In March 1558 Pope Paul IV ordered his College of Singers to consider two Spanish sopranos, then in Naples. Called to Rome for an audition, they were accepted according to the normal procedure (a vote). Two Italian members, however, aggressively abstained from participating. For this they would have been severely punished without they avoided through the intervention of their patron, the papal nephew Cardinal Carlo Carafa. In 1559 Paul IV demanded that the abstainers be dismissed, but their colleagues persuaded him to allow them to remain. Also in 1559 three other papal singers suffered when Cardinal Carafa was disgraced and banished by Paul IV. In 1562 the most recalcitrant singer in the original affair resigned from the choir for reasons that defy explanation. Though minor in itself, this curious tempest in a teapot opens a window into larger issues concerning the power relationship of popes and cardinals to the papal singers and shows the real dangers that could ensue from being a member of the household of a cardinal. Moreover, it exposes national tensions within the choir, shows the singers caught up in the political repercussions of the last spasms of the short and disastrous pontificate of Paul IV, and even gives a glimpse into their possibly aberrant personalities. Cardinal Carlo Carafa is also shown to have had a serious interest in the papal choir and individual papal singers for reasons that have yet to be elucidated and may not have been entirely musical.
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