WELCOME TO NAPLES
City of art in the heart of the Mediterranean
This month, Where takes you in discovery of Neapolitan musical traditions and Teatro San Carlo, the oldest opera house in Europe. As our tour guide we chose Neapolitan mezzo- soprano Patrizia Porzio, who not only often performs at the Neapolitan opera house but who is also currently the artistic director of the Ravello – Città della Musica” international opera contest and the creator and artistic director of “Il Riscatto Baronale” scheduled to be held in Torre del Greco from October to December 2015. M usic, in Naples, was born with the founding of the city itself, as an ancestral, instinctive phenomenon in a city accustomed to thriving on sounds, festivals and religious and pagan rituals: “In the voices of vendors hawking their wares in the alleyways scattered throughout the city, in religious processions dedicated to the saints and the Virgin Mary, in the drawing rooms of the houses of the Neapolitan aristocracy, at the small theatres of the court and at theatres throughout the city thanks to its geographical position overlooking the Mediterranean sea and its peoples innate
predisposition towards art and culture”. However, music in Naples basically developed in the 16th century thanks to the presence of as many as four conservatoires: S. Maria di Loreto, S. Maria della Pietà dei Turchini, Poveri di Gesù Cristo, and S. Onofrio a Capuana. “Originally founded in the sixteenth century as orphanages with the objective of providing free board and education, later, after achieving a certain fame, they became real music schools which also admitted students who were able to pay their way”. Thanks to teachers of the caliber of Francesco Durante, the conservatories became the physical place of the birth of the famous Neapolitan School of Music. In 1737, the strong operatic and musical heritage of Naples inspired the first king of Bourbon, Charles III, to build the largest and most important theatre in Europe, the Real Teatro San Carlo whose aim was to represent the power of the kingdom and to consecrate Naples as the European capital of culture. All of this prior to the construction of the La Scala Opera House in Milan and Teatro La Fenice in Venice. From that moment onwards, Naples became a must- visit destination for men of culture and a stage for the performances of the greatest European artists and composers. “Then as now, singers from all over the world wanted to perform at the San Carlo Opera House and a key role was played by the ‘ castrati’ who, with their virtuosity and vocals aroused the interest of the Royal Family and the curiosity of the Neapolitan people”. They were singers who had been castrated before reaching puberty to prevent their soprano or contralto voice ranges from changing. Two of the most famous were Carlo Broschi, in art Farinelli, and Gaetano Majorano, known as ‘ il Caffariello’. Between the 19th and 20th centuries, artists performing at San Carlo, would sometimes meet up near the theatre, at the old Café Gambrinus, a literary salon and a favourite haunt of the cultural elite which was patronized by well- known intellectuals, men of letters and politicians of that era including Gabriele D’Annunzio, Curzio Malaparte, Oscar Wilde, JeanPaul Sartre, Alexander Dumas, and Stendhal. “It was not unusual for singers to give impromptu performances in its tearoom. In fact, one such performance was actually given by a very young Enrico Caruso, accompanied on the piano by Pietro Mascagni. The very same Caruso who later became one of the greatest tenors of all times”. Today, the San Carlo Opera House is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the oldest in Europe. Last year, its architectural beauty, its stage and its décor won it a ranking as the third best opera house in the world by National Geographic, placing it ahead of La Scala in Milan and other world famous theatres. A ranking that was confirmed a few months ago when the five top Opera House classification was published by Best5. com which, like Stendhal, described it as being ‘ the most beautiful theatre in the world’. “In addition to being the chosen as place to ‘ make’ music, the Teatro San Carlo expresses the cultural life of a city with lots of misplaced energy which should be channeled in the same direction, a city that dies every day to be reborn with renewed vitality, living day- to- day, while never forgetting its glorious past infused with historical memories!”.