THE ART OF FESTIVALS IN NAPLES IN THE 1600s AND 1700s
It was not only the famous names and celebrated events which were recorded in the enormous patrimony of information in the Historical Archives at the Banco di Napoli. Details about the organization and arrangements for a religious or public festival can be determined by the payments made in preparation for the event. What emerges from the colourful and exhaustive descriptions of a festival is the great works made by Neapolitan artisans specialized in the preparations for these social celebrations.
To Virgilio Magnicaro, royal artilleryman, the payment of 20 ducats for two fireworks displays, one in the form of a galleon and one of a siren
Fireworks with highly specified forms were acquired to celebrate the grand and joyous events for which Naples was well-known. The birth of a King, or the wedding of a princess, became opportunities to decorate the city with lights and good cheer. The religious festivities were able to change the face of the city. For these celebrations, there were amazing temporary constructions, wooden catafalques, triumphal arches covered with flowers and paintings of saints and patrons…
To Iacovo Aniello Dattilo, 20 ducats for the price of eight statues in relief, for the wrapping and painting of sixteen columns which are needed for the triumphal arch at Belisario Corrente, and for the full price of the canvases that he will make for the Triumphal Arch (nine), consisting of eight of the Patrons of Naples and a large one with the Zither from the Old Testament.
Every manifestation of royal or religious power were necessary for adequate musical accompaniment. To top off the music of the most important moments of the festivities, the best musicians on the Neapolitan scene were called to participate.
28 ducats to Giovan Battista Leo as a first payment for the 30 costumes and 35 sets of wings which are needed for the Angels, as well as the decorations and music for the procession, 100 ducats to Alessandro Scarlatti, Maestro di Cappella,and for the music he composed for the morning and day of the festival for four musical groups with voices and instruments.
In these commissions, one can imagine the frenetic, noisy and familiar attention paid by the Neapolitans for the style of the celebrations, for their power to break the daily routine which was often difficult and stressful. The moments of joy and preparation for the solemn occasions are an interesting point of view regarding the life in Naples in past decades, from which one can realize that things have not changed and are destined, with great probability, to never change.