How’s this for a name:
“Princess and Lady Sophie-Elisabeth, Duchess of Mecklenburg, Princess of Wenden, Schwerin, and Ratzburg, Countess of Schwerin and the States of Rostock and Stargard, Dutchess of Brunswick-Luneberg.”
Try fitting that on a business card.
Of course, they didn’t have business cards in German duchies in the 1600’s, when Sophie Elisabeth (1613-1676) composed her music.
While popular at the time, Sophie Elisabeth’s works are rarely performed today.
That’s about to change.
On Sunday, afternoon at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 939 Hinman Ave., Sophie Elisabeth’s “Castle of the Moon” will be presented by the Newberry Consort, an early music ensemble which has performed at St. Luke’s before.
(The same concerts will be performed in Chicago on Friday, Sept. 22, and Saturday, Sept. 23).
Along with singers, the consort’s concert features, violins, organ, a lute-like viola da gamba, and Renaissance trombones known as sackbuts.
Consort founder and director Liza Malamut says “in my personal opinion, Sophie Elisabeth’s music was delightful and absolutely brilliant.”
Malamut also says that “the music that women wrote” in that period sounds different than music from male composers, and until recently was not highly regarded.”
As a wealthy noblewoman, Sophie Elisabeth was expected to learn the arts, but, Malamut notes, even duchesses with titles as long as your arm were not given the extensive musical tutoring which male prodigies received.
“There was a huge difference in how women were trained in music and how it got published,” Malamut explains.
In fact, “a lot of it was never published at all.”
That’s one thing what make Sophie Elisabeth’s music so important — the fact that it’s still available.
There is also an Evanston connection to the performance of another 17th century woman composer, whose music will be featured one week after Sophie Elisabeth’s, by a different group.
The composer was Francesca Caccini (1587-1641), an Italian believed to be the first woman to compose an opera, “La liberazione di Ruggiero,” in 1625.
The Evanston link is Northwestern University professor of performance practice, Craig Trompeter.
The group Trompeter founded and leads, the Haymarket Opera Company, will be presenting the Caccini composition, with help from a few Newberry members as well — 25 people in all, many in period costumes, at DePaul University, Sept. 29-Oct. 1.
The goal of Haymarket (and Newberry, for that matter), is to “explore music from earlier eras, what makes it tick, and what instruments were used,” Trompeter explains.
The Caccini piece, Trompeter says, deals with “dueling sorceresses, fighting over the destiny of a man, with lots of plots” interwoven.
“It’s kind of like ‘Lord of the Rings'” from 400 years ago, he adds.
“It’s truly a wonderful piece of music, with tons of variety, poetry, and the incredible sound of all these weird instruments together.”
By focusing on little-known women composers, both Haymarket and Newberry are inviting audiences to expand their horizons.
“People tend to get into a rut, especially when it comes to opera and classical music,” Trompeter says.
“It’s nice to explore” something else.
Haymarket is doing “a piece from 1625, but it’s brand-new music to most people.”
And Malamut says she hopes audience members “leave these concerts feeling ‘wow, I had a really great time.'”
For more information on locations, times, and tickets:
Sophie Elisabeth performance, Sept. 22-24. newberryconsort.org
Francesca Caccini performance, Sept. 29-Oct.1. haymarketopera.org