Marie Arana, author and Senior Adviser to the U.S. Librarian of Congress, moderated the well blended multimedia conversation, at the Kennedy Center on Friday evening, about three Pablos; Neruda, Picasso and Casals who established permanent footsteps in the Spanish speaking world and beyond, with their innovative and sometimes revolutionary perspectives within the realms of poetry, painting and music.
All three passed away in the year of 1973. And their lives were delved into as a, "true nexus of the arts," Arana stated. "The men were contemporaries and friends who lived and worked during a politically charged time," she said.
Arana described Pablo Neruda, of Chile as, "a literary master who taught Latin Americans who they were," and in a short film, the poet is revealed to be a person who cut across class and political boundaries to bring his message to the world. Neruda says of himself, "I'm a human being above all else and I've made many mistakes." Julia Alvarez, author and literary scholar describes Neruda and her love for his poetry that came while receiving her MFA, and how she found that the poetry of Neruda did not directly translate into English but needed to be read in its Spanish form. There was a theme that language is not just a method of communication but is a home.
Dr. Marilyn McCully, who is a known scholar on the life and works of Picasso, spoke of a man who was born with unique talent and first presented his work, to acclaim through the press, at the age of thirteen. He was greatly influenced by El Greco (Doménikos Theotokópoulos) and Francisco Goya, with Spanish culture having a constant impact on the dynamic and mediums of his works. McCully delved into how Picasso was known in life, for his dark moods and intense eyes. He had a series of women, sometimes overlapping, and rarely, if ever liked to live alone.
The film of Picasso, composed by Ruth Schell, was wryly amusing, showing him, an elderly man wearing only shorts, beginning to paint on a wall a mural with a dove. Workers came the next day and thought it was an unimportant sketch and took it down to Picasso's irate sensibilities. McCully delves into the many definitions of Picasso's work including; modernist, cubist, Africanist, as well as neoclassicist and indeed there is an amazing variety to his work.
Marta Casals Istomin, Artistic Director of the Kennedy Center from 1980 to 1990, and widow of Pablo Casals gave a vivid view of a man who played and taught the cello with passion and integrity to equal degree. Her husband's public concerts were largely affected by political discourse including from the two Great World Wars. The Song of the Birds reflecting a request for peace, is mentioned as a favorite work. A film of Casals, also composed by Schell, shows him as a middle aged man teaching a student to play his cello in a way that gives both the cello and all the music from it, a sense of life. Then there are scenes of horror, women running with bloodied children in their arms, from the Spanish Civil War that began in 1936. Casals spoke of how once one is affected by such a violence, one's life and music is made to prevent such happenings from occurring again and as politics bled into art, Casals refused to play in concert under Francisco Franco.
His widow carries on his legacy in preserving his memory and she lends his Matteo Goffriller cello (1700) to those worthy of playing it. The evening closed with Saint-Saëns Allegro Appassionato, Op. 43, J.S. Bach's Aria from Organ Pastoral in F Major, BVW 590, and Popper's Tarantella for Cello and Piano, Op. 33; played by Amit Peled and Members of the Peabody Institute.
By Sarah Bahl