The Secret Lover

Presenter Info

Jolle Greenleaf   Molly Quinn   Virginia Warnken

The Renaissance (“rebirth”) in Italy paved the way for incredible discoveries in all areas of human existence. It was a time of great invention, scientific exploration, and lavish expression through art and music.  A renewed focus on the classics  led to many new musical art forms such as opera, and its related focus on philology greatly impacted compositional style.

At the end of the 16th century, the Duke of Ferrara began hosting private events shrouded in secrecy featuring the concerto delle donne, an ensemble of renowned professional women musicians who were hired to entertain guests of the court. By all accounts, these women were phenomenally gifted and they inspired composers to write extraordinarily florid and virtuosic music for them. Rival courts throughout Italy quickly mimicked the original trio to form other concerti delle donne.

During this time of extraordinary creativity, there was greater awareness and limited acceptance of the many women who were composing and performing.  A few stand-outs were Barbara Strozzi, Francesca Caccini, Antonia Bembo, Isabella Leonarda, and Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, among many.  Some lived and worked in wealthy courts while others lived in convents that allowed for surprising freedoms, but it was clear that these women participated handsomely in the world of music during their day.

TENET’s modern take on the tradition of concerti delle donne is rooted in a love of music and history.  For this project, we focus our attention on 17th century Italy in a program featuring sopranos Jolle Greenleaf, Molly Quinn and Virginia Warnken, who have teamed up to share the story of these amazing women and the musical world they inhabited while shedding light on the courtly culture known as as Musica Segreta (“secret music”).

For information about our performances in 2015, please visit the CONCERTS page. Texts and translations for the shows at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (January 21 and 22, 2015) are HERE.

Please consider being part of this very special project by pledging your support
as we work to raise funds for the engineers and distribution of the recording!



Vago augellin, che per quei rami ombrosi
dolce cantavi a minüir mie pene,
di sentirti al mio cor gran desir viene
per fare in tutto i giorni miei giocosi.

Deh vieni, e teco mena i più famosi
cantor che quella selva in sen ritiene,
ché goderete in queste rive amene,
ed a l'estivo dì starete ascosi.

Il boschetto vi attende, e 'l bel giardino
là dove in fra le fronde e l'onda e l'ora
gareggian mormorando a me vicino.

A cantar sorgeremo in sul mattino:
io con le Muse invocarò l'aurora,
e voi col vostro gorgheggiar divini.

Lovely little bird, who, among those shady branches,
used to sing so sweetly to mitigate my sorrows,
a great desire comes to my heart to hear you again,
to make my days complete in their joy.

Come, and bring with you the most famous singers
that the forest nurtures in its breast,
for you will have the pleasure of these fair waters
and be hidden away from the heat of the summer day.

The little wood awaits you, and the lovely garden where,
among the leaves, the ripples and the breeze
compete in their murmuring beside me.

We will rise together before sunrise:
I will herald the dawn with the Muses,
and you with your warbling divine.

-- Francesca Turina Bufalini Contessa di Stupinigi (1544-1641, poem 1628)


We would like to thank the following people for their extraordinary artistry and support of the Concerto delle donne project:

Becky Oehlers Photography
Paris Mancini - Stylist and Photography
Matt Kelsey Videography

Photos and video shot on location at Kelsey Island in Branford, Connecticut.
We offer our humble thanks to Roger and Mary Jane Kelsey for their kindness and generosity!


This program is available for bookings for the 2015-2016 season. For more information, please see The Secret Lover.