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School of Music, Theatre & Dance pres.

Virginia Martin Howard Lecture Series: Elizabeth Weinfield, Sonnambula artistic director

“Leonora Duarte (1610–1678): Converso Composer in Antwerp”

Elizabeth Weinfield Elizabeth Weinfield
Elizabeth Weinfield
At the end of the seventeenth century, Leonora Duarte (1610–1678), a Jewish converso living in Antwerp, wrote seven five-part Sinfonias for viol consort — the only known seventeenth-century viol music written by a woman. This music is testament to a formidable talent for composition. Born in Antwerp to a prominent family of merchants and art collectors who had immigrated from Portugal in the early sixteenth century (friends of Vermeer, and possibly Rubens), Leonora received a superb musical education that included instruction on harpsichord, lute, and viol, as well as lessons in composition. Her musical evenings at home quickly became well-known ports of call for traveling diplomats and literati, among them Constantijn Huygens, William and Margaret Cavendish, and composer Nicholas Lanier. This paper will consider Leonora and her music as products of diverse influences within the landscape of post-Inquisition Antwerp, as evidence of complex and symbiotic relationships with male contemporaries, and as vital testimony to the cultural accomplishments of women conversos in early modern Europe. It will draw upon musical analysis, critical theory, issues of gender — and Sonnambula’s recordings of the works as musical examples (Centaur Records, 2019). What emerges is a narrative in which the embodied experience of musical performance allowed Leonora to navigate the waters of social diplomacy within the broader context of Antwerp’s outward dedication to cultural exchange.

Event co-sponsored with the Academy of Early Music.
Elizabeth Weinfield Elizabeth Weinfield
Elizabeth Weinfield


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