Gaspara Stampa (2014) for soprano and piano

Thomas Oboe Lee

About this work:

Program note:


I met Ron Musto and Eileen Gardner at the American Academy in Rome during my Rome Prize Fellowship year, 1986-87.  We hit it off immediately, discovering that we are foodies, with a bias toward il cibo italiano!!!  Since then we have stayed in touch back here in the States.  Whenever my wife and I visit New York City, we stay in their lovely apartment on Roosevelt Island, which has a gorgeous, panoramic view of Manhattan.  We would invite our AAR alumni friends over and cook a feast for the guests.


A couple of years ago, they gave me a copy of “Gaspara Stampa,” a publication from their own Italica Press.  I immediately fell in love with Stampa’s poems.  There is basically one single topic among the 311-odd poems, my favorite subject in Art: unrequited love.  The source of her torment was Count Collaltino di Callalto.  The following is a direct quote from Wikipedia.


“It was to him that she eventually dedicated most of the 311 poems she is known to have written. The relationship broke off in 1551, apparently resulting from a cooling of the count's interest, and perhaps in part due to his many voyages out of Venice. Stampa was devastated.


Stampa went into a physical prostration and depression, but the result of this period is a collection of beautiful, intelligent and assertive poems in which she triumphs over Collaltino, creating for herself a lasting reputation. It might be noted in passing that Collaltino is only remembered because of Stampa. She makes clear in her poems that she uses her pain to inspire the poetry, hence her survival and fame ….  There is evidence that she was a musician who performed madrigals of her own composition.”


So, maybe my song cycle could have been one that Gaspara Stampa might have written herself. In any case I am dedicating my Stampa cycle to Collaltino, the cad.



Gaspara Stampa is a musical setting of five of her poems or Rime.


1.                  Rima I                                    Interlude 1


2.                  Rima V


3.                  Rima XXVI                  Interlude 2


4.                  Rima XXXIV


5.                  Rima XLIII


Year composed: 2014
Duration: 00:16:00
Ensemble type: Unspecified Instrument(s)
Instrumentation: 1 Piano, 1 Soprano

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