Santa Maria di Loreto
The orphanage of Santa Maria di Loreto, the oldest of the four conservatories was founded in 1535 in the poor fishermen's district of Naples. Both boys and girls were taken in until a separate school for girls opened in 1543. Children were taught various trades, including music, after the hiring of professional music teachers between 1630 and 1640. From 1644 onward, boys able to pay tuition could also enroll.
During the eighteenth century the conservatory became one of Europe's finest schools of music. The unsettled times caused by the Napoleonic wars led to Ferdinand IV to requisition the conservatory's building in 1797 for use as a military hospital. Teachers and students moved to the Conservatorio di Santa Maria di Loreto. Finally, in 1806, the remnants of Sant'Onofrio and Santa Maria di Loreto combined with the Pietà dei Turchini to create the new Royal College of Music.
Amongst students and maestri of Conservatorio di Santa Maria di Loreto were Francesco Provenzale, Alessandro Scarlatti, Antonio Sacchini, Fedele Fenaroli, Nicola Fiorenza, Domenico Cimarosa, Leonardo Leo and Niccolò Porpora, compositore e maestro di canto, who taught the most celebrated castrati, Farinelli, Caffarelli, and Porporino.
Poveri di Gesù Cristo
A plague in 1589 may have led a Franciscan friar to seek aid for the resulting orphans. Documents from 1596 show this Marcello Fossataro petitioning the church for official sanction and protection of his orphanage of I Poveri di Gesù Cristo. That recognition comes in 1602 with stipulations that call for training in Christian doctrine, reading, and writing. Further, no boys under seven years of age may be enrolled (the reason given being the absence of women to care for such small children), nor boys with contagious diseases (perhaps a memory of the plague years).
The orphanage was near the home of the Filippini Fathers, a powerful religious order with connections to the Pope. They tried, among other unfriendly acts, to suppress singing at the orphanage. Conditions deteriorated, both financially and scholastically, and during the time when Francesco Durante was a master at the school, the school chancellor invited in the "storm troopers" of the archbishop to stamp out dissent. One student was actually killed by these enforcers. By 1743 conditions were so bad that the Church closed the institution and sent the remaining students to other conservatories.
The institution was transformed into a Diocesan Seminary.
Its notable teachers were Gaetano Greco, Francesco Durante, Francesco Feo and Girolamo Abos, Niccolò Porpora, and Leonardo Leo. One of the most famous students was Giovanni Battista Pergolesi.
Sant'Onofrio a Porta Capuana
In 1578, by the order of Cardinal Alfonso Gesualdo, a religious society of craftsmen and merchants in the garment trade was formed in connection with the church of Sant'Onofrio a Porta Capuana ("near the Capuan Gate"). Members of this Congregation were Catalan, Spanish, Florentine, Genovese, Sicilian and Milanese artisans. In 1588 this group bought a large building for the purpose of starting an orphanage, which appears to have become well established by around 1600.
A local insurrection led to reprisals in 1647, and a plague in 1656 further weakened the institution. In 1668 the school was taken over by the Scolopi Fathers, who if not very enlightened, nonetheless ensured an orderly administration.
The most notable aspect of the Conservatory of Sant'Onofrio a Porta Capuana was almost one fifth of the students were castrati. This was the only conservatory to have this practice. They slept and ate apart from the other students.
Conditions declined during the Napoleonic period, and only thirty students remained when the conservatory merged with that of Santa Maria di Loreto in 1797.
Amongst the most notable students and maestri of Sant'Onofrio a Porta Capuana conservatory were Nicola Fago, Niccolò Porpora, Francesco Feo, Leonardo Leo, Francesco Durante, Niccolò Jommelli, Giovanni Paisiello and Niccolò Piccinni (?) and Carlo Cotumacci.
Pietà dei Turchini
The orphanage of Santa Maria della Pietà dei Turchini was founded in 1592 in a church to which was moved a statue of the Virgin Mary of the Pietà, hence the first part of the name. The second part comes from the solid blue color of the children's uniforms—turchina or "turquoise."
After the hiring in 1622 of the composer and organist Giovanni Maria Sabino as "first master," training in music became central. The Pietà was the most financially secure and best managed of the Neapolitan conservatories and the only one of them to survive intact through the Napoleonic dislocations.
Most notable teachers and students were Francesco Provenzale, Leonardo Leo, Pasquale Cafaro, Nicola and Lorenzo Fago, Nicola Sala, Niccolò Jommelli. Francesco Feo and Giacomo Tritto.
The appointment of Saverio Mattei, a man of letters, to the post of overseer in 1795 led to the establishment of the modern conservatory library and helped to preserve an enormous collection of manuscripts from the other conservatories and from the city's opera theaters.
In 1808, the students of Pieta dei Turchini and those from the other conservatories were transferred to Monastero delle Dame Monache di San Sebastiano. In 1826, by order of Francesco I, King of the two Sicilies, the Conservatorio di San Sebastiano relocated to the ancient monastery San Pietro a Majella.
Today Il Conservatorio San Pietro a Majella is the successor institution of the previous four conservatories dating back to the 16th century, and the depository of an extraordinary library, preserving tens of thousand of original scores and autographs, representing the glorious musical history of Naples.