Francisco Monteiro

Polytechnic Institute of Porto

MELODRAMA: From performance to composition

Melodrama is a musical genre of the 19th century, characterized by a narrative – a short story presented by an actor – and a piano part that introduces, comments, accompanies, creates mimetic and symbolic meaning, emphasizing the narrative and helping the listener to understand and to empathize with it. This paper addresses an artistic research project still in progress that will have its end as a theatrical performance – dramaturgy, image and music -, a succession of different narratives melt in a unique show. This project has the following history.
1 – A first project was underlined in 2015 by Mário Sousa (actor) and F. Monteiro (piano), imagining a dramaturgic performance presenting several melodramas; this was the consequence of a larger and very interesting project and collaborative experience – Desejo de Voz, a transformation of the monologue La voix Humaine (Cocteau/Poulenc), in 2014.
2 – The acquired repertoire was rehearsed in the following years, recordings were heard and discussed; the repertoire of the project was chosen and fixed in 2017, translated and adapted to Portuguese: Adolph von Pratobevera / Franz Schubert – Despedida da Terra; Fernando Pessoa / Piano Improvisation – Tabacaria; L. Uhland / R. Strauss – O Castelo junto ao mar; Nikolaus Lenau / Franz Liszt – O Monge Triste; Christian F. Hebbel / Robert Schumann – Os Gentios and Bela Hedwige; Hugo Mezena / Francisco Monteiro – Cidade, o gato.
3 – The Hugo Mezena’s text was written and proposed in the summer of 2017 and immediately discussed.
4 – There was a residence in October 2017 in Ponta Delgada (Azores) with Mário Sousa (actor, dramaturgy, staging, text adaptation) and F. Monteiro (translation, music creation, piano performance): environment recordings were made, transformed and used in “Cidade, o Gato”, and experimented as a dramaturgy tool unifying the different melodramas.
5 – In January 2018 there was a first performance of Fernando Pessoa / Piano Improvisation – Tabacaria (13’) and of Hugo Mezena / Francisco Monteiro – Cidade, o gato (14’).
This paper aims to show the creative process of the new piece Cidade, o gato, to rationalise some of the choices, and to compare it with the practice of improvisation and of performance of older melodramas. Three global perspectives will be critically exposed, following recent research about Artistic Research epistemology: the critical gathering of music materials and the creative process (interpretation, improvisation as a remix, composition); the ethical questions involved (to whom, what purpose, which musical codes, what ethical concerns); the aesthetic contexts and expectations. Methodologies used are auto-ethnography, criticism, bibliographic analysis, text and musical analysis and hermeneutics, sound transformation and compositional techniques, experimental performance/improvisation. The piece Cidade, o gato is a new melodrama using text, electroacoustic sounds and piano. A following aim is to perspective the challenges of the construction of the whole shoe, a performative project encompassing dramaturgy (actor and image), sound (electroacoustic, voice, piano and objects), and image (improvisation with a VJ).

Keywords: melodrama, composition, improvisation


Francisco Monteiro started his musical studies as a pupil Helena Costa’s in Oporto, entering later the Music Conservatory where he achieved the Superior Piano Course with honour. He studied analysis and composition with Cândido Lima, Álvaro Salazar (Porto) and Gottfried Scholtz (Vienna – Austria), conducting with Jean-Claude Hartemann and piano interpretation with Marie-Françoise Bucquet (Paris). He is graduated by the Vienna’s Music University – concert Diplom, class of Noel Flores – by the University of Coimbra – M.A. in Musicology, supervisor Gerard Doderer – and the University of Sheffield – Ph.D. on 20th century music, supervisors George Nicholson and Peter Hill. His activity as a pianist includes solo and chamber presentations; he’s mainly devoted to the 20th century and to Portuguese music.He appeared as a pianist in “Oficina Musical”, “Música Nova”, “Grupo de Música Contemporânea de Lisboa” and directing the group “Síntese”. Francisco Monteiro took part in Festivals in Italy, Colombia, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia and made recitals in France, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Croacia and in the U.K. He recorded several CDs, among them “Exposed on the cliffs of the heart” with solo piano music of Terry Winter Owens, “Clotilde Rosa Piano Works” together with Anne Kaasa. Francisco Monteiro is also playing and arranging for a Tango band “La Ideal”, with presentations in Portugal, Spain, Germany and Italy. He maintains a regular activity as a composer since 2001 with pieces for different chamber formations. Francisco Monteiro is Professor in the Polytechnic Institute of Porto – Portugal (School of Education). He’s a senior researcher in INET – MD,. He coordinated a research project dedicated to the Critical Edition of Jorge Peixinho’s Chamber Music, a project funded until 2013 by F.C.T. He’s now dedicated to Artistic Research and Music Creation (performance, improvisation, composition, sound, drama and visual objects creation).