About the Book

One of the most fascinating figures of seventeenth-century music, composer and singer Antonia Padoani Bembo (c.1640 – c.1720) was active in both Venice and Paris. Her work provides a unique cross-cultural window into the rich musical cultures of these cities, yet owing to her clandestine existence in France, for almost three centuries Bembo’s life was shrouded in mystery. In this first-ever biography, Clare Fontijn unveils the enthralling and surprising story of a remarkable woman who moved in the musical, literary, and artistic circles of these European cultural centers.


Desperate Measures is ground-breaking, eye-opening, substantial and painstakingly researched.”
– Robert Manning, The Consort

“This is a work of exemplary archival research and musicological import for scholars, complemented by a valuable recording. This will be the definitive Antonia Bembo biography for years to come.”
– Honorable Mention, Pauline Alderman Award, International Alliance of Women and Music.

“In Desperate Measures, Claire Fontijn relates a fascinating account of a young girl’s journey from the Venice of famed composer Francesco Cavalli to Paris at the end of the reign of Louis XIV. Through impeccable research and close attention to a wide variety of documentary gems, Antonia Padoani Bembo’s life and music are presented here in rich detail. This book provides a complete and satisfying portrait of a courageous woman who abandoned her family to follow her muse in a supportive community in France. Fontijn demonstrates that Antonia Bembo deserves to be much better known, not only as a woman composer, but as a significant figure in the history of Baroque music.”
– Beth and Jonathan Glixon, University of Kentucky

Desperate Measures presents the definitive study of one of the most gifted pupils of Cavalli. Claire Fontijn’s vivid prose and thorough research bring readers from the 17th-century Venetian lagoon to the banks of the Seine. By giving life to the child prodigy Antonia Bembo, the author casts light on the long unnoticed woman composer who participated in the foundation of music employing the united tastes known as les goûts réunis.”
– Jean-Paul C. Montagnier, University of Nancy, France

Desperate Measures stands midway between scholarly work and novel—with the rigor of the former and the readability of the latter.”
– Dr. Giovanni Zanovello, Padua, Italy

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