1742390A Dictionary of Music and Musicians — NaplesCatherine Mary Phillimore

NAPLES. The first school of music at Naples was founded towards the middle of the 15th century by John Tinctor. His school was short-lived, but it was immediately succeeded by the illustrious Neapolitan Conservatorios which were both the first examples and models of all similar musical institutions, not only in Italy but in the other countries of Europe.

The Conservatorios of Naples, four in number—(1) Santa Maria di Loreto, (2) San Onofrio, (3) De' Poveri di Gesu Cristo, (4) Delia Pieta de' Turchini—were originally founded by private benefactors for the purpose of affording both shelter and instruction to the homeless orphans of Naples. The children were taken out of the streets and clad in a particular dress, each Conservatorio being distinguished from the others by its peculiar colour. They were moreover closely shaven, and this, coupled with the clerical character of their dress caused them to be called 'Preterelli' (little priests). Many of them were indeed destined for Holy Orders. Ecclesiastical music was at first the primary object of these institutions. They were governed after the pattern of a priest's seminary, and each had a church of which the pupils formed the choir. The funds of the institution were increased by the services of the pupils in other city churches and in the Royal Chapel, for which they received a monthly salary. Also by other pious offices, such as watching and chanting hymns and prayers over the dead previous to burial. This was the task of the younger pupils, while the elder ones would carry the dead to the grave and even bury them. These elder pupils were called 'Paranze' (i.e. a small corps or company) and the younger ones 'Sopranelli' and 'Contraltini,' according to their voics. Besides these pious services, which were almost daily in request, the pupils were engaged to sing in the great musical processions, or 'Flottole'—so called from 'Flotto,' a term for the choir, a corruption of 'Frotta,' a crowd, because of the number of the pupils. Afterwards, when dramatic music began to revive, they represented the mysteries in the monasteries and convents during carnival, and later still performed in the theatres, more especially in that of San Carlo, for which the pupils of the Pieta de' Turchini were principally selected on account of their proximity to it. These efforts of the pupils brought in to each Conservatorio an average of 1000 ducats a year, but despite these and the private benefactions of individuals, the endowment of each institution was barely sufficient to supply the bare necessaries of life to the pupils, while the space was so cramped that many of them had to sleep in the corridors and refectories, and the supply of musical instruments was far too scanty for the performers. Yet from this humble origin sprang the great masters of music whose compositions are inseparably associated with Italy.

(1) Santa Maria di Loreto. This originated in 1535 with a poor artisan of the name of Francesco, who received into his house on the Mercato orphans of both sexes, and caused them to be fed and clothed and instructed in music. The rich citizens of the Mercato assisted his pious design by every means in their power. The fame of the school reached the ears of Giovanni da Tappia, a Spanish priest domiciled in Naples, and he, having the progress of music greatly at heart, volunteered to direct it, and extend its powers of usefulness by a permanent endowment. This he obtained by begging alms from house to house through the Neapolitan Provinces. At the end of nine years he returned to Naples with a sufficient sum for the purpose. The original humble institution was transferred to a larger building close to the Church of Sta. Maria de Loreto. This building was formally ceded by the government to da Tappia, received the title of 'Conservatorio,' and was endowed, in 1566, with the 'Jus del forno' and 'della beccaria.' Thus established, rich citizens from time to time left their fortunes to this institution, which grew and flourished. The pupils of both sexes reached the number of 800. Among the illustrious musicians whose names are connected with Santa Maria di Loreto are Alessandro Scarlatti, Durante, Porpora, Traëtta, Sacchini, Guglielmi, and many more.

In 1797 the two Conservatorios of San Onofrio and Santa Maria di Loreto were united, the former being absorbed in the latter. In 1806, by order of Joseph Buonaparte, the Conservatorio of Loreto was united to that of the 'Pietà de' Turchini,' and the building of Santa Maria di Loreto then became a hospital. It is still called l'Ospedale del Loreto, and over the doorway the following inscription may still be read:—

'Un di ad Apollo, ad Esoulapio or sacro.'

'Once dedicated to Apollo, now to Aesculapius.'

(2) San Onofrio a Capuana. So called because it was situated in the district of Naples known as Capuana. It was founded in 1576 by private benefactions under the name of the 'confraternity of the Bianchi.' It received 120 orphans, who were instructed in religion and music. The funds of this, as of the other similar institutions, were augmented by the exertions of the pupils as already described. In course of time it was taken out of the hands of the confraternity and established as a Conservatorio by royal warrant with the title of San Onofrio. The dress of the pupils was black and white hence the name 'de' Bianchi.' At a later date foreign pupils were admitted on terms of monthly payment, and on the understanding that they should continue to give their services for a few years after the end of their term of instruction. In 1797 the building of San Onofrio was turned into barracks and the pupils were transferred to Santa Maria di Loreto. A. Scarlatti was a teacher in this Conservatorio also, likewise Durante, Leo, Feo, Cotumacci; amongst their pupils were Gizzi, Jommelli, Piccinni, and Paisiello. Gizzi, by the advice of Scarlatti, opened in 1720 a school of singing in connexion with this Conservatorio, the famous singer Gioacchino Conti di Arpino was one of his pupils, and out of gratitude to his master took the name of Gizziello. [See Gizziello.]

(3) De' Poveri Di Gesu Cristo. This was established in 1589 by a Franciscan, Marcello Foscataro di Nicotera, for the foundlings of Naples. By means of alms collected from the Neapolitans, he obtained the necessary funds, and drew up the rules, which were ratified by Alfonso Gesualdo, the then Cardinal Archbishop of Naples. The pupils, 100 in number, varying in age from 7 to 11, and literally taken out of the streets, were clothed at first in the sober dress of the Franciscan order, afterwards in blue and red, were fed and instructed in their own language and in music, and were governed by two canons of the cathedral of Naples.

This Conservatorio existed till 1744, when, by order of Cardinal Spinelli, it was converted into a Diocesan Seminary. It now bears the title of 'Seminarium Archiepiscopale Diocesanum,' whereas it had for years borne the inscription of 'Pauperum Jesu Christi Archiepiscopale Collegium.' The pupils were distributed among the three remaining Conservatories—San Onofrio, Loreto, and the Pieta de' Turchini.

This Conservatorio is by some considered as the oldest of all, and as the cradle of the great Neapolitan School of Music. Fago, Greco, Durante, Vinci—all pupils of Scarlatti—Cotumacci, Ignazio Gallo, and Pergolesi, were among the most famous composers which it produced.

(4) Della Pietà de' Turchini. This originated with the confraternity of Sta. Maria della Incoronatella, who, towards the year 1584 [App. p.727 "in the year 1583"] made their house an asylum both for the homeless orphans of Naples, and also for children whose parents were unable to support them. At first the children were only taught to read and write, and were clad in long blue garments ('color turchino'), hence the name of 'Pietà de' Turchini,' which was adopted by the institution instead of that of the 'Incoronatella.' It was not till a century later that musical instruction was given to the pupils. In 1600 it was placed under the protection of Philip III of Spain, and in 1670 Francesco Provenzale and Gennaro Ursino were appointed to be its Professors of Music, Provenzale having preceded Scarlatti as Maestro of the Palatine Chapel at Naples. It produced many famous composers, such as Feo, Fago, Carapella, Leo, Cafaro and Sala. In 1806, on the abolition of the Conservatorio of Sta. Maria di Loreto, the pupils were received into the Pietà de' Turchini. In 1808 this, the last of the Conservatories, was also suppressed on the representation of Monsignore Capecelatro, Archbishop of Taranto, 'that the Neapolitan Conservatorios had fallen from their ancient glory on account of bad administration and lack of discipline, and that the only remedy was to re-organize them in one great college established on a broader basis.' Thus the 'Reale Collegio Di Musica' came into existence, first with the title of San Sebastiano, and afterwards with that of S. Pietro a Maiella, which it still retains.

Tritta, Paisiello, and Feneroli were the first directors and general administrators of the new Royal College of Music. They were succeeded in 1813 by Zingarelli. In 1817 'external' preparatory schools of music were added; and the pupils who passed creditable examinations there were admitted into the Royal College. In the revolution of 1820 half the building of San Sebastiano was seized for the use of the government, the other half was made over to the Jesuits, and the monastery of San Pietro a Maiella was assigned to the Royal College of Music. In 1837 Zingarelli was followed by Donizetti, and he again in 1840 by Mercadante, who made great reforms in the discipline and efficiency of the college. In 1861, on account of his blindness, Carlo Conti was appointed his coadjutor. Conti died in 1868, and was succeeded by Paolo Serrao Mercadante, who retained his post as President till his death in 1870. Since that date the College appears to have lost ground, and a fatal economy seems to have beset its management. In 1874 the scholarships were reduced from 100 to 50, and 25 of these were thrown open to women, with allowance for lodging; but in 1879 this allowance was abolished. The post of Director is now vacant, and the College is governed by a board of professors and amateurs. Manfroce, Bellini, Luigi Ricci, and Michael Costa are the most distinguished names on the roll of the Neapolitan School of Music since the establishment of the Reale Collegio di Napoli. [App. p.727 "See also Musical Libraries, vol. ii. p. 425b."]