So it may come as a surprise to learn that, in the 17th and 18th centuries, Naples was one of the world's great musical capitals. The second largest city in Europe (after Paris), Naples had four conservatories, numerous theaters, five hundred churches (each of which retained musicians), and a "Neapolitan school" of composers, of whom the Scarlattis and Pergolesi are but the most famous today.
One of the city's oldest conservatories, the Piet_ dei Turchini, has given its name to a latter-day Baroque orchestra/vocal ensemble/opera company. Founded in 1987 and dedicated to reviving the neglected musical riches of Naples (where it is based in one of the city's gorgeous historic churches), the Cappella della Piet_ dei Turchini has performed to great acclaim through much of Europe, Japan and South America and has made a series of award-winning recordings for the Naïve/Opus 111 label.
The Cappella dei Turchini (for short) makes its U.S. debut this weekend, with performances in Washington, D.C. on Saturday (Dec. 1) and for New York City's Music Before 1800 series on Sunday (Dec. 2). The program, titled "Angeli e Demoni" (referring to a Baroque-era description of Naples as "a paradise inhabited by devils"), offers a sampling of cantatas, instrumental music and operatic excerpts by Domenico Scarlatti, Giovanni Paisiello, Leonardo Vinci (not to be confused with the Renaissance artist with a da in his name), and other 18th-century Neapolitans. Soprano Mara Ercolano and tenor Giuseppe De Vittorio join a contingent of 12 strings under the direction of the Cappella's founder and director, Antonio Florio.
The concerts are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Saturday in Gaston Hall at Georgetown University (http//performingarts.georgetown.edu) and 4 p.m. on Sunday at Corpus Christi Church on West 121st St. (east of Broadway) in Manhattan (www.mb1800.org).