Vittoria Aleotti (Augustinian Nun and Composer)

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Vittoria Aleotti (c. 1575 � after 1620), believed to be the same as Raffaella Aleotti (c. 1570�after 1646) was an Italian Augustinian nun, a composer and organist.She was born in Ferrara to the prominent architect Giovanni Battista Aleotti, and was mentioned in his will, written in 1631. When she was young, she overheard the music lessons of an older sister, and subsequently amazed her family by her facility on the harpsichord at the age of six.

Aleotti was then taught by Alessandro Milleville for two years before being sent to study at the musically renowned Augustinian convent of St. Vito, Ferrara at the age of 14. She later became the prioress of the convent from 1636 to 1639.

Aleotti was mentioned in M.A. Guarini’s 1621 guide to Ferrara as very knowledgeable about music, and he also mentioned her publications of motets and madrigals. She set a number of madrigals by Giovanni Battista Guarini, which her father later sent to Count del Zaffo, who had them printed in Venice by Giacomo Vincenti in 1593. Another collection of motets was printed by Amadino in 1593, and was the first sacred music by a woman to appear in print.

In addition to her composing, she also was organist at the convent, and led a large ensemble of instrumentalists and singers who presented concerts. According to writings by Ercole Bottrigari (a contemporary writer) this was one of the finest ensembles in Italy.

It is most likely that Vittoria was her birth name, and Raffaella the name she took when she became a nun.

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