Born: ca. 1465 in Verona, Italy
Dead: 1525 in Mantua, Lombardia, Italy
Genre: Vocal Music
Marchetto Cara is generally recognized as one of the two most important composers of the pre-madrigal vocal form called the frottola. The other composer was Bartolomeo Tromboncino, and both had ties to the Mantuan Court where the frottola flourished in the early-16th century. Cara wrote more than 100 frottolas.
Marchetto Cara was born in Verona around 1460. Little is known of his childhood, though he almost certainly served as a choirboy, and likely had instruction on the lute. His earliest surviving composition was a Salve Regina, probably dating to the early-1490s. Cara became a cleric around this time, but would leave the religious life in 1497 to pursue musical interests. The decision to change careers was hardly sudden: records show he was in the service of the Mantuan Court as early as 1494; and three years later, with the blessing of the Court, he served temporarily as a musician for Cardinal Giovanni Colonna.
At the Mantuan Court, Cara's duties early on may have been limited to singing and lute-playing for the Marquis Francesco Gonzaga and his wife Isabella d'Este, but he would become, probably shortly after 1497, the Marquis' personal musical adviser and performer, serving as composer, singer and lutenist. For a time Tromboncino provided similar services for Isabella, but he departed in 1505, leaving his duties to Cara.
In the early-1500s Cara traveled to other major Italian cities to sing and play lute for various royalty, his tour including Florence to perform for the Midici family (1602) and Venice to entertain Elisabetta of Urbino (1603).
Cara was apparently well-paid by the Gonzagas, since he had amassed substantial wealth by the time of his death in 1625. He must also have exerted considerable influence over them as well: in 1506, Cara's younger brother Benedetto, a priest, was jailed for an illicit affair with a woman, but Cara obtained early release for him and secured a post for Benedetto in the Court choir.
In 1509 Cara's wife, Giovanna Moreschi, also a singer in the Court, died. He remarried Barbara Leale shortly afterward. In 1511 Cara was appointed maestro di cappella and given charge of the choir at the San Pietro Cathedral. He also retained directorship of secular musical performances at the Court. It appears he held this post until his death in late-1625.
- Robert Cummings (All Music Guide)