Paola Massarenghi

Born: 1565 (fl. 1585)
Died: Unknown



Paola Massarenghi was born in 1565 in Parma, Italy to Pietro and Catterina and is credited for being the second woman ever to have a madrigal published during her lifetime. She and her younger brother, composer Giovanni Battista, received a classical education, which was customary for upper class children. At that time, the purpose of offering education to women was to ensure that they could be conversant at home.

When she was 20-years-old, Massarenghi’s single madrigal Quando spiega l’insegn’al sommo padre, was published by Arcangelo Gherardini. It appeared in his Primo libro dei madrigali a cinque voci which was dedicated from Ferrara which suggests Massarenghi might have lived or studied there.

In Massarenghi’s society, most young women chose to join the convent or become married once they reached adulthood. Because it is likely she did not join a convent, where her musical studies would have continued beyond her initial publication in 1585, it is quite possible that she married and was then unable to compose further while tending to domestic duties.


The following selections are recommended for vocal study and programming on recitals and concerts. Please note that this list may not constitute the entirety of the composer's output. 


LaMay, Thomasin. “Paola Massarenghi.” Women Composers: Music through the ages, Vol. 1. Edited by Martha Furman Schleifer and Sylvia Glickman. Prentice Hall International, 1996.

Bridges, Thomas W. “Massarenghi, Paola.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, 2001.