MARCOS ANTONIO PORTUGAL (1762 - 1830)
Marcos Antônio da Fonseca Portugal was born in Lisbon in 1762 and died in Rio de Janeiro in 1830. He studied under the composer João de Sousa Carvalho at the Patriarchal Seminary, the only music school in Lisbon at that time. He began his career as an opera composer in 1786, when he was appointed maestro at the new Salitre Theatre in Lisbon. In the course of the six years he occupied this post, he composed a series of Portuguese operas, modelling his compositional style on the operas of Cimarosa and other contemporary Italian composers.
In 1792 Marcos Portugal travelled to Italy with a scholarship from the Portuguese Crown. It appears, however, that he never actually undertook any studies, but rather embarked on a series of operas for Italian theatres which, within a few years, brought him recognition as one of the leading opera composers of his day. When he returned to Lisbon in 1800 to take up the post of director at the Teatro de São Carlos and mestre de capela of the Royal Chapel, he was at the peak of his career, his operas being applauded in all of the principal European theatres.
In 1807 the Royal Family and court fled to Rio de Janeiro, as a consequence of the first Napoleonic invasion. The composer, however, chose to remain in Lisbon and was forced by the French troops to direct a new opera to celebrate the French Emperors birthday in August 1808. What he actually directed was a new version of the opera Demofoonte, originally composed for La Scala, Milan, in 1794. In January 1811 he left for Brazil, together with his brother Simão Portugal, and following his arrival was immediately reappointed mestre de capela of the Royal Chapel. Upon its inauguration in 1813, he was also appointed director of the Teatro de São João, Rio de Janeiro. During the years he spent in Rio, he dedicted himself principally to the composition of sacred music.