- Margherita Gonzaga, Duchess of Ferrara
Margherita Gonzaga d'Este, Duchess of Ferrara (May 27, 1564 – January 6, 1618) was an Italian noblewoman, the daughter of William I, Duke of Mantua (Guglielmo Gonzaga) and Eleonora of Austria, and the sister of Vincent I, Duke of Mantua and Anna Caterina Gonzaga. She was the wife of Alfonso II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara and Modena, whom she married in February 1579. This was the duke's third marriage, and it was hoped that she would produce a male heir. She did not, which partially led to the city of Ferrara's acquisition by the Papal States.
Margherita was born and raised in her father's court in Mantua. Alfonso's concerto delle donne was formed in part to please her, and all of the members were on the court rolls as her ladies in waiting, and the concerts were frequently held in her apartments. When she married she used her influence at Mantua to convince her father to allow Livia d'Arco, a Mantuan, to join the Ferrarese court as one of her ladies in waiting, so that she could participate in the concerto delle donne.
A great number of madrigals and anthologies of madrigals were dedicated to her, either singly or to both herself and her husband. These include a number of madrigals by the maestro di capella of the Duke's brother, Cardinal Luigi d'Este, Luca Marenzio, including "Lucida perla", to a text by Giovanni Battista Guarini for her wedding; "O verdi selvi" with text by Torquato Tasso, as well as a number of madrigals with texts by Tasso dedicated to "her" dwarf or nana, Isabella, such as "Là dove sono i pargoletti Amori".
Balletto delle donne
Margherita was the sponsor of the groundbreaking balletto delle donne, an entertainment including dance, madrigal, and instrumental music, performed at Carnival as well as for important visitors to the court. These entertainments were created with the choreography first, then the music, then the text. All of the members of the balletto were women, and some were also in the concerto delle donne, including Laura Peverara (who cross dressed in at least one instance), Anna Guarini, and Livia d'Arco, at least in 1582 and 1583, as well as Vittoria Bentivoglio, a member of the first incarnation of the concerto.
Instead of the balletto being a spontaneous dance among the courtiers, as it had been up until 1579, it became an elaborate and well-rehearsed entertainment. These entertainments frequently included the women cross-dressing, which was often commented on by contemporary chroniclers. Alfonso assisted in these entertainments by helping to keep the floor cleared and other small favors, however he was not as personally involved in them as Margherita, who danced in them herself, nor was he as involved with them as he was with the concerto delle donne. One ballet was composed and performed in honor of the marriage, on February 22, 1581, of Laura Peverara, who was very highly esteemed.
Programs for the balletti were made, however these may have been handwritten rather than printed, and none survive. Alfonso kept the entertainments at his court highly secret, and one contemporary correspondent wrote that the entertainments were so "private" that a program could not be obtained, not even to be sent to Cardinal Luigi d'Este. Luzzasco Luzzaschi and Ippolito Fiorini wrote music for the balletto, and Giovanni Battista Guarini wrote texts, however these do not survive. This entertainment probably continued until the end of the Este court in 1597, when Alfonso died and the city was taken over by the papacy.
Ancestors of Margherita Gonzaga, Duchess of Ferrara Federico I Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua Margaret of Bavaria Federico II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua Ercole I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara Isabella d'Este Eleanor of Naples Guglielmo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua Boniface III, Marquess of Montferrat William IX, Marquess of Montferrat Marija Branković Margaret Paleologa René, Duke of Alençon Anne d'Alençon Margaret of Lorraine Margherita Gonzaga Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor Philip I of Castile Mary of Burgundy Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II of Aragon Joanna of Castile Isabella I of Castile Archduchess Eleanor of Austria Casimir IV Jagiellon Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary Archduchess Elisabeth of Austria Anna of Bohemia and Hungary Gaston de Foix, Count of Candale Anna of Foix-Candale Infanta Catherine of Navarre
- Newcomb, Anthony (1980). The Madrigal at Ferrara, 1579-1597. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-09125-0.
- Nutter, David (September 1985). "Il sesto libro de' madrigali a sei voci (1595)". Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 42 (1): 149–151. ISSN 1534-150X(online), ISSN 0027-4380(print).
NotesMargherita GonzagaBorn: 27 May 1564 Died: 6 January 1618
Royal titles VacantTitle last held byBarbara of Austria Duchess consort of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio
24 February 1579 - 27 October 1597
Virginia de' Medici
Singers in preliminary group Singers in concerto delle donne proper PatronsAlfonso II d'Este; Margherita Gonzaga d'Este Composers and assisting musicians Printer 1st GenerationPrincess Eleanor of Naples · 2nd Generation 3rd GenerationPrincess Renée of France · Maria de Cardona · Giulia della Rovere 4th Generation 5th GenerationPrincess Isabella of Savoy · Ippolita d'Este^ · Françoise d'Hôtel 6th GenerationMaria Caterina Farnese · Vittoria Farnese · Lucrezia Barberini* · Princess Margherita of Savoy · Teresa Maria Grimaldi 7th Generation 8th Generation 9th Generation 10th Generationnone 11th Generation 12th Generation *did not have a royal or noble title by birth
^also a princess of Modena in her own rightEleanor of Naples (1473-1493) · Lucrezia Borgia (1505-1519) · Renée of France (1534-1559) · Lucrezia de' Medici (1559-1562) · Archduchess Barbara of Austria (1565-1572) · Margherita Gonzaga (1579-1597) · Virginia de' Medici (1597-1615) · Maria Caterina Farnese (1631-1646) · Vittoria Farnese (1648-1649) · Lucrezia Barberini (1654-1658) · Laura Martinozzi (1658-1662) · Margherita Maria Farnese (1692-1694) · Duchess Charlotte of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1696-1710) · Charlotte Aglaé d'Orléans (1737-1761) · Maria Teresa Cybo-Malaspina, Duchess of Massa (1780-1790) · Princess Maria Beatrice of Savoy (1814-1840) · Princess Adelgunde of Bavaria* (1842-1875) · Princess Zita of Parma* 1916-1917) · Princess Margherita of Savoy* (1953-1996) · Princess Astrid of Belgium* (1996-present)
*denotes titular Duchess Generations start from Francesco I Gonzaga 1st GenerationMargarita, Margravine of Modena · Ludovico II, Marquis of Mantua · Carlo 2nd GenerationFederico I, Marquess of Mantua · Gianfrancesco, Count of Sobionetta · Francesco · Susanna · Dorothea · Rudolfo · Cecilia · Barbara, Duchess of Württemberg · Lodovico · Paola, Countess of Gorizia 3rd Generation 4th Generation 5th Generation 6th Generation 7th GenerationFrancesco IV, Duke of Mantua · Ferdinando, Duke of Mantua · Guglielmo · Margherita Gonzaga, Duchess of Lorraine · Vincenzo II, Duke of Mantua · Eleonora, Holy Roman Empress · François, Duke of Rethel · Charles, Duke of Nevers · Ferdinand, Duke of Mayenne · Marie Louise, Queen of Poland · Benedetta · Anne, Countess Palatine of Simmern · Cesare II, Duke of Guastalla · Vincenzo, Viceroy of Sicily · Andrea, Count of San Paolo 8th Generation 9th GenerationFerdinando Carlo, Duke of Mantua and Montferrat · Eleonora Luisa, Duchess of Rovere · Antonio Ferrante, Duke of Guastalla · Giuseppe, Duke of Guastalla · Anna Isabella, Duchess of Mantua and Monferrat · Maria Vittoria, Duchess of Guastalla
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