No saint in the Catholic hagiographic tradition has served as a more vivid symbol of martyrdom, veneration, or of God’s profound grace toward a community than San Gennaro (Saint Januarius), the patron saint of the Kingdom of Naples. This essay studies the history and culture surrounding the veneration of San Gennaro. I focus on the longstanding cultivation of cantatas as a vehicle for veneration and for the promotion of catechism and post-Tridentine ideology. The first part of the essay traces political, social, and religious currents that contributed to the growth of the cult. The second part considers late eighteenth-century cantatas by Giovanni Paisiello and Domenico Cimarosa that were created for the Feast of the Traslazione. These works adopt strategies of poetic narrative and musical expression that reflect thematic elements associated with the annual feast. They also represent a musical turning point, incorporating innovative aria types, a widespread use of accompanied recitative and large choral ensembles, and distinctive instrumental sonorities. The Traslazione cantatas thus offer an opportunity not only to examine contemporary cultural currents in early modern Naples, but also to broaden our understanding of the cantata genre and of two leading operatic innovators of the late eighteenth century.
Cantatas in Honor of San Gennaro: Early Modern Martyr, Miracle Worker, and Musical Protagonist
Anthony R. DelDonna is professor of musicology at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. His research has been published in Eighteenth-Century Studies, Early Music, Eighteenth-Century Music, Recercare, Studi musicali, and Civiltà musicale, and in scholarly volumes dedicated to the eighteenth century. DelDonna’s monograph Opera, Theatrical Culture and Society in Late Eighteenth-Century Naples was published in 2012 by Ashgate Press.
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Anthony R. Deldonna; Cantatas in Honor of San Gennaro: Early Modern Martyr, Miracle Worker, and Musical Protagonist. Journal of Musicology 1 April 2016; 33 (2): 164–199. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jm.2016.33.2.164
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