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L’Inde des Lumières

 | 
Marie Fourcade
, 
Ines G. Županov

L’Inde mise en scène // India on the stage

The Tragedy of Porus. Empire and Politics in 18th Century Goa1

La Tragédie de Porus. Empire et Culture à Goa au XVIIIe siècle

Ângela Barreto Xavier

Résumé

Cet article analyse les relations entre opéra et empire au cours de la vice-royauté du marquis de Távora à Goa, entre 1750 et 1754. D’une part, il montre que l’opéra était utilisé comme un outil de l’empire, une façon de plébisciter l’idéologie impériale portugaise tout en contribuant à renforcer les identités des colonisateurs vis-à-vis des colonisés. En ce sens, donner des opéras à Goa participait d’un processus de domination orientaliste portugaise, et les récits des opéras joués à Goa – La Tragédie de Porus et Adolonymous de Sidon, évoquant les histoires d’Alexandre le Grand – faisaient partie de l’orientalisme global sur lequel Edward Said a écrit.

D’autre part, l’article fait valoir que la représentation d’opéras à Goa témoignait également d’une extension du monde du divertissement, caractéristique de l’aristocratie portugaise du xviiie siècle, de plus en plus ouverte aux concepts de loisir des Lumières. Sous cet angle, les textures, les strates et les significations de ces expériences, bien que la globalisation de ces opéras soit bien plus complexe qu’une simple association entre culture et politique, portent bien au-delà de la stricte politique impériale.

Texte intégral

  • 1 I am grateful to Isabel dos Guimarães Sá, Nuno G. Monteiro, Nuno Senos and Zoltan Biedermann for pr (...)
  • 2 In Verney 1746, apud Câmara & Anastácio 2004: 20.
  • 3 John V of Portugal (1689-1750) was king of Portugal during 43 years. His government was characteriz (...)
  • 4 On this Italian Enlightenment, see Venturi 1969-1990.

1In 1746, Luís António Verney, an Oratorian priest and one of the most famous figures of Portuguese Enlightenment wrote: “Drama, that is to say, Tragedy and Comedy, are nothing else than means of instructing the People in some matters”.2 This statement is part of his ambitious treatise, O Verdadeiro Método de Estudar (The True Method of Study), which would have an important impact in the reform of the studies in the University of Lisbon, during the government of Joseph I and of his prime minister, the Marquis of Pombal, in the second half of the eighteenth-century. However, Verney was first of all connected with the court of John V, the father of Joseph I,3 and his own reformist efforts, in the context of which Verney had spent many years in Rome, under the influence of Muratori and other Italian enlightened men, incorporating many Italian ideas about how to reform a society.4

  • 5 About these two positions see Feldman 2007: 14 sq.

2Even if Verney statement was referring to theatre, it can be easily applied to opera, a genre that, as Lorenzo Bianconi and Thomas Walker had put it, had an inevitable “‘regal’ and ‘authoritarian’ side” (Bianconi & Walker 1984: 210, 260). This regal and authoritarian side was evident, for example, in the choice of libretti (for long time, the most important part of these dramma per musica), in which narratives had almost always a didactic character, and concerned political behaviour. In fact, “instructing the People in some matters” was not only a way of communicating erudite culture through “mass culture” channels like theatre and opera, it was also an instrument of teaching “the People” about their position in society, about politics, about social values, about proper behavior. In that sense, and similar to what Victor Turner has suggested in his From Ritual to Theatre, theatre (and opera) were “acting about life” (Turner 1996). But performative arts can be seen, too, as defended by Martha Feldman in Opera and Sovereignty, as “life as acting”. Stressing the fact that the modes of production, acting, and spectatorship were too fractured, fluid and moveable to permit the full success of an authorial project like the “acting about life” suggested by Turner, Feldman stressed the multiple agencies involved in these cultural dynamics.5

3These two angles of analysis—the “acting about life” and the “life as acting”—are appropriate for studying the Portuguese eighteenth-century opera on the imperial stage. The intention of “acting about life” was certainly behind many performances, while the dimension of “life as acting” was also deeply inherent to opera’s experience. In the next pages, I explore the relationship between these two dimensions through the operas A Tragédia de Poro (from now onwards, The Tragedy of Porus) and Adolónimo em Sidónia (Adolonimo in Sidon) performed in 1751 Goa, during the viceroyalty of the Marquis of Távora (1750-1754).

  • 6 Said ( [1993] 2005). See also Fulsher 1998; Chaillou 2004, Clayton & Zon 2007; Richards 2001. In a (...)

4Understanding how opera related to imperial issues in the eighteenth-century Goa is the first goal of the following pages. Was opera a part, as Said would defend, of a Portuguese “orientalist process of domination”? Was it a representational tool that aimed at instructing about the role of the colonizers (the Portuguese or the people of Portuguese origin) and the colonized (the Indians)? Was it used as a metalanguage for talking about conflictive aspects of social life—trying to solve them on the stage?6

  • 7 Namely part of a general exotic trend that included in the same spot Turkish, Persians, Chinese, an (...)

5Secondly, I will consider these practices from another angle: Were these performances part of a world where nobles were constantly performing even beyond politics? Were these performances simply an element of the culture of the Portuguese aristocracy? Were these natural transfers of the entertainments the marquis of Távora and his wife were used to in the metropolis?7 Were they part, after all, of the transnational dynamics of the culture of Enlightenment?

Rightful conquerors, rightful rulers, loyal and friendly vassals. Alexander and Adolonimo in a declining Goa

6During the viceroyalty of the Távoras in Goa, when the city had already lost the centrality that characterized it in the sixteenth-century, every occasion seemed to be a good occasion to commemorate its glory. Also as a way of imagining a reality forever gone, several town entries, deaths and anniversaries of the royal family stimulated huge productions that staged a grandeur that did not existed anymore. Their impact justified that they were included in the letters written by the marquise of Távora to their children.

  • 8 Malafaia 1750, “Licenças”.
  • 9 Barros 1952. See, too, Melo (no date of publication).

7D. Leonor de Távora was a sophisticated woman, as well as of a difficult character. That she was a self-asserted litterary conaisseuse, always exhibiting her knowledge, is the image left—somehow critically—by her son-in-law in his diary (Monteiro 2006: 108-116). Other sources explain that she knew sciences, and spoke at least three languages. Her autonomy was considered a rarity among Portuguese women and, as someone had put it, an example that should not be imitated!8 In his Relação da Viagem, the most detailed account on the trip between Lisbon and Goa, Francisco Raymundo de Moraes, judge of the Court of Appeals of Goa, and initially a protegé of the viceroy, describes these interests. He writes that D. Leonor was constantly reading books on religion and poetry, as well as on history, namely the highly successful Histoire des découvertes et conquestes des Portugais dans le nouveau monde of the Jesuit, Joseph-François Lafitau (Pereira 1753: 67, 87-88). Similar images are reproduced in other printed texts celebrating the viceroyalty of the Távoras, namely poetic contests, like the anonymous Parnaso transferido a Goa, where the sun convoked the muses who were entertaining in the European academies to follow the trip of the Távoras to India; or the Novas Applaudidas by Caetano Manuel de Barros, which presented the Marquis as a new Hercules, and the Marquise as Minerva, the goddess of Arts, of Learning, of Reason and Thought.9

8During the trip she had been treated “like a queen”, and the reception organized by the town of Goa had been extraordinary—D. Leonor wrote to her children. On that occasion, the noble ladies of Goa, well-dressed and covered in jewels, with a grace that, contrary to what she expected, was imposing, payed compliments to her. She had also been impressed by other political ceremonies and rituals—such as the arrival in Goa of the ambassador of the kingdom of Sunda—, and the commitment involved in their production (BNL, Res. 5029 P: 123-127).

9Among all those events, the ceremonies and celebrations that took place on the occasion of the acclamation of the Joseph I, on December of 1751, immediately after the rituals celebrating the death of his father John V, were the most important and lasted for more than two weeks.

10Shared by the municipality of Goa and the viceroyal circle, the production of these ceremonies had a clearly political goal, reiterating the idea of the Portuguese as valiant conquerors and rightful rulers, and the Indians as loyal and friendly vassals. Always performed on the 1st of December, the ceremonies of acclamation of a new king also reactivated the events of 1640, when the Braganza dinasty accessed the throne of Portugal and the inhabitants of Goa had expressed their loyalty to the new king. Inscribed in that genealogy of political loyalty, these rituals reinforced the “contract” established between the Portuguese crown and the inhabitants of Goa (Portuguese and non-Portuguese) (Pereira 1753: 41, 45).

11In general, they “remembered the glorious past of India” (of Portuguese India, of course), and as such, re-enacted the appropriation of space that had taken place in that past. “Territoriality was also asserted by festal occasions”, Frederick Hammond wrote about the Barberini’s festivals in seventeenth-century Rome (Hammond 1994: 119). The same statement describes accurately the events that took place in Goa, in 1751. They were characterized not only by an effective appropriation of different spaces of the town—internal, such as the viceroyal palace and the cathedral, and external, such as the streets, different quarters, the river, at times transformed into military fields—, but especially by a symbolic appropriation of space, in which Goa represented all India.

12Not surprisingly, street events were dominated by military representations, many of them promoted by the viceroy D. Francisco Assis de Távora.

  • 10 Military offices were frequent among the family, contributing to the construction of a mythical ide (...)
  • 11 Namely, there were manuscript volumes on the government of India, which probably belonged to his gr (...)

13Son of the count of Alvor and of Joana of Lorraine, Francisco de Assis of Távora was usually characterised as a man interested in military affairs. The remains of the library of his Lisbon palace, which was supposed to be very impressive (Guerra 1954; Delaforce 2002: 314), indicate a predictable library of a son of a family that, as Nuno Monteiro has argued, was proud of its military glory.10 In fact, among his books, many were about military matters, such as military conquests and the government of the imperial territories. But another important segment of his library was imperial history, the history of Rome, of Germany, of France, and Portuguese imperial history.11

  • 12 Which helped to forget the great losses of the decade of 1730 and the effective decline of the Esta (...)

14Távora’s concern with street events that involved military performances of real or imagined battles in the Portuguese empire was not unexpected. During his viceroyalty, Távora won against the pirate known as Cananja, made war against the king of Sunda, won some fortresses around Goa and conquered the territories of Ponda and Zambaulim. Either inspired by the books he had read or by his own experience, by reharsing imagined and real battles, Távora was simultaneously reiterating the topos of the Portuguese as great conquerors and foreseeing his own victories.12

15In those days a military fortress “in an Asiatic mode” was erected on top of two boats, in the middle of the Mandovi river. The fortress was covered with paintings of scenes of Portuguese military battles against Indians, and a chorus and live music were played. The music and voices, probably in military fashion, transformed the static representation into a theatrical performance. Another day, a battle between Indians and Portuguese—with a script by the viceroy D. Francisco Assis de Távora—was rehearsed on one of the beaches of Goa, where another fortress was built. Portuguese soldiers arriving by boat attacked the fortress, while Indian troops (known as sipais) tried to defend it. The Portuguese naturally won the battle, the fortress was destroyed, and the sipais abandoned it, crossing the river, and ending in front of the palace of the viceroys. In that face-to-face moment between the winners and the defeated, the sipais would ask the viceroys for magnanimity, clemency, friendship, and help, evoking the laws of humanity instead of the laws of war (Pereira 1753: 56-57).

16These performances, described in the sources as very realistic, evoked history and memory—and this was certainly their principal goal. However, another layer of meanings points towards a more universal encounter—the battle between Alexander and Porus, a vivid story in the Portuguese imperial imagination that helped to fashion Portuguese self-representation as magnanimous and clement conquerors.

  • 13 Collecҫam dos Documentos, Estatutos, e Memorias da Academia Real da historia Portugueza… ordenada p (...)
  • 14 It is important to remind that between 1640 and 1640, one third of the operas composed were related (...)

17In fact, since the beginning of their overseas campaigns, the Portuguese kings had frequently been compared to Alexander. In a recent book, Vincent Barletta refers that already in the Chronica da Conquista da Guiné, of the fifteenth-century, this analogy had been textualized, having a very strong impact in the sixteenth-century texts, like the Asia of João de Barros or Os Lusiadas of Camões (Barletta 2010). Moreover, this very same analogy had been internalized by the common people, and was used in the dayly correspondence between the officers of the crown established in India and the Portuguese court. Besides literary and non literary texts, this analogy was also used in political rituals with a view of of emphasizing the immortality of the Portuguese, as argued by Barletta. It also confirms the intuition of W. J. T. Mitchell, who described the myth of Alexander as a “new totemism” because of its capacity to synthetize the relation between Europeans and Indians (on these topics, see also Rousseleau, Minuti and Leucci, this volume) (Mitchell 2005: chap. 9). Still on the 2nd of August of 1731, for example, Joseph da Cunha Brochado, a member of the Royal Academy of History—an institution that wanted to reclaim the Portuguese past—, imagined an intimate conversation between king D. Manuel with Alexander. Hesitating about sending Vasco da Gama to India, the king asked for advice the Macedonian, after which D. Manuel was moved to “conquer” India !13 In 1753, when the marquis of Távora was already in India, Alberto da Fonseca Rebelo published in Lisbon the Historia abbreviada de Alexandre Magno… Conquista da Índia, a short version of this topic that a wider readership could read as a novel. And in 1755, after his return to Portugal, the opening season of the newly built Royal Opera Theatre in Lisbon started with a representation of Alessandro nell’Indie by Pietro Metastasio, in the words of Martha Feldman “the most successful mythographical of his time” (Feldman 2007; Metastasio 1730). This opera had already been staged in Lisbon and elsewhere, and would continue to be produced afterwards.14

  • 15 For references see among others Kramer 1992 and Zuwiyya 2001.

18The unescapable presence of Alexander in the Portuguese collective memory was also shared by the Goans. Besides the reception that the myth of Alexander had in the Islamic world, which could have disseminated it through the Islamic political presence to the whole Indian subcontinent — and therefore shared by the Goans—15, these also had incorporated the same myth from the Portuguese, transforming it to fit their own purposes. The priest of Goan Charodó [kshatriya] origins, Leonardo Paes, who had written and published in Lisbon in 1713 the treaty Promptuario de Deffinições Indicas—a book on the history of India and the history of his own caste—claimed to be a descendant of the mythical king Porus, well-know for being “a giant in height, terrible in his strenght, valorous in a marvellous way, extremely wise among his people, and very handsome”, and for having been defeated by Alexander the Great, “who had asked him to be his vassal”. Since the raja of Goa was a direct descendant of Porus (!), the local history of Goa and the history of Paes family were from now onwards inscribed into one of the most important narratives about the relation between Europeans and Indians (Paes 1713: 69).

  • 16 Carta de Sebastião José Carvalho e Melo a António Freire Encerrabodes, 21-12-1751, Biblioteca da Aj (...)

19This link between Goa and Alexander became explicit in the events that took place in the palace of the viceroy. At the same time when the famous Italian singer Gizziello, commissioned by the Marquis of Pombal, was on his way to Lisbon, and went on to perform the imposing Alessandro at the court of Joseph I, the operas Tragedy of Porus and Adolonimo of Sídon were rehearsed in the Goan stage.16 This synchrony allows us to claim that operas on Alexander acquired, at that precise moment and ironically through woman agency, a global dimension.

  • 17 Pereira 1753; Goodman 1989; Lousada 2011. As Lousada said, previous to 1750 it is hard to identify (...)

20In fact, D. Leonor of Távora, the wife of the viceroy, was the main promoter of these events. If we consider, again, the library of the Lisbon palace, which held volumes of works of Molière, Corneille, but also of Pietro Metastasio, we can presume of her interest in theatre and opera. Possibly transferring to Goa her Lisbon habits—where she possibly held a kind of salon—, D. Leonor had been engaged in the production of the Tragedy of Porus, from choosing costumes to translating a French libretto into a Portuguese abridged version.17

  • 18 Relaçam Verdadeira dos Felices Sucessos da Índia 1753.
  • 19 On the general influence of Italy in the stage see, besides quoted bibliography, Miranda 1976, and (...)

21The opera consisted of six singers, five French and one Portuguese. Four of them belonged to the “house of the Marquis”, and had followed the Viceroy to India for his entertainment.18 It is important to notice that the Távoras had chosen a libretto in French and French singers, a proof of their admiration for French culture, common among Portuguese aristocracy in general, seduced by the style Louis XV, but less common when music was concerned, where the Italian influence was the most important.19 We know very little about other formal aspects of this performance, namely the scenography. However, eye witnesses of the event described the performance as a great success, more realistic than the European operas, probably due to the clothing, as well as the climate and the exotic atmosphere of Goa, which did not demand artificial devices in order to build evocative Oriental sceneries.

  • 20 This focus is inspired by the work of Goffman (1974). See also Kuypers 2009.

22If it is plausible to assume that the Távoras were familiar to the literary myth of Alexander, in order to overcome the scarcity of data, it is also necessary to understand how the story of Alexander belonged to their visual culture, too.20

  • 21 Delaforce 2002: 23, 29, 41, 225-226. We also know that there were four tapisseries among the sixtee (...)

23Besides the literary circulation of the myth of Alexander, the Portuguese grandees were very used to owning and seeing tapestries that evoked the life of the king of Macedonia. Many of them—like the counts of Fronteira and the counts of Vila Nova in their palaces in Lisbon—had similar tapestries, almost all destroyed, as were their palaces, libraries and collections, in the eartquake of 1755. Secondly, in the Portuguese Royal Palaces (not only Paço da Ribeira, but also in others), and in many royal ceremonies, from baptism to funeral of the members of the royal family, representing and evoking Alexander was mandatory. In 1719, for example, the same year in which the viceregal couple got married, a set of tapestries with the history of Alexander had been hanged in the gallery linking the Royal Palace to the Royal Chapel, on the occasion of the important procession of the Corpus Christi, which the Távoras had certainly attended, and several other examples could be added.21

  • 22 On that see Marchesano & Michel 2010. In the eighteenth-century, the kings of Portugal would also c (...)
  • 23 Delaforce 2002: 231; ANTT, Casa de Cadaval, no 1, Tables du Cabinet du Roi. Besides the engravings (...)

24Furthermore, the Távoras were probably acquainted with the images of Alexander that had been immortalized in the great painting of Charles le Brun, crystallized in the tapisseries of Les Gobelins (Zinger 1997), and later engraved and disseminated through the albums that had been, from 1669 onwards, offered to the French nobles and to the foreign ambassadors by Louis XIV.22 The count of Ericeira was said to have had in his possession in his own palace a few reproductions of these paintings, and at least one of these albuns was in the Portuguese Royal Library, in the Colecção de Estampas, while another was owned by the duke of Cadaval, grandfather of both D. Leonor and her husband D. Francisco de Assis. Even if this hypothesis cannot be fully demonstrated, it is quite probable that the viceroys had seen those fashionable prints in the palace of the duke of Cadaval.23

25Finally, the Távoras had certainly seen at least one of the performances of Alessandro nell’Indie of Pietro Metastasio in the Lisbon theatres. The performance of Metastasio on the Lisbon stage was overwhelming in the eighteenth-century, and the presence of Mestastasio in the library of the Távoras also indicates their familiarity with this author (Brito 2007). Were the instructions that Metastasio left in the libretto, concerning the scenography of Alessandro, also a source of inspiration for the play performed on the Goan stage?

  • 24 Giovanni Carlo Galli-Bibiena (1717-1760) was member of the Bibiena family. Initially working in Bol (...)

26The prints of the 1755 cenography of Metastasio libretto, authored by Giovanni Carlo Galli Bibiena (1717-1760)24 and performed in the Portuguese Royal Opera, permit us to access aspects of the visual imagination created by and surrounding this opera. In the print reproduced below (Fig. 1), concerning the first act, Cleofide, the queen of India, lover of Porus, who was desired by Alexander, was a typical European Queen.

  • 25 See Delaforce 2002: 107. On the Bibiena, see Gallingani 2002.

27It is true that the Távoras did not known this particular scenography of Bibiena, but the Bibienas had already worked under the patronage of Portuguese aristocracy, and many engravings of the imaginative opera stages produced by the Bibiena family circulated throughout Europe—which means that their aesthetics was well known.25

  • 26 Invoking Bacchus, however, had an important impact in the European mind, especially for his relatio (...)

28The Bibiena’s version of the sixth scene of the first act was also telling, representing a temple dedicated to Bacchus, which existed in the gardens of Cleofide, surrounded by cyprus and palm trees, representing an imagined East, very distant from reality, for European delectation (Fig. 2).26

29Since the Goan version was more “realistic” than the European ones—at least in the words of the chroniclers of this event— (Pereira 1753), we can presume that in Goa, neither Cleofide was dressed like as a European Queen, nor was the temple in her gardens dedicated to Bacchus, but instead to Krishna or Ganesha, two of the most loved gods of Goa. In a word, although the Távoras transported a visual encyclopaedia similar to the one referred above, they necessarily engaged in a cultural negotiation when present the same opera on the Goan stage.

30Important as it was, scenography was a device used to narrate a story efficiently. Unfortunately, the information available about the version of the story staged in Goa is also lacking.

31Wrongly attributed by Francisco Raymundo de Moraes to Corneille, since none of Corneille’s theater pieces of Corneille were on this subject, the Goan Tragedy of Porus was probably a version of Racine’s Alexandre le Grand (1666), to which music and chorus had been added.

Fig. 1. Appartments in the palace of Cleofide, 1755, E4924P, National Library, Lisbon.

Fig. 1. Appartments in the palace of Cleofide, 1755, E4924P, National Library, Lisbon.

Fig. 2. Bacchus temple Recinto di palme, e cipressi com piccolo tempio nel mezzo, dedicato a Bacco nella reggia di Cleofide, 1755, E 4920 P, National Library, Lisbon.

Fig. 2. Bacchus temple Recinto di palme, e cipressi com piccolo tempio nel mezzo, dedicato a Bacco nella reggia di Cleofide, 1755, E 4920 P, National Library, Lisbon.
  • 27 Less probable possibilities are other French versions of the history of Alexander, the one of Claud (...)

32Unlike the more conceptual version of Pietro Metastasio—which plot was presented as a universal story—, Racine’s version established an explicit connection between mythology and reality, that is to say, between Alexander and Louis XIV. In his play, Alexander was represented as initially mighty but greedy conqueror, who, by the end of the play learned to be clement and magnanimous, allowing his military and moral superiority to be recognised by his enemies.27 Consequently, in the final dialogue scene, Porus (the proud conquered also) accepted Alexander’s superiority, and urged him to “govern the universe following his own laws” and offered his (Racine 1666, Act 5, scene III). In Alessandro nell’Indie, instead, Porus (simultaneously an Alexander mirror and the Alexander other) helped the Macedonian to recognise his error, what allowed Alexander to secure his power as rightful conqueror and rightful ruler (Feldman 2007: 255-256).

33On the Goan stage, both versions of the story of Alexander would have been appreciated by the Portuguese established in India and by the Indians. Represented as Alexander, the Portuguese were rescued on the stage from the dangers and troubles they were experiencing in e real life. The Indians, albeit subaltern, were also depicted as brave and heroic. The first dialogue between Alexander and Porus in Metastasio’s script (Act 1, scene 2) was suggestive of this compromise between conquerors and conquered. Answering a question about his identity, Porus answered that he was a warrior and a king, wishing to defeat Alexander. Surprised with Porus’s pride, Alexander answered: “A hero like you is very uncommon in India”, adding that Porus was worthy of being born in Greece instead. Alexander’s prejudice prompted an ironical comment from Porus: “Do you believe that only the heavens of Macedonia are fertile with heros?”. While recognizing similary in heroism of the brave Indians and of the Greeks, these two statements were demonstrating, at the same time, that European and Indian were similar identities, but “not quite” (Durante 2006; Bhaba 1994).

  • 28 The story of Alexander, the Great, was frequently renamed, depending on the wishes of the productio (...)

34Just as the tapestries, the prints of Le Brun and the engravings of Bibiena help us conjure up Alexander in the visual imagination of the Távoras, the Alessandro of Metastasio and the Alexander of Racine are important for the plot staged in Goa. Similar to other Eruopean productions the Goan Tragedy of Porus was another variation of this well-known theme, adapted to the Goan local tastes and contexts.28

  • 29 Probably based on the libretto published in 1679 with the same name by Aurelio Aureli, played, at t (...)

35The opera performed the day after was also familiar to the Portuguese audiences. It had already been performed in 1740 and 1742 in Lisbon. Antonio Alexandre de Lima’s Adolonimo of Sidon, was an adaptation of Apostolo Zene’s libretto of Alessandro in Sidone (performed in Vienna in 1721), another recurrent story in European stages.29 Zeno’s plot narrates Alexander’s liberation of Sidon from the tyrannical power of Estrato, giving it back to Adolonimo, the legitimate successor. The Portuguese version differed from the original in one important way: it reversed the protagonists, giving to Adolonimo the most important role. In the Goan version Adolonimo was in love with Syrene, the daughter of Estrato, his enemy. After many adventures and comic situations, Alexander frees Adolonimo cast in prison by order of Estrato. In the finale by the order of Alexander, Adolomino marries Syrene and becomes the new king of Sidon.

  • 30 Lima 1746: 9. See Colecção de manuscritos originais acerca do Estado da India. Biblioteca Nacional (...)

36If the themes of conquest of love and happiness were central to the argument, equally important was the role of Alexander as the liberator of Sidon from the tyrant, and as the provider happiness for the aristocracy. “It is known that the nobles, as the erudites, are the main targets of all disgraces”, Adolonimo would say, and this statement, when pronounced in 18th century Goa, was descriptive of the sorry state of the Portuguese local nobility (precisely in those years, another viceroy had opined that it was unfair that in Goa the colonizers were poor, while the colonized were rich).30 The arrival of Alexander was needed for the true nobility to be recognized. This is what the Portuguese nobility established in Goa certainly desired (Lima 1746: 78).

37Predictably, this second opera was produced by two Goan nobles, the sons of the vicecount of Asseca, José Correia de Sá e Caetano Correia de Sá. The powerful viscount of Asseca, Diogo Correia de Sá, was also one of the most influent members of the Royal Academy of History in Lisbon. Among his many children were the Dean of the University of Coimbra, the bishop of Porto, the inheritor of the title, and the two sons living in India. Caetano Correia de Sá had already been the Captain General of Mozambique between 1746 and 1750, and accompanied the Marquis of Távora in his 1751 military campaigns. His brother, José Correia de Sá had a similar career. Both had been educated in the intellectual atmosphere of the Portuguese academies, and were certainly acquainted with poetic contests, with the theatre and opera productions, and other similar practices. Also, both were representing interests of the local nobility (Pereira 1753: 54).

38Considered from this angle of analysis, these plays were unquestionably allegories of the Goan life and its conflictive aspects. On the one hand, they were telling the people of Goa about their identities as colonizers (the Portuguese) and colonized (the Indians)—just as Victor Turner had proposed. The Portuguese were the liberators of Goa from the local tyrants and the rightful rulers. The Indians were dignified, but loyal and friends, a recognition of no little importance, especially in a period when the elites of Indian origins were getting ever more powerful. In that sense, these operas (like theatre) were a way to address political and social issues in an indirect form, with the goal of reinforcing the order and avoiding a revolt against it (Turner [1982] 1996: 10). On the other hand—and perhaps in a private dialogue with the viceroys—, the second opera upgraded the importance of the local nobility of Portuguese origins, and thus rescued them from an ever growing insignificance.

  • 31 Instrucção do exmo. vice-rei marquez de Alorna ao seu successor o exmo. vice-rei marquez de Tavor (...)

39In that sense, the government of the Távoras signaled—at least on the stage—a turn in relation to what had been the policy of the previous viceroy. In his “Instructions” to the Marquis of Távora, the former Viceroy, the Marquis of Alorna, had advised him to “be suspicious of all of them [the Indians], not only in what concerns internal politics, but also external questions”. Alorna even went on to add: “all the gentiles, especially the Brahmans, were liars”.31 And his opinion on the Portuguese established in Goa was not better. Perhaps in order to reduce the tensions arising because of this extreme attitude, the “clement and magnanimous” Marquis of Távora (evoked in the plays, as Alexander, of course) tried to scale back local anxiety, and restore to dignity all the people of Goa, both colonizers and colonized.

40However, if understood from another angle, the performance of these plays may not have been as political as that. This brings us back to the initial question of Martha Feldman: in addition to being “acting for life”, were these performances also “life in acting”?

Enlightenment and Leisure in Imperial Goa

41Connecting the Goan experiences with the Portuguese metropolitan cultural scene might be helpful. In the last decades scholars have improved our knowledge of the cultural world of the first half of eighteenth-century in Portugal. The increasingly emphysized the dynamic and cosmopolitan nature of the Portuguese court where European artists and musicians were welcome, against the picture of its backwardness painted by the estrangeirados, those Portuguese that had lived for many years abroad (namely in Paris), and which criticized Portugal for not being like the French capital, and its elites for not being as enlightened as the North European ones. Even if some years after Paris or London, new enlightened tendencies in aesthetics, music, theatre, literature and science were present in the Portuguese metropolitan world from an earlier period. The Portuguese crown, in particular, was a patron of arts (literary, musical, operatic), not only in Lisbon, but also in Rome, through the Accademia dell’Arcadia and the Accademia del Portogallo. Also, there are several descriptions of the academies and literary salons held in many noble palaces in Lisbon, their ambitious libraries and collections, and even if we do not possess much information about the Távoras, we know that they also shared these world views, owing impressive collections of books, mathematical instruments, and porcelain (Delaforce 2002: 107-108).

42In that sense, the fact that, immediately upon their arrival in Goa, the Viceroy Francisco Assis of Távora (or his wife) had asked the French engineer in service of the Portuguese crown, Pierre Vicent Vidal, to build a theatre in his palace in Goa, crowned with the coat of arms of the Távora family, should be analysed bearing in mind this cultural background. Moreover, if building theatres in the eigtheenth-century Europe was usually associated with sovereignity and the theatre and the opera plays were allegorizing, more often than not, political questions, the Portuguese experience was somehow different from the continental European model. In certain ways, the theatre scene in Lisbon was more similar to that in London than in Paris, according to Manuel Carlos de Brito. In Lisbon, it was mainly the aristocracy and commercial companies that were in charge of the theatre houses. In contrast, the Royal Court in Lisbon, even if it was a patron of the scenic arts in Rome, was more concerned with building a spectacular royal chapel and in renewing the royal palace in a magnificent style, than in favouring these arts (Brito 2007; Doderer 2008; Delaforce 2002).

  • 32 The operas La pazienza di Socrate, and La risa de Democrito, played in 1733 and 1735, would be comp (...)

43In fact, until the mid eighteenth-century operatic performances in the Portuguese court were very few, almost always comic, and mainly represented in the Queen’s apartments.32 It was outside the courtly influence and under the stimulus of the aristrocracy that theatres spread out (Brito 2009: 46-47). The Count of Ericeira, probably the most erudite Portuguese noble of his period, and the founder, with other nobles such as viscount of Asseca, of the Royal Academy of History, is a paradigmatic example.

  • 33 We could find in these theatre singers like Annibale Pio Fabri and Caterina Negri, who had formerly (...)
  • 34 The building of theatres inside the palaces or as dependencies of palaces was becoming more and mor (...)
  • 35 Monteiro 2010, and other bibliography of this author about the political and social history of this (...)
  • 36 Among the important nobles were the Marquis of Soure, as well as Lázaro Leitão Aranha, a member of (...)
  • 37 Brito 1996: 182. On the reception of Italian opera see Colas & Di Profio 2009.

44In his diary, Ericeira, who was the head of the Misericórdia of Lisbon, the office that allowed him to manage a tax that was levied in support of theatrical and other performances, reported that there were real efforts among the Portuguese aristocracy to introduce modern opera in Lisbon and to bring Italian companies of singers.33 In the decade of 1730, opera was formally introduced in Portugal, and soon after the theatre of the Rua dos Condes, located next to the the Count of Ericeira’s palace, hosted several operas.34 Possibly part of the dynamics that had already been labelled as “the aristocratization of the Portuguese monarchy,35 the ascendancy of the Portuguese nobility was also expressed in the building of the theatres.36 Nobles were promoting, producing, and even acting in these plays. And in contrast to the operas played in the Queens’ court, the repertoires played in their theatres consisted mainly of dramas, mostly from the libretti of Pietro Metastasio.37

45In addition to the importance of nobility in promoting scenic arts in the first half of the eigtheenth-century, the reception of the opera was certainly different in Lisbon than in, for example, other European towns disconnected from imperial ventures (Brito 2009: 51-52). The eighteenth-century Portuguese audiences had more than two centuries of daily experience with empire, either direct (because they had been there) or indirect (because relatives, ancestors, and close friends had had that experience), besides the usual contact with books, objects, clothes, or with Africans, Brazilians, and Indians established in Lisbon. A good example of this acquaintance are the paintings called University of Coimbra receiving Knowledge from the Four Parts of the World (Delaforce 2002: 69), on one of the ceilings of the Library of the University of Coimbra, built under the reign of John V.

46These paintings reflected the tradition and the aspirations of the Portuguese, and the fact that in Portugal the contact with the world was part of the daily experience. Many of the classical texts performed in Lisbon theatres—the plots of which occurred, frequently, outside Europe—were certainly interpreted in direct relation with these personal experiences of the Portuguese.

  • 38 In fact, when lay theatre and opera were rehabilitated, it was the crown and the inner circle of th (...)

47This brief description helps us to understand the activities of the Távoras in Goa from another angle and to ask new questions: What was the place that opera and theatre had in their double identity, simultaneously as members of Portuguese aristocracy and as clones of the king of Portugal? If we take into consideration that in 1742 the king John V prohibited theatre performances, and that after his death, the crown became the main promoter of opera theatre, how were these practices connected with the changing cultural contexts of the Portuguese court?38

48In fact, the year of 1750 in which John V died and a new king Joseph I (commemorated in India later) came to the throne was a turning point, frequently considered as the beginning of the Enlightenment politics in Portugal (Brito 2007: chap. 2). It was in this precise moment that the Marquis of Távora and his wife crossed the seas, equipped with theater actors who were supposed to recreate, in Goa, a viceroyal Court framed according to their Lisbon experiences, in which the nobility, at least, was already sensitive to the Enlightenment waves. When they arrived to Goa, however, their Lisbon was not, anymore, the same Lisbon; and when they returned to Lisbon, a bigger change was up coming with the 1755 earthquake (Figs. 3 and 4).

Fig. 3. The City of Lisbon as before the dreadful Earthquake of November 1st 1755, 1750-1760, E1337 V, National Library, Lisbon.

Fig. 3. The City of Lisbon as before the dreadful Earthquake of November 1st 1755, 1750-1760, E1337 V, National Library, Lisbon.
  • 39 Just before them, the viceroyalty of the Marquis of Alorna had invested a lot in the magnificence o (...)

49Also, in Goa they encountered different traditions of entertainment and commemoration—the tradition that was characteristic of the viceregal court in India, as well as the local traditions, where performative arts played an important role—with which they had to communicate.39

50Unfortunately the scholarship has not really addressed these traditions and as a way of conclusion I will only quickly address the first.

  • 40 A PhD dissertation on this subject (Nuno Martins, Império e Imagem. D. João de Castro e a retórica (...)
  • 41 For cultural practices of Portuguese elites in this period, see mainly Delaforce 2002.

51The sources available tell us that since the beginning of the sixteenth-century, the viceroys were patrons of public events which epitomized the lasting and the changing values of the Portuguese monarchy. The best known case is that of the Viceroy João de Castro in the mid sixteenth-century.40 This case shows how power and image were strongly intertwined in the presentation of the Portuguese imperial intentions in Asian territories, contributing simultaneously to the the building of the viceroyal institution, and to its (re) presentations, externally and internally. A classical humanist, Castro presented himself as a Roman general, in evoking the power of the Portuguese king as being similar to a Roman emperor. The tapestries woven in the second half of the sixteenth-century in order to narrate Castro’s victories express the ideology that moved Castro, and incarnate the cultural contexts in which the Portuguese crown operated in that period. However, the practices of Castro cannot be reduced to the dyad “culture” and “politics”. Besides his political life, Castro was a humanist heavily embedded in the cultural practices that characterized the humanists of his time, and surely many of his projects had a humanist motivation that went beyond the strict imperial politics. Like Castro, each viceroy added his contribution to cultural life in Goa in order to celebrate military campaigns, the anniversaries of royal figures, holy days, or to receive a foreign ambassador or another important figure. Like Castro’s, this patronage imitated, in many ways, royal patronage, but also recreated in India entertainments that were typical in the metropolis, and which, in the perspective of a noble, were part of his identity. When we consider the families the majority of viceroys belonged to in the eighteenth-century, for example—Gamas, Almeida Portugal, Távoras, Ericeiras—, who were either directly involved in the patronage of arts or in intellectual and cultural production, this interpretation acquires new relevance.41

Fig. 4. View of the new place of Lisbon after 1755, 1750-1760, E1337 V, National Library, Lisbon.

Fig. 4. View of the new place of Lisbon after 1755, 1750-1760, E1337 V, National Library, Lisbon.

52In that sense, the cultural practices that took place during the viceroyalty of the Marquis of Távora can be seen, too, as an extension of aristocratic life in the metropolis combined with the cultural life of Goa, of that “life as acting” in Martha Feldman’ words. Besides the narratives displayed in the events performed, the viceroys were expected to perform like that in real life… and they did. In fact, the quantity of printed accounts and poetic contests referring to this viceroyalty (which, for reasons of space, cannot be ennumerated here) demonstrates that the government of the viceroy Marquis of Távora was conceived as a performance—and promoting operas was one of its elements. Perhaps exaggerating in their magnificence, the Távoras would have the right to their own tragic grand finale, also performed on a wooden stage, with a huge and interested audience, and reproduced in prints with the suggestive title Teatro de morte (theatre of death).

53Accused of conspiring against the new king, they were executed in 1759, definitely a good political example of “life as acting” and “acting for life”.

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Notes

1 I am grateful to Isabel dos Guimarães Sá, Nuno G. Monteiro, Nuno Senos and Zoltan Biedermann for providing references to sources and bibliography. I am also in debt towards Ines Županov and the reviewers of this volume, whose commentaries were extremely useful. This essay is part of the project The Government of Difference. Political Imagination in the Portuguese Empire (1496-1961), funded by FCT (Reference/PTDC/CS-HST/101064/2008) as well as part of the project Colonial Mimesis in the Portuguese Empire (Reference PTDC/CS-ANT/101064/2008).

2 In Verney 1746, apud Câmara & Anastácio 2004: 20.

3 John V of Portugal (1689-1750) was king of Portugal during 43 years. His government was characterized by the reinforcement of royal power and the discovery of the the gold and diamond mines of Brazil, contributing to the structural shift of the imperial policy towards the Atlantic colonies. During this period, the investment in royal collections, royal libraries and the Royal Chapel was significant. Joseph I of Portugal was the son of John V (1714-1777) and his government had been shadowed by the figure of his prime-minister, the marquis of Pombal, as well as by the impact of the earthquake of 1755. A lover of opera, his period is commonly accepted as the one when the impact of the Enlightenment had been greater.

4 On this Italian Enlightenment, see Venturi 1969-1990.

5 About these two positions see Feldman 2007: 14 sq.

6 Said ( [1993] 2005). See also Fulsher 1998; Chaillou 2004, Clayton & Zon 2007; Richards 2001. In a different way, Jackie Assayag has explored the role of the Indian dancer and the Indian widow in the French operatique imagination (Assayag 1999).

7 Namely part of a general exotic trend that included in the same spot Turkish, Persians, Chinese, and American Indians, frequently in a fragmentary and decorative manner, and not as a consistent discourse on the other. See Bellman 1998; Cotticelli & Maione 2006.

8 Malafaia 1750, “Licenças”.

9 Barros 1952. See, too, Melo (no date of publication).

10 Military offices were frequent among the family, contributing to the construction of a mythical identity and the spread of the topos of the military geniality of the Távora (Monteiro 2010). However, during the trip between Goa and Lisbon, the interest of Távora in health matters (accomodation of the sick, medication, etc.) was also evident, as well as his ideas about techniques for a good long-distance travel. Religion and education was also structural to his activities in the ship—namely concerning the education of the slaves that were travelling with them (see Pereira 1753: 64). From the books of his government, we also know that he took great care in preparing the viceroyal residence in order to receive his wife (see Registo da correspondência oficial do marquês de Távora, 3 vols., BNL, PBA 742, 743, 667, and also Instrucçoes q/ o Illmo e Exmo Sr. Marques de Távora deixou ao Illmo e Exmo Conde de Alva que lhe veyo a succeder no governo da Índia, BNL, Mss 5, no 38).

11 Namely, there were manuscript volumes on the government of India, which probably belonged to his grandfather, Francisco de Távora, count of Alvor, former viceroy of India (Guerra 1954).

12 Which helped to forget the great losses of the decade of 1730 and the effective decline of the Estado da Índia.

13 Collecҫam dos Documentos, Estatutos, e Memorias da Academia Real da historia Portugueza… ordenada pelo conde de Vilarmayor 1721-1736, vol. XI.

14 It is important to remind that between 1640 and 1640, one third of the operas composed were related to the East, and the theme of Alexander was the most important among them.

15 For references see among others Kramer 1992 and Zuwiyya 2001.

16 Carta de Sebastião José Carvalho e Melo a António Freire Encerrabodes, 21-12-1751, Biblioteca da Ajuda (Lisbon), 51-XIII-24, no 74, http://ww3.fl.ul.pt/cethtp/webinter- face/documento.aspx? docId=807 & sM= & sV=

17 Pereira 1753; Goodman 1989; Lousada 2011. As Lousada said, previous to 1750 it is hard to identify this practice among Portuguese nobility, namely in what concerned the discussion of politics.

18 Relaçam Verdadeira dos Felices Sucessos da Índia 1753.

19 On the general influence of Italy in the stage see, besides quoted bibliography, Miranda 1976, and other texts by this author. On Italian opera singers in this period see Durante 1998: 345-417. The majority of the books in Távoras’ library were in French, following a general inclination for French cultur. Fashion books like Lettres Édifiantes were also there, even the most recent volumes. On this general preference for French aesthetics and culture, see Delaforce 2002.

20 This focus is inspired by the work of Goffman (1974). See also Kuypers 2009.

21 Delaforce 2002: 23, 29, 41, 225-226. We also know that there were four tapisseries among the sixteenth-century collection of the Braganzas, long before they had become kings. I am debt to Nuno Senos for giving me this information from the project De Todas as Partes do Mundo, O património do 5.º Duque de Bragança, D. Teodósio I (PTDC/EATHAH/098461/2008), coordinated by J. Hallett, and hosted by Centro de História do Além-Mar, Lisbon. The dowry of D. Beatriz, daughter of king D. Manuel I, contained tapestries with the story of Alexander, too.

22 On that see Marchesano & Michel 2010. In the eighteenth-century, the kings of Portugal would also command tapestries from Les Gobelins, which demonstrates the familiarity with the productions of this firm (Delaforce 2002: 47).

23 Delaforce 2002: 231; ANTT, Casa de Cadaval, no 1, Tables du Cabinet du Roi. Besides the engravings of the tapestries, there were many other on royal ceremonies, battles, and so forth, that could have also been inspiring.

24 Giovanni Carlo Galli-Bibiena (1717-1760) was member of the Bibiena family. Initially working in Bologna, Bibiena was invited by king Joseph I to stay in Lisbon. There, Bibiena was the responsible for the royal opera scenic policy, as well as the architect of the Royal Opera House (destroyed in the same year of his construction by the Lisbon earthquake).

25 See Delaforce 2002: 107. On the Bibiena, see Gallingani 2002.

26 Invoking Bacchus, however, had an important impact in the European mind, especially for his relation with pleasure and sensuality—two topoi typically attributed to the East.

27 Less probable possibilities are other French versions of the history of Alexander, the one of Claude Boyer, Porus, ou la generosite d’Alexandre (Boyer 1648), or the one of Donneau de Visé, Alexandre le Grand et Porus, roi de l’Inde, played in 1666, as a response to the play of Racine.

28 The story of Alexander, the Great, was frequently renamed, depending on the wishes of the production. It had been called Cleofide in the performance held in Dresden, in the court of Frederick Augustus, Poro, in the Haendel’s production in London, and Porpora’s production in Turin, in 1731, or Alessandro e Poro, in a production that took place in Berlin in 1744, and so forth (Feldman 2007: 257-258).

29 Probably based on the libretto published in 1679 with the same name by Aurelio Aureli, played, at that time, at Naples (Lima 1746).

30 Lima 1746: 9. See Colecção de manuscritos originais acerca do Estado da India. Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal (Lisbon) ms. 4180.

31 Instrucção do exmo. vice-rei marquez de Alorna ao seu successor o exmo. vice-rei marquez de Tavora (1856: 97-99).

32 The operas La pazienza di Socrate, and La risa de Democrito, played in 1733 and 1735, would be composed by Francisco António de Almeida, one of the Portuguese composers that had been sent to Rome to study music (Brito 1996: 178-179; see also Delaforce 2002).

33 We could find in these theatre singers like Annibale Pio Fabri and Caterina Negri, who had formerly sung at the Royal Academy of London under Haendel’s direction (Brito 1996: 180).

34 The building of theatres inside the palaces or as dependencies of palaces was becoming more and more frequent. In the palace of Queluz, started in 1747, different parts would be used, too, as theatres of opera (see Câmara & Anastácio 2004: 48).

35 Monteiro 2010, and other bibliography of this author about the political and social history of this period (Monteiro 2006, for example).

36 Among the important nobles were the Marquis of Soure, as well as Lázaro Leitão Aranha, a member of the clergy in the cathedral of Lisbon (Barata 1998: 147-174); Brito 1996: 181. The private archives of the marquis of Abrantes show that the frequency of opera in the last quarter of the eighteenth-century was very intense. In a month, it was possible to go eighteent times (see ANTT, CA, no 219, documentação inum.)

37 Brito 1996: 182. On the reception of Italian opera see Colas & Di Profio 2009.

38 In fact, when lay theatre and opera were rehabilitated, it was the crown and the inner circle of the king (and not anymore the Grandees) the main patrons of it. In contrast to the previous period, during the reign of Joseph I, the hegemonic presence of noble houses as patrons of Arts—and namely of performative arts—declined (see Brito 1996: 186).

39 Just before them, the viceroyalty of the Marquis of Alorna had invested a lot in the magnificence of political rituals (see, for example, Mascarenhas 1746-1753).

40 A PhD dissertation on this subject (Nuno Martins, Império e Imagem. D. João de Castro e a retórica do Vice-Rei, século XVI) is under preparation.

41 For cultural practices of Portuguese elites in this period, see mainly Delaforce 2002.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1. Appartments in the palace of Cleofide, 1755, E4924P, National Library, Lisbon.
URL http://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/docannexe/image/22682/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 52k
Titre Fig. 2. Bacchus temple Recinto di palme, e cipressi com piccolo tempio nel mezzo, dedicato a Bacco nella reggia di Cleofide, 1755, E 4920 P, National Library, Lisbon.
URL http://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/docannexe/image/22682/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 46k
Titre Fig. 3. The City of Lisbon as before the dreadful Earthquake of November 1st 1755, 1750-1760, E1337 V, National Library, Lisbon.
URL http://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/docannexe/image/22682/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 46k
Titre Fig. 4. View of the new place of Lisbon after 1755, 1750-1760, E1337 V, National Library, Lisbon.
URL http://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/docannexe/image/22682/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 50k

Auteur

Historian, Research Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon, her research interests include the history of empires, Indian history, the history of Portugal and Portuguese colonization, and the history of ideas.
Publications
– 1998 El-rei aonde pòde e não onde quer. Razões da política no Portugal seiscentista, Lisbon, Colibri.
– 2007 Â. B. X. & C. Madeira-Santos, eds., Cultura Intelectual das Elites Coloniais [special issue of Cultura – História e Teoria das Ideias].
– 2008 A Invenção de Goa. Poder Imperial e Conversões Culturais, Lisbon, Imprensa de Ciências Sociais.

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