At any rate, in 1598 the period of musical experimentation at the Ferrara court ended with the takeover of the town by the Papal States under Pope Clement VIII.
The three singers of the concerto di donne inspired numerous compositions by the leading composers of the court, including Luzzasco Luzzaschi, Lodovico Agostini, and others. In addition, their fame was so widespread that composers from elsewhere — such as the nobleman Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa (who also murdered his first wife) — came to Ferrara specifically to write music for them. Anna was famous for her vocal virtuosity and the beauty of her voice, and Agostini dedicated specific madrigals to her specifically in his third book of madrigals (1582).
The poet Torquato Tasso praised her in verse, in his Mentre in concento alterno, as did Agostini himself in the introduction to his 1582 madrigal collection.
References and further reading
- Articles "Lodovico Agostini," "Este," "Ferrara," "Giovanni Battista Guarini" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie. 20 vol. London, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980. ISBN 1561591742 Note: there is no entry specifically on Anna Guarini in the 1980 edition.
- Biography of Anna Guarini (http://www.soton.ac.uk/~lastras/secreta/biogs/singers/agbiog1.htm), by Laurie Stras, musicologist at the University of Southampton.