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"Applausi festivi": Music and the Image of Power in Spanish Italy

Anna Tedesco and Matthew Ross
Music in Art
Vol. 37, No. 1/2, The Courts in Europe: Music Iconography and Princely Power (Spring—Fall 2012), pp. 139-158
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24420200
Page Count: 20
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"Applausi festivi": Music and the Image of Power in Spanish Italy
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Abstract

In so-called Spanish Italy, or the Italian territories subject to the Spanish rule (the State of Milan, the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily) during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the theater was often used in feast-day celebrations to underline the bond with the ruling nation, and to engender acclaim for the Spanish monarchy. Celebrations were an integral part of the complex web of political relationships. The Senate (civic government) of Palermo was throughout the seventeenth century paying for musicians performing in outdoor improvised venues on the feast days. Out of these performances was created the serenata, a musical genre specifically designed to celebrate power and glorification of the Spanish monarchy, which was often composed for the precisely determined performance location. In 1679 was established a permanent ensemble for such performances ("nuova cappella"), and in 1682 was constructed the permanent theater ("teatro marmoreo"), designed by the architect Paolo Amato (1634–1714). The use of this theater for the performance of commemorative serenatas is confirmed in printed librettos and in images until the 1740s. Since the beginning of the eighteenth century, serenatas were performed in Palermo at the Maredolce quarter, where the nobility took their promenades on the day of Ferragosto (15 August). The apparato there was a temporary structure which bore several notable points of resemblance to the "teatro marmoreo": it fulfilled the function of a set, it extended over two levels, it had a curvilinear main façade; it boasted a balustrade which ran right around the building, and small boxes for the musicians. As they were linked to specific events, performances of serenatas were irreproducible events, what might be also a reason for the fact that there are preserved only few surviving scores relative to the number of performances indicated in other sources.

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