Barbara of Portugal and the Immense Gulf

A performance of Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata K109 by Angela Hewitt


A Brief Statement on Barbara of Portugal and the Immense Gulf
The colors of the sonata are merged with the colors of filtered light in a NASA image of the Lagoon Nebula.
The phrase Immense Gulf refers not only to the visual characteristics of the Nebula, but also to the writing of journalist Paul Salopek on his Silk Road project tracing the migration of ancient peoples across the globe. Salopek describes the historic Armenian capital Anatolia and the closely guarded (by Russia) Turkish border that separates the ethnic Armenians from their home of origin.

I climb an overlook by her home where Armenian pilgrims disembark from buses. These tourists come to gaze longingly across a fence at their ancient capital in Anatolia. I look too. I see exactly where I stood months earlier in Turkey. A ghost of my earlier self roams those ruins. Nothing separates any of us except an immense gulf of loneliness.

Barbara of Portugal was the sole patron of Domenico Scarlatti. She and her partner, Ferdinand VI of Spain, had no children. Ferdinand suffered from an intense and devastating mental illness and died of grief shortly after Barbara’s death in 1758.