Filipa Magalhães

CESEM — FCSH: NOVA University

What place does Constança Capdeville hold in contemporary Portuguese music history?

Constança Capdeville is undeniably one of the most striking figures in contemporary Portuguese music history. The legacy that she has left us remains a myriad of complex documents leaving us both perplexed and fascinated, mainly concerning to her production after 1980’s. The influences that Capdeville absorbed from other composers, in particular John Cage and Edgar Varèse, among others are evident. Also the exercising decisive influence on her former students such as Antonio de Sousa Dias or João Paulo Santos, and on her colleagues as Olga Prats, Luís Madureira, João Natividade, Alejandro Erlich-Oliva and Oswaldo Maggi, left marks on all of them, with no exception. No one refers to Capdeville with indifference, her former collaborators always refer to her huge musicality, modernity, versatility, stressing that she was very attentive to what was around her, assimilating different artistic areas, which she occasionally brought and used in her works. Constança Capdeville was a composer out of her time, since she was somehow ahead of the curve considering the context in which she was involved. Capdeville had a very active participation in Gulbenkian Contemporary Music Festival (1977-2002), whose main goal was the dissemination of contemporary music. These encounters had a great impact, both nationally and internationally, providing an enormous exchange between Portuguese and foreign musicians, composers and artists. During these encounters several foreign composers came to Lisbon to present their works, first performances in Portugal, or even world premieres, it was also common for them to present conferences and workshops to the Portuguese community of composers, musicians, artists or even amateurs. This Festival has contributed to the cultural development of Portuguese contemporary music, affecting among many other composers, also Constança Capdeville. In 1985, Capdeville created the ColecViva ensemble, bringing a new attitude towards the notion of “perfomance” through a multidisciplinary approach. The composer used a new musical-scenic language combining concert, theatre, dance, through sound exploration, music, speech, lighting, gesture and movement, searching for new relationships and different forms of expression. ColecViva has also developed a pedagogical aspect (eg. seminars that reflected on the problematic of the performance). This ensemble presented a great number of Capdeville’s music-theatre works. The richness of Capdeville’s thoughts within the different forms of exploration of the music-theatre concept, whereupon the combination and confluence of different means and artistic expressions, through what could be classified as a heterogeneous counterpoint between different elements (such as music, tape, lighting, and so forth) have contributed to a singular and topical work. Througout this paper, it is our goal to respond to the following issues: What is the significance of Capdeville’s legacy today? Does it make sense to re-perform her music-theatre works nowadays when some features are missing? Considering the context in which Constança Capdeville created her works, this paper aims to understand the place that Capdeville holds in contemporary Portuguese music history today.

Keywords: Constança Capdeville, Music-theatre Works, Contemporary Portuguese Music History


Filipa Magalhães (Coimbra, 1979), started her musical studies at the National Conservatory of Lisbon, studying voice with Filomena Amaro. In 2006, she concluded a degree in Musicology at FCSH – Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Portugal. In 2013, has completed a master degree in Musical Arts: Music and Technology, under the theme “General inventory of magnetic tape collections existing in Portugal: evaluation of their state of preservation”. During that research period, she attended an internship in the Phonogrammarchiv – Austrian Academy of Sciences, conducted by Nadja Wallaszkovits. Currently, attends a PhD Program in Musicology – Music as culture and cognition at CESEM- FCSH/NOVA, funded by FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, focusing in the restoration, digitisation and archiving of magnetic tape collections. Her main interests are the study of mixed-music including magnetic tape, seeking for new methodologies to preserve these works as a contribution for their musicological study.