From June 11 to 13, 2021, Le Nouvel Opéra launches: The City of Ladies Festival in Montreal, Quebec. Combining a series of concerts and conversations, this premiere festival project for Le Nouvel Opéra will examine the impact and the role of women throughout history via a musical lens.
Through stories of notorious women — ranging from cloistered nuns to renowned singers — new generations of musicians and audiences will discover the almost-forgotten.
Directed by Suzie LeBlanc, the Festival borrows its title and inspiration from Christine de Pizan’s Le Livre
de la Cité des Dames (The Book of the City of Ladies) published in 1405. In it, de Pizan creates an allegorical city inhabited by a wide array of notable women, and argues in favour of women’s education, exploring the natural affinity of women for learning and their talent for government. The ideas resonate as much today as they did over 600 years ago.
The City of Ladies Festival is a partnership between Le Nouvel Opéra, Le Musée des Hospitalières de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal, the Schulich School of Music of McGill University and Le Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal.
The Festival programme will include the exciting world premiere of the “Cozzolani Reunited” Project conceived and directed by theorbist and conductor Lucas Harris; “Milton in Love” directed by Erin Headley (Ensemble Atalante); a presentation of early keyboard works associated with women by renowned keyboardist Catalina Vicens (Belgium, Chili); and a filmed presentation of Servir Antico’s musical project “In Defense of Women”.
FRIDAY JUNE 11, 2021, Redpath Hall, McGill University
Cozzolani Reunited, directed by Lucas Harris
Ariadne Lih, Nell Snaidas, Suzie LeBlanc, sopranos; Lucas Harris, theorbo; Erin Headley, lirone; Dorothéa Ventura, organ
Featuring newly reconstructed works by Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602–c.1677), abbess of the convent of Santa Radegonda in Milan. This convent housed one of the most celebrated ensembles of women musicians in early modern Italy and was one of the twenty Milanese female foundations whose music became famous between 1600 and 1700. Cozzolani was one of the most prolific nun-composers of her time, publishing four editions of sacred works. The tragically lost bass part to her first book of motets was recently reconstructed by Lucas Harris (theorbo player; musicologist; conductor) and the completed work will be presented in its world premiere. To find out more about the project, please visit:
SATURDAY JUNE 12, 2021, McGill University (TBA)
Songs without Words
Catalina Vicens, keyboards
A concert and conversation with Chilean keyboard player Catalina Vicens (Leiden University; Royal Conservatory, Belgium). An exploration of 16th-Century Italy and the keyboard repertoire and stringed keyboard instruments that have been associated with female performers. Discover Isabella d’Este, a patroness of the arts directly involved with the development and commissions of new keyboard instruments for the court in Mantua. Illustrated with keyboard works drawn from the early and mid 16th-Century printed sources.
SATURDAY JUNE 12, 2021, Ancient Chapel of the Hotel-Dieu, Pine Avenue, Montreal
Homage to the Hospitalières, directed by Suzie LeBlanc and Célia Laguitton
Myriam LeBlanc, soprano; Célia Laguitton, narrator; Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal
Marrying music with history, this tribute journeys across time weaving words from the archives of the first Hospitalières to the reflections of today's nuns with music from 17th century cloisters and private religious gatherings. By combining their individual artistic practices, Suzie LeBlanc and Célia Laguitton will provide spectators with a sensory experience that offers insight into the heroic lives of these women and the devout music of the 17th-Century in both France and Quebec. With the magnificent voices of the Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal, this rich musical and theatrical creation honours the lives of those who took part in the foundation of Montreal, including Jeanne Mance who founded Hôtel-Dieu and co-founded Montreal.
SUNDAY JUNE 13, 2021, McGill University (TBA)
Defence of Womankind
Servir Antico (Belgium); directed by Catalina Vicens
A musical praise of women, with works by composers of the 15th-Century Burgundy and France presented on film. Texts by revolutionary writer Christine de Pizan (1364 – ca. 1430) and forward-thinking poet Martin Le Franc (ca. 1410 – 1460) provide a framework for the programme. She was harshly criticized for questioning the place, role, and society’s centuries-old treatment of women, and he, unlike most other men, championed her cause and brought awareness to the importance of women as active and multifaceted citizens in history. Vicens shares this work — recorded in Belgium specifically for the Festival — and takes the local audience behind the scenes with in-person insight and commentary.
SUNDAY JUNE 13, 2021, Tanna Schulich Hall, McGill University
Milton in Love, directed by Erin Headley
Nell Snaidas, Ariadne Lih, Suzie LeBlanc, sopranos; Erin Headley, lirone and viola da gamba; Lucas Harris, theorbo; Antoine Malette-Chénier, triple harp
The program is inspired by the famous singer Leonora Baroni (1611–1670), who, from the age of sixteen, caused a sensation everywhere she appeared (poet John Milton was so captivated, he dedicated three Latin epigrams to her). She composed music and poetry, and was one of the few female members of the literary Accademia degli Umoristi (Academy of the Humorists). Leonora’s solo repertoire most likely included the laments of Mary Magdalene, Helen of Troy, Artemisia and St. Catherine. “Milton in Love”, a narrated film created by Headley, with historical images and paintings will run in sync with performances of staged vocal works composed by Rome’s leading composers, Luigi Rossi, Marco Marazzoli and Domenico Mazzocchi.
SUNDAY JUNE 13, 2021, Tanna Schulich Hall, McGill University
Round Table Discussion
Led by Professor Julie Cumming (Schulich School of Music, McGill University), project directors will examine the roles of women in different historical and actual social and musical contexts.