The S. Carlos Theater: The Performing Arts in Portugal

Project funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (PTDC / EAT / 70038/2006), starting in 2007. TEAM: David Cranmer, Alessandra Campana, Gabriela Cruz, Luisa Cymbron, Paula Gomes Ribeiro, Paulo Ferreira de Castro, Roger Parker , Susan Rutherford.
The S. Carlos Theater: The Performing Arts in Portugal

(Project financed by FCT: ref. PTDC / EAT / 70038/2006)


Opened in 1793, the São Carlos Theater in Lisbon was, until the 1930s, an important space dedicated to the performing arts – having hosted opera, ballet, concert music and, sporadically, other types of shows – and the beacon of Portuguese musical culture. From the sound experience of the theater, local traditions of composition and musical interpretation sprang up, as well as tastes and attitudes were consolidated in view of the aesthetic fact that left their mark in other areas of contemporary cultural production, including literature, theater and the visual arts. The cosmopolitan traditions of opera and ballet – which the theater has hosted for more than two centuries – have unveiled a certain experience of modernity to the Portuguese public. However, São Carlos’ rich contribution to the consolidation of discourse and modern cultural practices in Portugal is still an absent theme in the most recent narratives about the period. It is therefore necessary to reposition the performing arts at the forefront of our historical consciousness. This is, of course, a long-term project and, given the multimedia nature of the show in question, requires significant multidisciplinary involvement. The present project initiates research in this area on two fronts, developing the fundamental groundwork for the future elaboration of a theater history, which will include opera and ballet, and which is expected to be a significant contribution to a new historiography of modern Portuguese culture as well as for the modern history of these two musical genres.

Research activities to be developed

  • Start a series of critical editions of Portuguese opera;
  • Collecting and digitizing critical opera literature and relevant iconographic sources (over the next three years efforts in this area will focus on the study of four periodicals which contain valuable documentation regarding the presence of singers in Portugal and the local reception of most striking works from the operatic repertoire between 1830 and 1930);
  • Digitalize and catalog the iconographic documents related to the São Carlos Theater;
  • Catalog and digitize the first recordings of opera and recordings of performances carried out in São Carlos currently deposited in the archives of RDP-2. All documentation will be integrated into the multimedia database of the Center for the Study of Sociology and Aesthetics of Music (CESEM), with the aim of making it available online.

Production targets in the first three years

Contribute to a new historiography of opera in Portugal through:

  • the publication of recent studies on the São Carlos Theater;
  • the development of normative operative editing criteria for future editorial work on Portuguese opera;
  • the edition and publication of opera scores (completing four in the first three years);
  • the creation of a multidisciplinary discussion forum on historiography and critical methodology of opera in the scope of the performing arts;
  • the organization of colloquia, symposia and seminars which, being interdisciplinary and international, will contribute significantly to advanced and postgraduate training in the field of musicology, to the national development of music publishing activity and to the development of historiography and critical study of the arts of the show.

Research team

Responsible researcher: David Cranmer E-mail:

Collaborators: Alberto Pacheco, Gabriela Cruz, Luísa Cymbron, Paula Gomes Ribeiro, Paulo Ferreira de Castro

Grantees: Cristina Cota, Luís Santos, Rui Pinto

Consultants: Roger Parker (King’s College, London), Susan Rutherford (Manchester University, Manchester), Alessandra Campana (Tufts University, Boston)

Participating institutions

National Theater of São Carlos

Museum of Music

Articles related to Teatro de S. Carlos

Revista Portuguesa de Musicologia

Vol. 1 (1991)

David Cranmer, « Intercâmbio entre Portugal e Espanha no Campo da Ópera entre 1793 e 1828», 205-10.

Vols. 4-5 (1994-1995)

Luísa Cymbron, « O Teatro de S. João do Porto: novos dados sobre o seu funcionamento (1834-1876)», 147-66.

Vols. 7-8 (1997-1998)

José-Augusto França, « A Ópera na vida cultural lisbonense do Romantismo», 199-202.

Vol. 10 (2000)

David Cranmer, « Operatic relations between Portugal and London during the Napoleonic period», 11-30.

Francesco Esposito, « Lisbona 1822: la vita musicale attraverso la stampa peridodica», 31-82.

Luísa Cymbron, « Entre o modelo italiano e o drama romântico – os compositores portugueses de meados do século XIX e a ópera», 117-50.

Gabriela Gomes da Cruz, « L’Africaine ‘s savage pleasures: Operatic listening and the Portuguese historical imagination», 151-180.

Teresa Cascudo, «A década da invenção musical de Portugal (1890-1899)», 181-226.

Luís Raimundo, « Para uma leitura dramatúrgica e estilística de Serrana de Alfredo Keil», 227-74.

Vol. 11 (2001)

David Cranmer, « World premières at the Teatro de São Carlos during its first 50 years», 75-80.