Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Concert at the Papal Chancellery

Last night I was pretty tired after work and had a headache, at 6 pm my colleague called and asked me if I was willing to go to a concert at the Papal Chancellery, the Palazzo della Cancelleria. A magnificent building near the Palazzo Farnese seat of the French Embassy in Rome. I took 2 aspirins and got dressed. My personal policy is if you serve food at a party I will be there.

The Concert by invitation only, was given by the Ambassadors of Spain to Italy and to the Holy See to celebrate the Presidency of the European Union who is headed this year by Spain. The great palace like so many in Rome is not heated and it is all stone and marble inside and out, it was a windy and cold night. The great room (magna Aula) has room for 600 people and it was full. We entered the palace and turned left towards to great staircase, I said to my colleague that in Rome you should not have a heart condition with all these great staircases, no elevators anywhere. The concert was given by the Complesso Spagnolo di Musica da Camera. The soprano was Gudrun Olafsdottir who sang pieces from Manuel de Falla, Vivaldi, Rossini and Federico Garcia Lorca. The ensemble also played pieces by Cesar Franck, Boccherini and Ligeti. Afterwards a champagne reception was given with wonderful food, a great parmigiano reggiano cheese carved out of a huge wheel of cheese, and sweets made for Carnival Season. The reception was in the great courtyard and it was a bit cold but the champagne warmed us.

The Palace was constructed between 1489–1513, being the first palazzo in Rome to be built from the ground up in the new Renaissance style. The long facade with its rhythm of flat doubled pilasters between the arch-headed windows is Florentine in conception, though the concept of drafted masonry is ancient Roman in its origin. The grand doorway was added in the 16th century by Domenico Fontana on the orders of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese.

The building's bone-colored travertine was scavenged from the nearby Roman ruins of the Theatre of Pompey,were Julius Caesar was assassinated. The theater of Pompey like the Eternal City was a field of ruins, built for a city of over a million people that now housed about thirty thousand. The forty-four Egyptian granite columns of the inner courtyard are from the porticoes of the theatres upper covered seating.

The Cancelleria was built for Cardinal Raffaele Riario who held the post of Cardinal Camierlengo to his powerful uncle, Pope Sixtus IV. The rumor was that the funds came in a single night's winnings at card playing. The Palace still houses the Papal Chancellery, and is part of the Vatican State, not subject to Italian sovereignty.

The concert was in the great room with its vast mural that Giorgio Vasari accomplished in a mere 100 days. We sat under the gaze of God the Father, who is always pictured in pale pastel colors with a triangle above his head. Since the late 17th century the Cancelleria has been the center of musical life of Rome, though nowadays it has stiff competition from the Parco della Musica.


  1. Cool!!..I had a free meal at Denny's today,and you had a free meal in a palace!..It's practically the same thing ;)

  2. Glad the headache didn't prevent you from attending. The Italian ambassador in Finland always had a wheel of Parmaggiano Regiano at his national day reception. It was so different from the parmesan I'd eaten before (either from a piece or grated)! The concert sounded wonderful and with 600 people you probably didn't feel the cold.


  3. Sling you have to tell me how did you get a free meal, am curious about that. Maybe you are like a majority shareholder at Denny's?

  4. "My personal policy is if you serve food at a party I will be there." Ha! Good policy! Free food, free champagne, free music. Sounds quite wonderful.

  5. Laurent:
    I've just read this report, so enjoyable to read, the performance sounds delightful. And in such an historic location--but so much of Rome is historic. Yet, this one particularly so.

    Your policy is similar to mine--particularly with my employer, whose pay is very modest, I always go to receptions when there's food...