Rosanna Scalfi Marcello

Born: c.1704
Died: c. 1742



Rosanna Scalfi Marcello was an exceptional Venetian gondola singer and composer. She wrote twelve solo cantatas in Italian which had been credited, for hundreds of years, to her husband, Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739), composer, writer and magistrate. Only with recent scholarship by John Glenn Paton has it been determined that she, in fact, composed these works.

Benedetto Marcello

Benedetto Marcello

Nobleman Benedetto Marcello, brother of composer, Alessandro Marcello, heard Rosanna sing arie di battello on the canals of Venice and was enchanted by her voice. After discreetly arranging to meet her, he became her voice teacher and they later married during a secret religious ceremony in 1728. When Benedetto died, even though Marcello was the beneficiary of his estate, the will was declared null and void and Marcello was left penniless because their marriage was not official with the state.

All twelve of Marcello’s solo cantatas were written as chamber pieces for alto and basso continuo. She is also credited with writing some of the texts for these works. They are conventional in form and often feature two da capo arias surrounded by recitative. Vocal leaps, especially in the recitatives, and daring harmonic choices, express a dramatic intensity unusual for the conventional recitative of Marcello’s time. In addition to composing, Marcello was known to perform some of her husband’s music and it is believed that many of the more dramatic settings he composed, including those with register shifts, were written with her in mind as the performer.


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. 


12 Cantatas
1. Io ti voglio adorar
2. In questo giorno
3. Quand'io miro in oriente
4. Solcare il mar tranquillo
5. Dunque fia vero
6. Mirar quei chiari lumi
7. Arde quest'alma
8. Ferma, Fileno ingrato
9. Mio cor, alfin sei vinto
10. Arder di due pupille
11. Ecco il momento
12. Se mai non sieno





Berg, Gregory. "Rosanna Scalfi Marcello: Complete Solo Cantatas." Journal of Singing, vol. 73, no. 2, 2016, p. 236+.

Sadie, Julie Ann, and Rhian Samuel. The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers. W.W. Norton and Co. 1995.

Selfridge-Field, Eleanor. “Marcello, Rosanna Scalfi.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press.