Naples is right up there with the likes of Vienna and Paris when it comes to an influence on the course of classical music. In its case, it was playing a part at a much earlier stage.
The very word 'conservatory' for a school of music goes back to Naples in the 16th Century, when Spain was the power in the area. In conjunction with the church, homes were set up to protect, or 'conserve', unmarried mothers and their children, and orphans too. Music was an important part of the curriculum in these conservatories, and singers would be trained to take their part in the various religious ceremonies.
When music as commercial entertainment began to develop, these schools were well-placed to move into that environment, and it was only natural that they would evolve into more specific centres of excellence.
The proof of that is in the roll call of famous names who'd have gone to study – Scarlatti, Pergolesi, Cimarosa.
When the French took over Naples in the early 1800s, the various schools were made into one. By then, the city's Teatro San Carlo was well-established as one of the continent's leading houses. The oldest opera house in Europe, San Carlo predated La Scala in Milan by more than 40 years. La Fenice in Venice would be more than a decade further behind.




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