Doctoral Colloquium (Music): Zoey Cochran, PhD candidate in Musicology



The Doctoral Colloquium is open to all.

Scarlatti’s Call “to Arms”: The Neapolitan Production

of Comodo Antonino (1696) by Alessandro Scarlatti and Francesco Maria Paglia

Zoey Cochran (musicology PhD candidate)


Friday, 30 October 2020 at 16:30

Abstract: Historical studies of viceregal Naples offer a portrait of colonial exploitation, of fraught relations between Neapolitans and their Spanish rulers, and of a burgeoning desire for independence (Galasso, Storrs). These elements are strikingly absent from musicological studies of seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Naples. There, foreign viceroys are depicted as magnanimous patrons and opera is viewed as either political propaganda or a means of self-representation on behalf of the viceroy.

By situating opera in the actual context of unequal power relations and giving voice to the Neapolitan experience of foreign rule, I offer a different interpretation of the political role of opera in viceregal Naples. Despite a superficial adherence to the dominant ideology, these works expressed subversive positions towards foreign rule through their libretti, music, casting, and performance history. This becomes apparent when we recognize the political agency of opera’s creators and performers instead of treating them as mere executants of their ruler’s views.

In this paper, I focus on the case of Comodo Antonino (1696), by Alessandro Scarlatti and Francesco Maria Paglia, based on Antonio Sartorio and Giacomo Francesco Bussani’s Antonino e Pompeiano (Venice, 1677). Paglia and Scarlatti’s modifications of Antonino e Pompeiano tie Comodo Antonino to contemporary critiques of empire and to theories of monarchomachy (justifying rebellion against a ruler if his behaviour warrants it), both linked by historians to the rupture between Naples and Spain. The libretto also creates a parallel between the tyrant Antonino and the Duke of Medinaceli, the newly appointed viceroy, by using the Hispanicised form “imperador” to address him and by attributing to him traits for which Medinaceli was contemporaneously ridiculed in primary sources. Finally, the casting of Maria Maddalena Musi in the role of the male hero Pompeiano opposite the soprano castrato Domenico Cecchi in the role of Antonino creates an opposition between villainous male heroes representing Spain and heroic female primi uomini symbolizing Naples in light of the city’s mythical ties to the siren Partenope, thus offering a political explanation for the Neapolitan tradition of casting women in heroic male roles.

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