AEM ONLINE Lecture Series

Sunday, March 28, 2021
5:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time
2:00 p.m. Pacific Time

AEM's second in a Series of Free Lectures
Black Bodies and Black Voices: Gio. Buonaccorsi, an enslaved Black singer at the Medici Court, with Emily Wilbourne

On the 14th of October, 1662, the opera impresario Vettor Grimani Calergi wrote from Venice to Prince Mattias de’ Medici in Florence to discuss the singers for the upcoming opera season. He put in a particular plea in order that the Medici Cardinal’s black slave could participate. Above and beyond the moor’s “esteemed virtue” as a singer, Grimani professed interest in the novelty of his character, explaining that what perhaps in Florence had become “ordinary,” would be “new, and never before seen” on the Venetian stage. This singer is identifiable as Giovannino Buonaccorsi, and his presence in Florence can be traced through a surprisingly rich archive of payment records, libretti, scores, descriptions, letters, costume designs, poetry, as well as a remarkable double portrait: Baldassarre Franceschini’s Ritratto di suanatore di liuto con cantore moro (ca. 1662). In this paper I read this painting closely, placing it alongside new archival documents to think about the ways in which black performance was normalized in mid-century Florence and the means by which blackness signified in relation to slavery and servitude, shaping Giovannino’s access to performance opportunities on and offstage. Open to: all

This Lecture series is free for everyone!
If you are taking an AEM ONLINE weekend class March 26 & 27, there is no need to fill out this form, we will send you the link for this lecture.
If you will not be taking a class, please fill out the short form at the bottom of this page, and consider making a donation to support Amherst Early Music, in any amount.

We hope you enjoy the event!

Emily Wilbourne was born in Australia and has lived, worked, and studied in NYC since 2003. She is fascinated by sound in relationship to bodies and particularly with the ways in which theatrical and musical sounds convey and construct information about race, class, gender, and sexuality. Most of her writing is focused on sonic objects and practices from the Italian seventeenth century. Earlier this year, Acoustemologies in Contact: Sounding Subjects and Modes of Listening in Early Modernity​, a collection of essays co-edited with Suzanne G. Cusick, was published in an open-access edition. Emily is looking forward to a time when our scholarly interactions can once again take place in person; she would like to see your real face, not your zoom face.

Emily Wilbourne is Associate Professor of Musicology at Queens College, in the City University of New York, and at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she teaches in the music department and is affiliated with the Global Early Modern Studies program. Since 2017 she has been Editor-in-Chief for Women & Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture, and she serves on the editorial board of the Journal of the American Musicology Society. Her first book, Seventeenth-Century Opera and the Sound of the Commedia dell’Arte, was published in 2016 by the University of Chicago Press, and a collection of essays, co-edited with Suzanne G. Cusick, Acoustemologies in Contact: Sounding Subjects and Modes of Listening in Early Modernity, was published by Open Book Press in Cambridge in early 2021. Dr. Wilbourne’s articles have appeared in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, Women & Music, Recercare, Teatro e storia, Italian Studies, Echo, and Workplace, as well as in several Oxford Handbooks. In 2011, Dr. Wilbourne was awarded the Philip Brett Award for excellence in queer music scholarship for her article, “Amor nello specchio (1622): Mirroring, Masturbation, and Same-Sex Love”; in 2017-18, she was the Francesco De Dombrowski Fellowship at the Harvard University Center for Renaissance Studies at Villa I Tatti in Florence. Dr. Wilbourne is currently working on a second book, tentatively titled Opera’s Others: Race, Voice, and Slavery in Seventeenth-Century Florence.

THE REGISTRATION FOR THIS LECTURE IS CLOSED but you can sign up for free upcoming Singer's Toolbox Lectures here!


It is helpful for our fundraising efforts to collect some information about the audiences we serve. We do not share private information collected here.
If you are new to AEM, how did you hear about us?