In 1583 music was banned in Naples

by Federico Quagliuolo

It sounds crazy, but there is a serious reason. In 1583 music was banned in Naples. The author of this legislative provision was Pedro Tellez-Giron, first Duke of Ossuna (not to be confused with his namesake, the third Duke of Ossuna, who was also viceroy of Naples).

The origin of this story was the exasperation of the entourage of the Spanish nobleman who they could take no more of the nocturnal serenades of lovers.

Music prohibited in Naples

Music prohibited in Naples

He had tried too Don Pedro of Toledo in the past: all Spanish administrators tried desperately to forbid the serenades of the Neapolitans because they were exasperated by love songs that the people recited until late at night. And probably, also due to an evolution of customs and times, also many Neapolitans now they rebelled against this ancient custom which, fascinating as it was, really was annoying for citizens who were looking for just a little rest after a day of work.
There Grand Court of the Vicar, in fact, it is full of criminal proceedings for fights, stabbings and violence against the young lovers too noisy than at night they ruined sleep to the whole neighborhood with their love songs.

The provision of the Duke of Ossuna, however, it was even more severe than might be expected and came to September 1583, just one year after the viceroy took office and presumably after a summer full of serenades.
The pragmatic went like this: after the Campanile di San Lorenzo had struck midnight (which does not correspond to the current midnight, but to the time of sunset) it was any form of music in public is prohibited in the city, alone or with a group, with very severe penalties that ranged from fine to prison.

Pedro tellez giron duke of ossuna
Pedro Tellez-Giron, 1st Duke of Ossuna

The Neapolitan Serenade, an ancient tradition

Eliminate the serenade in Naples it was a bit like taking the bread away from the people. Even today, in the popular districts, we are witnessing declarations of love which are distant heirs of the ancient serenades, while in the seventeenth century the lovers under the balconies, with two "comparielli" playing the instruments, were the norm.

However, on the serenade Naples has made a real musical genre in its own right in which numerous authors, the most famous, have tried their hand.
There Neapolitan serenade, on the other hand, it appears continuously in poems, passages and stories until the early 1900s.
Let's think about Edoardo Nicolardi, in his very famous "Voice 'and night", which tells the serenade of a man with a broken heart, in front of a woman betrothed to a man who does not love her.

Roberto Murolo, one of the masters of Neapolitan music. The text is by Rodolfo Falvo

The harassing player of Roberto d'Angiò

There have been reports of love serenades since the times of Robert of Anjou. Indeed, reports Fabio Colonna di Stigliano, who is known a fourteenth-century trial against an overly harassing notary.
A guy Jacobello Fusco, who was a young notary, had fallen in love with Giovannella de Gennaro, a beautiful girl already married. Despite the marriage bond, however, the notary in love appeared every evening under the beautiful Giovannella's window, singing love songs loudly so beautiful that even a heart of stone moves.
But the woman, faithful to her marital bond, he decided never to open the window to return love, indeed, he even wrote a letter to King Robert to ask the king to stop the night molester. The monarch, from the height of his wisdom, decided to start a trial before the Grand Court of Naples because, in his opinion, the reason would be established only at the end of a fair trial before the courts.

In the end the woman won the case, as the judges proved his absolute marital fidelity, and the poor Jacobello was intimated by decree of the court of stay away from the home of his beloved.

serenade naples moonlight
A serenade in the moonlight - Franz Ludwig catel

An unpleasant duke

In reality the Duke of Ossuna did not like the Neapolitans and the Neapolitans did not like the duke. Just think that when he was appointed viceroy of Naples, took the job reluctantly. It was indeed one of the most powerful men in Spain and it was very close to the Philip II, the man who ruled the Spanish Empire at the height of its power.
His diplomatic intervention was pivotal to accomplish the unification of Portugal with Spain and, for this very reason, he believed he was the number one candidate to sit in the rooms of the royal palace of Lisbon. And instead Philip II surprised everyone and he sent him to Naples.

The new viceroy, who arrived in the city with a not very cheerful soul, he soon organized a meeting with all the noble gods Seats of Naples to get to know them and investigate with them the problems and needs of a territory which, in fact, did not know nor would he have wanted to know. The chroniclers of the time tell that the Neapolitan nobles were forced to sit on old and rickety wooden stools, close and close together, with the only viceroy who instead owned a large and comfortable armchair. It was clearly a disrespect towards the ruling class of the city, who immediately returned the Duke's antipathy by begging for his removal to the Emperor Philip who, however, had very different thoughts on his mind while managing the largest empire in the world.

The government of the viceroy, for the pleasure of all, it only lasted 4 years, in which Pietro de Giron was particularly committed to improve the viability in Campania, investing resources on paving of the main roads that connected Naples with its provinces.

The ban on music in Naplesinstead, it disappeared from the news and probably, as often happens to many extremely severe and exemplary measures, fell into oblivion after the viceroy's death.

-Federico Quagliuolo

Gio. Antonio Summonte, Historia of the City and Kingdom of Naples, Antonio Bulifon, Naples, 1575
Fabio Colonna di Stigliano, Naples of other times, Ricciardi Editore, Naples, 1913

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