A Rare Baroque Libretto - Corelli Conducts for Christina of Sweden in Honor of England's James II

MUSIC. CORELLI, ARCANGELO (1653-1713) QUEEN CHRISTINA OF SWEDEN (1626-1689. Guidi, Alessandro (1650-1710), librettist

Accademia per musica fatta nel real palazzo della regina Christina per festiggiare l'assonzione al trono di Giacomo seconde re d'Inghilterra. in occasione della solenne ambasciata mandata da Sua Maestà Britanica alla Santità di Nostro Signore Innocenzo XI

Rome: Camera Apostolica, 1687


Quarto: 19.5 x 14 cm. [16] p.

Bound in modern wrappers. A very good copy with light stains. Extremely rare: 3 copies in North America (Yale, Harvard, Newberry.)

Very rare libretto for a cantata (now lost) by Bernardo Pasquini (1637-1710), commissioned by Queen Christina of Sweden on the occasion of the accession to the throne of the English King James II (reg. 1685-1688). The musical director of the performance was none other than Arcangelo Corelli, already one of the most famous musicians in Italy. The librettist was the gifted poet Alessandro Guidi, who, along with Pasquini, and Corelli, enjoyed the patronage of Queen Christina.

The cantata was performed in February 1687 in Queen Christina's Palazzo Riario. Pasquini scored his music for five solo voices, 150 instrumentalists, and a 100-strong choir, all conducted by Arcangelo Corelli. The five soloists took on the allegorical personas of London, the Thames, Fame, a Ruling Genius, and a Rebellious Genius.

The performance, celebrating James II's accession, was staged to welcome Roger Palmer, 1stEarl of Castlemaine as the new English ambassador, whom James II had sent to Rome to attend the coronation of Pope Innocent XII and, more importantly, to take steps toward reunifying the English Church with that of Rome. The reunification was not to be. James II was deposed during the Glorious Revolution.

Queen Christina of Sweden:

Educated, cultured, a collector and patron of the arts, a passionate book collector, and a correspondent of Descartes, Galileo, and Halley, Christina of Sweden was to become one of the great figures of Counter-Reformation Rome. 

She abdicated the Swedish throne in 1655, converted to Catholicism, and relocated to Rome, arriving in the Eternal City on December 23rd via the Porta Flaminia (now the Porta del Popolo), which had been re-designed for the occasion by Bernini and adorned with the Chigi arms and the now famous inscription: "For a fruitful and auspicious entry". The queen rode on a palfrey saddled and adorned in blue and silver in a procession that included the senators of Rome, two cardinal legates, and a group of nobles, trumpeters, and a cavalry escort. Christina made her way to the Basilica of Saint Peter's, while the choir sang accompanied by the great double-organ, and Pope Alexander VII himself received her beneath the great bronze baldacchino of Bernini.

Christina was a great supporter of theater and, in particular, of opera, as well as a patron of artists, architects, and sculptors, including Carlo Fontana and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. She paid Bernini the honor of visiting his studio, and invited the astronomer Cassini to observe the comet of 1665 from her home in the Palazzo Riario in Trastevere. She was hailed in her lifetime as the “Patroness of Rome” and the “Minerva of the North”.

Christina was –and remains- a controversial figure. Her unconventional “masculine” attire, her extravagant expenditures, her support for the theatre, and her very public relationships with men, all added to her fame but often at the expense of her popularity. In the end, she was buried in St. Peter’s Basilica, one of only three women interred there. To this day she has endured as one of the most fascinating women of 17th century Europe.