Fighting and singing: virtù, virility and virtuosity in the Renaissance

WEDNESDAY 31 JANUARY, 18.00–19.30

Fighting and singing: virtù, virility and virtuosity in the Renaissance

Richard Wistreich (Royal College of Music)

Society for Renaissance Studies Lecture

The uniting factor among male members of the Renaissance nobility was their military calling, and the prime location for their acts of structured violence was war. When warriors are also courtiers, their actions on the stage of what a contemporary commentator describing the court called the ‘the theatre of honours’, involves a wide-ranging performative curriculum that includes many non-violent kinds of social interactions such as conversation, dancing, games and music-making. But to what extent do codes derived from militarism define the structures of this curriculum and its enactment? This talk takes the case of one particularly remarkable Neapolitan ‘warrior-courtier’, a seasoned fighter and courtier, who was also renowned in his lifetime as one of the most famous singers of his age. How does a noble man ‘perform his identity’ in music without jeopardizing his honour, his virtù, and his masculinity?