Francesca Caccini, known affectionately as La Cecchina, was the daughter of a famous Florentine musician, Giulio Caccini, who, realising his daughter’s talent, taught her everything he knew about both music and survival skills in the Medici Court. After striking early successes in her teens in both Florence and Paris, she was appointed la musica by Christine de Lorraine, the Grand-Duchess, who was effectively the leader of the Medici state during her son Cosimo’s minority. It was Francesca’s good fortune to live at a time of successive Medici female rulers, who took advantage of the presence of an outstanding female composer in their Court. Most unusually she was able to maintain her extremely demanding role despite being married twice and having two children.
However by being so firmly attached to the Medici Court, she was subject to their every whim both political and personal. This may be why so little of her music has come down to us. She is known to have written 16 stage works but La liberazione di Ruggiero is the only one of her operas to survive, possibly because it was the first Italian opera to be performed outside Italy. Most of her music is lost to us, the exception being her Il primo libro delle musiche, which she managed to have published in 1618.
This consists of nineteen sacred and thirteen secular solo works plus four duets for soprano and bass.
The vocal writing is brilliant and she wrote out many of the decorations and ornamentations. The melodic lines have a strong arching character all adding up to a strong dramatic presentation of the texts.