THE THEATRE OF AND FOR THE NUNS (NAPLES, 18TH CENTURY)
Recent studies have focused on the musical environment and the theatre in female monasteries of many Italian cities between the 16th and 18th centuries. These art forms became famous as forms of entertainment in travel literature and in the chronicles of the time but were forbidden in the age of the Counter-Reformation. However, the theatrical performances, both in prose and in music, enjoyed enormous success and spread in male and female monasteries. As of the 17th century, if not even earlier, travellers from half of Europe arrived in Naples, attracted by the excellence of the musical and theatrical performances that they could enjoy in the monasteries of the city. This essay aims to reconstruct the times, the modalities, and the contents of the theatrical offerings in the female monasteries of Naples at the beginning of the 18th century, all of which are still unknown today. In particular, the case of the Franciscan monastery of St Chiara will be examined. Through the patronage of Queen Maria Amalia, musical and theatrical performances played an active leading role in the configuration of a specific theatrical type and taste and increased the education of the nuns and young women who were educated in the monastery, representing and legitimising new feelings and sensibilities. The religious women found a way to talk of their feelings and concerns together; they forged relationships even with the environments outside of the monastery and especially with the Queen’s court and with the courts of the aristocratic palaces of their families of origin.