Rome’s National Museum of Musical Instruments was born out of a great passion for collecting – a trait that, according to Nietzsche, belongs only to the noblest minds, because it speaks of a search for absolutely unique things that no one else can have.
The majority of the 3,000 specimens showcased today in the very interesting museum comes from the collection of tenor Evan Gorga (1865-1957), who spent four successful years performing in theaters throughout Italy, from Genoa’s Politeama to the San Carlo in Naples, from La Fenice in Venice to the Regio in Turin (where, in 1896, he played Rodolfo in the premiere of Puccini’s “La Bohème”).
After this brilliant beginning, Gorga mysteriously abandoned the stage and devoted his life to collecting “unique” items: he accumulated about 150,000 objects divided into thirty specific collections. One of them gathered musical instruments of the most varied origin – from the Far East to Latin America, from Europe to Africa – spanning 2,000 years from the late Hellenistic Age to the 20th century.
Gorga put together a magnificent collection that, along with more recent acquisitions, includes valuable pieces such as Bartolomeo Cristofori’s piano (1723), the Barberini Harp (1605-1620), Hans Müller’s harpsichord (1537), and a terracotta model of Michele Todini’s Harpsichord (17th century).
The headquarters of the National Museum of Musical Instruments is next to Rome’s beautiful Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, located within an archaeological site of great interest, where buildings of the 3rd and 4th centuries AD are preserved.