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JESUITICA: Doing pirouettes

jesuit_operas_01In their effort to teach good public speaking, the Jesuit educators of the 17th and 18th centuries moved into drama. The plays which they wrote and directed were originally in Latin. As a diversion for those whose Latin was weak, they inserted musical interludes, which developed into musicals with dance, and so into opera. A critic in King Louis XIV’s Paris remarked: There is no-one like the Jesuits for doing pirouettes. In fact if you Google “Jesuit operas”, you will find modern recordings of the operas written to celebrate the canonisation of Francis Xavier and Ignatius Loyola in 1622. The music which they brought to missions such as Paraguay is still played there today – see ‘Bolivian Baroque’ above.