March 24, 1762 - February 7, 1830
born in Lisbon, Portugal
Aside from having the finale of his cantata La speranza used as the national anthem of Portugal from around 1808 up until 1834, Marcos Antonio Portugal enjoyed having much of his music widely accepted in his homeland, as well as in Brazil and Italy. Following early studies in composition, voice, and organ at the Seminario da Patriarcal of Lisbon with Joao de Sousa Carvalho, he saw his career develop rather quickly. For example, in 1783 he accepted his first professional post, as organist and vocalist at the music guild Irmandade de San Cecilia; then, only two years later, he was made maestro of the Teatro do Salitre in Lisbon, his first theatrical appointment. He composed farsas, entremezes, and elogios there until he went to Naples to finish his studies. Living in Italy between 1792 - 1800, his fame was probably established with the well-liked La confusione della somiglianza, a comic opera. Even though this style of dramatic work was fashionable, Portugal also wrote many serious operas, which were performed in a few countries, including England and Italy. While busy with the theater, he composed less church music, but eventually returned to it after he left the country.
Back in Lisbon, political turmoil was felt throughout the land, but it had minimal initial effects on Portugal, who was deeply engaged in work as the newly appointed maestro of the Teatro de San Carlos and as the mestre de capela of the royal chapel. Like many Portuguese, including the royal court, Portugal did leave his homeland for Brazil in the early 1800s. It was not until 1811, after Napoleon and his troops occupied the land, that the composer and his brother ,Simao, made the voyage together. In his new home, he composed, resurrected a few of his earlier works, was again made maestre of the royal chapel, and was later made maestro of the Teatro San Joao. Even with greater political security, re-established court connections, and hopeful horizons, not all was well for him. Portugal battled mental illness during the last few years of his life and eventually passed away at the age of 67, leaving a legacy of compositions behind, including Lo spazzacamino principe (1794), La donna di genio volubile (1796), L'oro non compra amore, Le donne cambiate (1797), Fernando nel Messico (1798), and A Castanheira (1788). His opera La morte di Semiramide (1801) was recorded for the Opera Rara label in 1982 and for Koch Schwann in 1993. ~ Meredith Gailey, Rovi