Gesualdo da Venosa

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His name is mostly linked to music: he was a fine madrigal, sacred and polyphonic music composer. He’s considered one of the main innovators as far as the music language is concerned and, according to some, the most exquisite madrigal composer of his time. Since the XX century, Gesualdo was such an inspiration for a number of modern composers, fiction and musical drama. He was born in Venosa the 8th March 1566 from Fabrizio and Geronima, sister of Carlo Borromeo, archbishop of Milan and future saint. He was educated at the Jesuites institute in Naples, studying theology, literature and music. Young Carlo revealed soon his talent. At 19 he published his first motet. In 1584 his elder brother Luigi died and Carlo, prince of Venosa, had to safeguard their lineage. At 20 he got married to her cousin Maria D’Avalos, upon their families’ will. She was already a mother and widowed, six years older than him and described as a charming woman by the chronicles of the time. The relation between the two was tormented. Carlo used to fully live his passions and Maria began a relationship with the married and father Fabrizio Carafa, duke of Andria. For a long time, they would meet at the Gesualdo palace in Naples, until scandal spread. The prince remained indifferent, but pressures from without led him to homicide, to save the honour of his family: during the night of 17 October 1590 he pretended to leave for hunting, but managed to catch the lovers in the act. The two were killed by his servants and their bodies naked and lacerated showed to the city that the honour of the prince was safe. Confessing the crime to the earl of Mirando, delegate of the king of Spain in Naples, Carlo was soon absolved for “right cause”.
In 1594 Carlo married Eleonora d’Este. They had one child, Alfonsino, that died soon. In Ferrara, Carlo Gesualdo entered the most aristocratic and exclusive musical academy of the time, but he could not dialogue with anyone on both an artistic and human level but with the duke Alfonso D’Este. When the duke died in 1596, Carlo decided to return to the Gesualdo castle, restored and transformed into a luxury house with enough space for musicians. During this period of his life, 17 years, he was obsessed with atonement of his sins and build a number of churches, monasteries and monuments. A canvas by Giovanni Balducci “The forgiveness to Carlo Gesualdo” portrays the prince kneeled and pleading next to his uncle Carlo Borromeo. The Gesualdo lineage end with the death of Carlo’s son Emanuele in June 1613, three months before his father. Carlo’s tomb is in the church Gesù Nuovo in Naples, S. Ignazio chapel.

Carlo Geusaldo

The forgiveness of Gesualdo - Giovanni Balducci, 1609 - Santa Maria delle Grazie Church, Gesualdo (AV)



is not merely a place: it is an avant-garde idea generated and nourished in an Italian province, quite far from huge capitals.

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