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Bias or Factuality? Music in Majestic Representation and Public State Ceremonies in Late 18th Century Portugal, as Seen by German Travellers

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Advances in Design, Music and Arts II (EIMAD 2022)

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In the second half of the 18th century, travels to Portugal increased significantly, partly due to the military movements provoked by the peninsular wars, partly because of the curiosity that the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and subsequent reconstruction of the city had aroused, partly because of scientific expeditions, and partly due to the emerging popularization of travelling and tourism among the middle class. The thus resulting travelogues contain precious elements which help us better understand and characterize the musical and cultural practices of the time. However, their use requires a careful contextualization, as well as the identification of several typical filters and meta-discourses that, quite often, might have little to do with the observed reality. In this article, we will consider a group of German travelogues – which have traditionally been, by far, the least studied by Portuguese musicology – to examine, using a three-layer-analysis methodological approach (extra-discursive, intra-discursive and identity/alterity), how Portuguese music, and particularly the one related to majestic representation and public State ceremonies, was apprehended by German travellers.

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  1. 1.

    There are several travel reports that are not: from texts resulting from the compilation of pre-existing information, in a more or less assumed way, to fictitious and rocambolesque reports, full of adventure stories, which contributed – at least, so it was expected - to the writer’s literary elevation. However, there are reports that, even raising questions of authenticity, show that they are based on a personal experience, an experience which is possibly not authored by the writer, but which actually existed. In these circumstances, a case-by-case evaluation is necessary to determine whether that report can be, exceptionally and with due caution, used in musicological studies. For an example of a complete fabricated report, see the article by Maria Manuela Gouveia Delille on the staging of a fictitious correspondence about the Lisbon Earthquake, published between August and September 1779 (Delille 2008).

  2. 2.

    «One [must] actually wonder why so few people have thought of using the travelogues not as sources for the countries described or the literary imagination of their authors, but quite simply as evidence of the specific way of thinking of the author and, indirectly, of the mentality of their home country. In this sense, travel descriptions can be understood as a kind of involuntary cultural self-representation of the departing culture. This involuntary nature alone lends the texts, when read under this light, a completely different degree of credibility».

  3. 3.

    An exhaustive attention to this subject, as well as to travelogue-related methodological approaches, is given in our doctoral thesis: The German gaze: musical practice in Portugal at the end of the Ancien Régime according to German sources (Almeida, Inês Thomas 2021), in which more than thirty German reports from the second half of the 18th century are analyzed and contextualized, to see, among other questions, whether or not there is a German type of perspective on the Portuguese musical reality.

  4. 4.

    These sources are part of more than three hundred travelogues collected and identified by Rui Vieira Nery, which will be published on his work about music in Portugal and Brazil at the end of the Ancien Régime (in preparation), and which were generously put at our disposal for the elaboration of the doctoral dissertation. For that, we express our reiterated gratitude.

  5. 5.

    For more information about the Prussian staging of royal power, see (Hoven, 2015).

  6. 6.

    For more information on the Royal Theatre of Salvaterra de Magos, see (Hall de Beuvink 2012) and (Hall de Beuvink 2016).

  7. 7.

    «The Court maintains an excellent Chapel with very good Italian singers, castrated and not, who, during the Carnival period, perform Italian comic operas in Salvaterra, a few miles from Lisbon, on the other side of the Tagus». [Note: all English translations in this article are our own.].

  8. 8.

    «In this theater, too, all the roles were assigned to men, which, however, was not surprising, because they casted young and beautiful castrated singers to play the female roles, and so well that in the beginning of 1763 they made the English officers, and others, let out many sighs and hand kisses, before they realized their mistake».

  9. 9.

    «The Carnival or winter entertainment consists of hunting, an activity with which the royal family entertains themselves throughout the year, with the only difference that during this period foreigners are allowed to reside there, being supplied with horses from the royal stables. Here, one can spend time daily with the royal family, without any special ceremony, whether it is the hunting, where the queen never failed to accompany her late husband, or the evening performance, which always lasted until very late in the night, because the late king never went to bed before four in the morning».

  10. 10.

    «To cap off the amusements of Carnival, in recent days the roles were changed: the mistress played the father, the grandparents played the roles of the children, etc. louder and more convinced than the queen, who once could not contain herself and fell breathlessly into the king's arms».

  11. 11.

    The detailed description of this investigation can be found in (Almeida, Inês Thomas 2021, pp. 242–246).

  12. 12.

    For more information on the genesis of this theatre, see (Carneiro 2003) and (Cranmer 1997).

  13. 13.

    «In London, there is no more pleasant spectacle than seeing the royal family at the theater. In these soirees, it is only with great effort that one manages to obtain a ticket to the Theater. (…) And with what joy the King, the Queen and all the members of the royal family are greeted at the entrance and at the exit! The poor Portuguese never see their king; the Portuguese court diligently evades the eyes of the people».

  14. 14.

    For more information on public State ceremonies and their associated repertoire in the 18th century, see (Sá Martins da Silva 2008).

  15. 15.

    «Just as we were returning from the convent, the Prince and Princess of Brazil arrived with their entourage. This procession was not exceptionally brilliant. The prince was seated in a Chaise coupée pulled by two mules, with his nephew the Infant beside him. A detachment of cavalry escorted the carriage: now followed by a four-seater carriage drawn by six mules. The Princess and three ladies sat in it. Like the previous one, it was escorted by a detachment of cavalry. Many chaises and carriages with their entourage ended the procession. All the bells of the countless churches were ringing and making such a noise as to make one lose sight and hearing. The prince lodged that night in the bishop’s palace. In the evening the city was illuminated».

  16. 16.

    «About nine o'clock the said secretary of state [the Marquis from Pombal] arrived, preceded by many gentlemen, many servants, a drummer, and a trumpeter, all on horseback. His Excellency was in a carriage pulled by six whitish horses. That carriage was surrounded by twenty-five royal guards on horseback. Two groomers went on foot on this side, and two on the other side of the carriage. […] A few minutes later the Patriarch arrived. And what a Patriarch! Except for the Pope, there is no ecclesiastical lord in the world who has such pomp around him. Before his carriage were two carriages with six horses, full of his officials and ministers. […] Behind the Patriarch came his carriage of respect, I do not think Queen Se-miramide had a more beautiful one […] The people performed immediately the respectful ceremony to the King, which they had given a quarter of an hour earlier to his principal minister. When the King entered, the Queen came mashed in a carriage with six bright and beautiful horses, preceded by two other carriages, and followed by two others, all full of her ladies, and each with six horses of various cloaks. […] Both the Queen and her daughters were magnificently dressed, with very large hoops, and with an immense treasure of diamonds on their heads, necks, breasts, sleeves, belts, and shoes. […] and one of them, which I believe to be the third, is close to being a plusquamperfect of beauty. […] The mass finished, and so did the violin playing and music making of a good number of castrati and musicians, of whom a much greater number is kept in the court than of literature professors in Coimbra; and everyone went back the way they had come, sweaty and tired, for the affair was long, and the heat was hellish».

  17. 17.

    «an Auto da Fé in which a poor Jew or any other heretic is slowly roasted, or a bullfight: those are performances that nobody gets tired of, not even the ladies».

  18. 18.

    « As these bullfights are still held here with the splendour and solemnity of the times of the cavalry, and some of my readers will only know them by having heard about it, here is a description. When the court, through trumpets and drums, makes public the chosen day, everyone is seized with a shiver of pleasure and everywhere nothing is heard or seen but the joy of preparations for that festive day. The main side of the royal palace is placed inside an amphitheatre or semicircle, in which there are balustrades, towards which the exit windows are facing. Covered by a canopy, the King's balcony, shiny with gold and precious stones, occupies the central place, and the other seats in this amphitheatre are sold at very high prices. Everywhere, in all the windows and in all the scaffolding built in the houses, the ladies, dressed in the most precious clothes, show themselves with their companions, and all the balconies are covered with the richest fabrics».

  19. 19.

    «The celebration begins as soon as the King enters his box. The royal guard proceeds to the square, which a band of young men dressed in red taffeta have splashed with water, and around which the alguazis, or guards, are arrayed in attention and with their weapons lowered, to avoid disturbances. Having taken these dispositions, the bullfighters (as the knights who will fight are called) approach, to the sound of slow war music, accompanied by their servants, who carry their spears and never leave them. Often the festivities begin with processions, dances of the black and gigantic figures».

  20. 20.

    Maria Isabel de Bragança (1797–1818), daughter of future King John VI and his wife Carlota Joaquina from Spain, married King Ferdinand VII of Spain and created the foundations of a royal museum, which would later be the Museo del Prado, in Madrid.

  21. 21.

    «At three in the afternoon the Prince and Princess arrived with the rest of the Court. Four groups of musicians could be heard, which were in the four corners of the square. As soon as they arrived, the festivity opened with a brilliant entrance procession through the grand portico».

  22. 22.

    «After he too [the bullfight commander] had saluted in the manner described above, four pompously decorated triumphal chariots came, each drawn by six mules, decorated with emblematic figures which were arranged so meaningfully that no one could understand what they meant. These cars were occupied by masked musicians. After taking a few turns around the square, they made room in front of the Príncipe for two beautifully dressed Picadores, who had to fight the bulls on horseback».

  23. 23.

    «While these Picadors were away in search of less valuable horses, some groups of men and women emerged: these latter were of the class that in Paris are called dames de la halle. Each group was dressed differently and accompanied by their own musicians. They danced several ballets, which were very good, with tambourines, copper cymbals, castanets, etc.».


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Almeida, I.T. (2023). Bias or Factuality? Music in Majestic Representation and Public State Ceremonies in Late 18th Century Portugal, as Seen by German Travellers. In: Raposo, D., Neves, J., Silva, R., Correia Castilho, L., Dias, R. (eds) Advances in Design, Music and Arts II. EIMAD 2022. Springer Series in Design and Innovation , vol 25. Springer, Cham.

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