A tenor for the pope

album-cover2VATICAN CITY — Vatican journalists will be treated Friday to an appearance by Placido Domingo, who’s showing up for a press conference to unveil a new CD of songs based on the poetry of Pope John Paul II.

One could hope that Vatican officials will dispense with the usual press hall format of lengthy speeches and simply hand the tenor the mike. I wouldn’t bet on that, though.

The CD, on the Deutsche Grammophon label, is being released in Italy in time for Christmas. It will be interesting to see how closely the songs follow the text of the poems, and what kind of liberties were taken in the arrangements.

A CD released in late 2005 featured Vatican Radio’s Sean Patrick Lovett reading Pope John Paul’s poems. In 1988 the U.S. singer Sarah Vaughan recorded an album of the late pope’s poetry sung to jazz accompaniment (excerpts available here.)

Domingo, a Spanish-Mexican tenor, sang Cesar Franck’s “Panis Angelicus” (Bread of Angels) at Pope John Paul’s Mass in New York’s Central Park in 1995. Last April he reprised the hymn during Pope Benedict’s Mass in Washington, D.C.

Check out the YouTube video of his April performance, and note the reaction of music-loving Pope Benedict — he actually walks over during the liturgy to embrace the artist.

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