Serving largely to replace operatic performances during religious seasons such as Lent, the oratorio arose as an important component of court musical life across early modern Europe. By the eighteenth century, the Portuguese court likewise employed the oratorio as edifying Lenten entertainment in its royal palaces and theaters. Nonetheless, the scholarly literature has largely neglected the oratorio as a distinct focus of study in the Portuguese context. In part, this is due to the genre's existence in a sort of conceptual "twilight zone" between secular entertainment and sacred devotion. Portuguese musicological scholarship has thus treated the oratorio as a minor annex to more narrowly defined secular and sacred genres--an inconsequential extension of both operatic and liturgical repertories. Yet scholars of European oratorio more broadly have demonstrated that the genre frequently served the representational interests of court patrons through precisely the complex and conspicuous blend of earthly entertainment and religious expression uniquely exemplified in the genre. This study centers on that liminal musico-dramatic space at the Portuguese court and demonstrates that royal patrons in Portugal both recognized and specifically exploited the potential for meaning and power embodied in the genre's existence at the edges of politics, religion, and drama.In applying critical pressure to the marginalization of oratorio in Portuguese musicological scholarship, this dissertation draws together a large body of archival and library documentation--including manuscript musical scores, printed libretti, royal financial documents, correspondence, and contemporary printed descriptions of court life--to provide a comprehensive analysis of oratorio sponsorship by Portuguese court patrons across 100 years. Identifying four distinct phases of production, I argue that the oratorio facilitated deeply politicized artistic expressions of courtly power in profoundly religious terms as each patron redefined the representational interests of the court. Indeed, I contend that those terms became especially important as the court's claims to absolute power were challenged at various turns across the eighteenth century by shifting cultural interests, the devastation of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, and the increasing political discontent leading to the French Invasions and flight of the court to Brazil in 1807.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2014. Major: Music. Advisor: Kelley A. Harness. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 284 pages, appendix 1.
Kuntz, Danielle M..
"Appropriate Musics for that time": Oratorio in the exchange of power at the Portuguese Court (1707-1807).
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