Composer Information

Birth - 1575 | Ferrara, Italy

Death - 1620 | Unknown

Nationality - Italian

Era - Pre-Baroque

Composer Biography

Written by: Madison Anthony

Vittoria Aleotti, believed to be the same as Raffaella Aleotti, was an Italian nun, composer, and organist. Aleotti was born in 1575 in the city of Ferrara, Italy to Ferrarese architect Giovanni Battista Aleotti. There is uncertainty surrounding the connection between the names Raffaella and Vittoria: were they the same person, or were they siblings? The current consensus with most music historians is that Vittoria Aleotti changed her name to Raffaella when she took her vows to become a nun, but it has not proven that they are the same person. 

Aleotti’s first introduction to music was watching her older sister play the harpsichord during her music lessons. This experience inspired her to learn music as well. At age six Aleotti stunned her parents and her sister’s teacher, Alessandro Milleville when she performed on the harpsichord. Aleotti then started music lessons with her sister’s teacher and continued them for two years until her teacher strongly encouraged her to join the musically renowned convent of San Vitto in Ferrara, Italy. After joining the convent at the age of 14, the name Vittoria Aleotti disappeared and was replaced with Raffaella Aleotti which is thought to be the name she was given when she joined the convent. 

Shortly after joining the convent, her father obtained a collection of madrigal texts from G.B. Guarini for Alotti to set to music. He gave the results to Count del Zaffo, who had the music printed by Vincenti in Venice, as Ghirlanda de madrigali a quattro voci, in 1593. These were dedicated to the bishop of Ferrara and were the first known works of sacred music by a woman to be printed. Aleotti was a fine organist who lived a long and successful life at the convent, likely dedicating herself more to teaching, directing, and performing than to composing. She had multiple pieces of music dedicated to her by other composers which shows that not only was Aleotti very well admired at San Vitto, but also throughout her country. 

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