City of art in the heart of the Mediter­ranean

Where Naples Coast & Islands - - Front Page - In Europe and a UNESCO World Her­itage Site

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!”.

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