Musica Secreta has, over the past few decades, done concerts in England, Ireland, Germany, France, Croatia, in cathedrals, decommissioned churches, hotel restaurants, and once memorably in a tent in a field. But we have never performed in Italy before, so Wednesday night was a wonderful first for us. Thanks to an enterprising invitation from Linda Falcone of the Advancing Women Artists Foundation, we found ourselves singing and playing the music of Florentine nuns, standing in front of one of the great Florentine masterpieces of the Renaissance, The Last Supper by Andrea del Sarto.
The event was to mark the unveiling of a newly restored painting of The Crucifixion, by the sixteenth-century Dominican nun, Suor Plautilla Nelli. The evening also remembered the philanthropist and art historian Jane Fortune (August 9, 1942 – September 23, 2018), founder of AWA, whose energy and advocacy kickstarted the recovery of many works by women artists, and whose love for Florence endeared her to many in the city.
We joined our dear friend, the novelist Sarah Dunant, in a short performance for the invited guests. Sarah read from her novels The Birth of Venus and Sacred Hearts, accompanied by music from sixteenth-century Florentine convent sources, including the Biffoli-Sostegni manuscript, Suor Annalena Aldobrandini’s Veglia di Calendimaggio, and Fra Serafino Razzi’s Laudi spirituali, dedicated to the Dominican saint Caterina de’ Ricci. It was deeply moving to present this music, some of which had last been heard in the city nearly five hundred years ago, honouring the nuns whose creativity flourished behind the high convent walls.