The Gentlewomen: An Opera Collage



Primary Investigator

Caroline Elliott

English Faculty


List of Partner Organisations/Institutions

The Church of St Mary Magdalen

New College School

Magdalen College School

Oxford Centre for Life Writing




List of People Involved

Emily Brown Gibson, Soprano– Oxford University Faculty of Music Alumus

Margaret Lingas, Soprano – University of Victoria, Canada, Faculty of Music Alumnus

Rosalind Dobson – Univerisity of Cambridge, Royal College of Music Alumnus

Sophie Platt, Mezzo-Soprano – Oxford Brooks Univeristy, Department of English and Linguistics

Elizabeth Gornall, Soprano – Kings College London, Faculty of Music Alumnus

Austin Haynes, Countertenor – Oxford University, Queen’s College, Oxford Faculty of Music

Tom Dixon, Countertenor – Oxford University, Department of Biochemistry

Lucia Allegro, Violin – Royal Academy of Music

William Anderson, Viola –Oxford University, Faculty of Music Alumnus

Sara Salloum, Lute – Oxford University, Faculty of Music Alumnus

Harry Morgan, Cello – Oxford University, Faculty of Chemistry

Caroline Lesemann-Elliot, Conductor, Musical Director – University of Edinburgh Faculty of Music Alumnus, Royal Holloway Faculty of Music

Isobel Rose, Producer – Oxford University, Faculty of Music Alumnus, New College School

Priya Rhadhakrishnan, Director – Oxford University, Faculty of Music Alumnus

Dr Kate Kennedy, Referee – Faculty of English

Dr Helen Small, Referee  – Faculty of English

About the project here:

Premiered in February 2020, The Gentlewomen is a dramatized performance of Cesarina Ricci’s Il Primo Libro di Madrigali with songs by Barbara Strozzi. This opera ‘collage’ explores the experiences of three courtly women in the last days of the D’Este court in Ferrara. Musical Director Caroline Lesemann-Elliot expertly arranged a series of madrigals sung by a semi-chorus of student singers from across Oxford and its university. These performers worked alongside three leading soprano soloists: Rosalind Dobson, Margaret Lingas, and Emily Gibson. This 40-minute production followed the relationships of Anna Guarini, Laura Peverara, and Lucrezia d’Este, who performed as part of the Concerto Della Donne, Ferrara’s leading professional female ensemble. With the use of both music and spoken word, the production sought to unpack the political influence held by these renowned women, and the fear and violence they were subjected to by their suitors, and male family members. Anna Guarini, brutally murdered by her husband and brother, epitomises the constant threat of femicide that persisted throughout the lives of these women. These favourable individuals, as neither wives, nor fallen women in society, trod a dangerous path. As part of this project we were fortunate enough to discuss the lives of these women with leading researcher, Laurie Strass. We remain extremely grateful to Laurie for the insight she gave into the lives of these prolific women. The Korrigan Consort was determined to uncover their lives in musical form – we are immensely grateful to TORCH in their support towards this project.

Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the

future Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities.