Time in Yerevan: 11:07:36,   24 March

First USSR citizen to meet Pope John XXIII – ARMENPRESS presents highlights of Aram Khachaturyan’s foreign trips

YEREVAN, JANUARY 24, ARMENPRESS. Composer Aram Khachaturyan’s biography is full of meetings with remarkable individuals.

During his global tours, the composer has numerously been offered to meet by presidents, royal families, renowned writers and others.

ARMENPRESS presents Khachaturyan’s remarkable meetings in Italy.

Meeting with Pope John XXIII

In 1960, Khachaturyan was awarded the title of honorary professor of the Santa Cecilia Musical Academy. The academy, having a history of hundreds of years, elected as honorary professors only the most famous musicians of the world. On this very occasion, when Khachatryan visited Italy in 1963 to participate in a ceremony in his honor, the academy’s president offered Khachaturyan to meet with Pope John XXIII. A few days later the composer and his wife were hosted in the Vatican.

“Khachaturyan remember the Vatican as a colossal luxurious building, which looks more like a museum. It is noteworthy that during those years the USSR and the Vatican didn’t have diplomatic relations, and Khachaturyan was the first citizen of the USSR to have a 30 minute long conversation with the Pope. During similar meetings it was the Pope who would usually speak, however this meeting differed with a beautiful dialogue. As Khachatryan recalled in the future, he was very impressed by the Pope’s questions on arts, orchestras and musicians”, Aram Khachaturyan House Museum Director Armine Grigoryan said.

Pope John XXIII expressed great joy that Khachaturyan was elected to the academy, and also expressed his admiration for the Armenian composer’s artistic legacy. During the meeting the Pope said that the Armenian people are few in number, but have given numerous geniuses to the world. He also said – “I believe, if life were a song, it would be a very beautiful song”. Khachaturyan in turn, said, that in his opinion, all good people of the world strive to make life a beautiful song. At the end of the meeting, the Pope gave the Vatican Medal with his image to Khachaturyan, and a cross to his wife. As a souvenir from the meeting, a few days later Khachaturyan was given the photograph which was made during that day. It is now stored in the Aram Khachaturyan House-Museum collection.

Meeting with the Italian president

During the same tour, Khachaturyan also met with the President of Italy Antonio Segni. The President had personally invited the Armenian composer. The Ambassador of the USSR to Italy was also present at the meeting.

The important result of the meeting was that Khachaturyan suggested that the famous La Scala Opera Theater of Milan gets hosted in Moscow to develop cultural ties between Italy and the USSR, and to host Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater in Milan. The President liked the idea, and the tours indeed took place.

“The visit to Italy was highlighted with one more interesting event, which was covered by numerous newspapers of Italy”, Grigoryan said.

When Khachaturyan visited Venice, he was invited to the La Fenice Opera Theater for a performance. However, when Khachaturyan entered the theater, the performance had already begun. When the conductor was notified that Khachaturyan has already arrived, he interrupted the performance and announced that they are honored with the maestro’s visit. A welcome march was played in his honor. The entire theater gave a standing ovation, welcoming the Armenian composer. After the performance the director of the theater said that a unique moment occurred in the history of the theater when the performance was interrupted. This proves the love and respect which Khachaturyan enjoys in Italy”.

Anna Grigoryan

Photo – courtesy of Aram Khachaturyan House Museum

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