Random Italy Photo: Opera Lirica per il Papa

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In this week’s Random Italy Photo, we head to Rome in April, 2005.

I had just arrived in Italy a couple days earlier to spend Spring Quarter abroad with the Italian Studies Program at the University of Washington’s Rome Center.

Shortly after I arrived it became widely known that Pope John Paul II was not well. In fact, he was dying. On my second day in Rome, I headed to the Vatican to see what was going on.

It was quite a sight. There were tourists, young Italians hanging out and socializing, as well as people standing in small groups singing and praying. I’d had my problems with the politics of that pope (as well as being a “fallen” Catholic), but despite all of that the significance of the event was not lost on me.

Among the various people paying their respects was this gentleman, who was singing opera at the top of his voice. There were cameras all around him, but I have no idea if he was well known or not. I think probably not. I suspect the press was there doing the same thing I was — just trying to capture this historic moment. (Or perhaps only trying to get a good clip for the evening news.)

I like the expression of the singer and how he’s holding his hands in prayer, with his tie askew and slightly disheveled hair. But the element that I’m most drawn to in this photo is the businessman in the background. Maybe he was stopping by after having lunch, or perhaps decided to leave work early. But with all of the hustle and bustle of cameramen and others walking by, he seems completely enthralled by this man’s singing.

Two days later I attended my first (and probably only) papal funeral. But photos from that will have to wait for some other day.


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