Gesture in the Musical Theatre Compositions of Constança Capdeville

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Constança Capdeville (1935-1992), is a very known Portuguese composer that, in the forefront of her time, composed relevant works within the mixed music context, such as chamber music for dance, choir and orchestra, musical theater, among others. Capdeville had overseen her writing through the consciousness, observation and practice, relations between the musical gesture, the sound of words, the texture of sounds, movement and physical spatialization of bodies, displacing all these elements from their natural context to other universes assuming new meanings. The extraordinary invention of Constança Capdeville, her nonconformist gesture, almost ironic and sarcastic, it is at the origin of a hybrid genre that consists in the distinctive feature of her work: between the theater and the music, the view and the listening, the preset text and the improvisation, the body and the instrument, the structure and the process, the space and the time. Some of Capdeville compositions comprise live instrumental performances and sounds recorded in magnetic tape. These sounds include original electroacoustic music, selected and recorded excerpts from other compositions, recited texts, sound or pre-recorded noises. The study of the works of Capdeville, especially those including audio recordings, is of utmost importance because these works, composed between the early 70s and late 80s, are an example of a particularly innovative period in the framework of the experimental musical in Portugal. In the present paper, we will address, as a case study, the work “Don't, Juan”, written by Capdeville, for voice, piano, double bass, percussion, magnetic tape, mime, dancer and lights. This work is paradigmatic of the theatrical genre, it is composed by fragments of texts, citations from other composers in several languages, vocal and instrumental music live and spread, theatrical games, mimicry, movement, lights, props, instruments used as characters or scenic elements. Regarding the tape, we could also suggest that considering its pre-preparation, recording and performance, it could work as an interface between creativity and the final performance. Also in “Don't, Juan”, the particular treatment of all elements expresses two tendencies: one direct that is composed by the objects, instruments and lights; and one non-direct represented by the chaining and interdependence of all these compositional elements. In this paper we intend to reflect about the gesture on the musical theater compositions of Constança Capdeville, analyzing, in a musicological context, the music, mimicry and voice presented in the work “Don't, Juan”.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventInternational Conference on Musical Gesture as Creative Interface - CITAR - Center of Academic Research of School of the Arts, Porto, Portugal
Duration: 25 Mar 201629 Mar 2016


ConferenceInternational Conference on Musical Gesture as Creative Interface
Internet address


  • Constança Capdeville
  • Gesture
  • Magnetic Tape
  • Musical Theater
  • Electroacoustic Music


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