Gonzaga, Francisca Hedwiges (1847–1935)

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Gonzaga, Francisca Hedwiges (1847–1935)

Francisca Hedwiges Gonzaga (Chiquinha; b. 17 October 1847; d. 28 February 1935), a colorful key figure in the early history of Brazilian musical nationalism. Daughter of an imperial field marshall, José Basileu Neves Gonzaga, Francisca Gonzaga was married at the age of thirteen to an officer in the Merchant Marine at the insistence of her parents. She divorced her husband at the age of eighteen and left home with her children, whom she supported by giving music lessons. She was befriended by composer Joaquim Antônio da Silva Callado Junior, who, in spite of her basically classical training, introduced her to the chorões, popular musicians composing in an improvisational style. Gonzaga proved to be such an apt apprentice that she soon improvised a polka, "Atraente," at a party honoring composer Henrique Alves de Mesquita. This song achieved widespread popularity and was followed by a flood of popular pieces called valsas, polkas, tangos, maxixes, lundus, quadrilhas, fados, gavotas, mazurkas, barcarolas, habaneras, and serenatas. She is best known, however, as composer of seventy-seven pieces for theater, which consisted of comedies, operettas, and incidental music for plays that captured the imagination of the public and defined popular styles in a manner that influenced composers of art music. Her independent spirit and disregard for convention made her a sensation in her day. In addition to being the first woman in Brazil to conduct a theater orchestra and military band, Gonzaga also was extremely active in antislavery and republican causes, even selling manuscripts and using royalty funds to contribute to these causes.

See alsoBrazil: Since 1889; Music: Popular Music and Dance.


Ary Vasconcelos, Panorama da música popular brasileira (1964).

David P. Appleby, The Music of Brazil (1983).

Additional Bibliography

Millan, Cleusa de Souza. A memória social de Chiquinha Gonzaga. Rio de Janeiro: s.n., 2000.

Mugnaini Jr., Ayrton. A jovem Chiquinha Gonzaga. São Paulo: Editora Nova Alexandria, 2005.

Vianna, Hermano. The Mystery of Samba: Popular Music and National Identity in Brazil. Translated by John Charles Chasteen. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

                                     David P. Appleby

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Gonzaga, Francisca Hedwiges (1847–1935)

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Gonzaga, Francisca Hedwiges (1847–1935)