Five Centuries of Women Singers explores the careers of twenty singers from the late sixteenth century to the middle of the twentieth. In addition to personal information, the stories of these singers tell a great deal about contemporary musical life, about musical and dramatic ideals of the time, and about performance practice. The experiences of the singers also reveal much about the business of music --how women were dealt with by teachers, impresarios, composers, and audiences--and the perseverance and pluck that were and are crucial ingredients of a successful career. The twenty singers were selected on the basis of their contribution to and influence on the art of singing, their significance in the history of performance, what their careers reveal about the life of a professional female musician, and finally for the originality of their achievements. All of the singers included reached the pinnacle of their art with persistence, ingenuity, and unsurpassed musicianship.