by Edd Doerr
On Friday evening, November 25 PBS aired Mexican composer Daniel Catan's 2010 opera "Il Postino" ("The Postman"), a magnificent production by the LA Opera with Placido Domingo and a superb cast. I am not a great opera fan but I would rank "Il Postino" with my favorite opera, Puccini's "Madama Butterfly". (I wrote a short story some years ago imagining what happened to Butterfly's little son after her suicide.)
"Il Postino" is based on the Oscar-winning 1994 Italian film of the same name, which in turn was based on Antonio Skarmeta's 1985 novel "Ardiente Paciencia" ("Burning Patience"). As the opera is sung in Spanish it uses dialogue directly from the novel.
The story is simple, with three main characters: Pablo Neruda, the great Chilean poet (1971 Nobel laureate in literature) and diplomat living in exile in 1953 on an island off the coast of Italy with his wife; Mario, a shy young mail carrier; Beatriz, the daughter of a local hotel keeper. In the 1985 novel the story takes place in the late 1960s and early 1970s on an island off the Chilean coast. (Neruda died of cancer in September of 1973, a few days after the 9/11/73 military coup that ousted the government of elected president Salvador Allende. What a coincidence: 9/11/73 in Chile and 9/11/01 in the US.)
In the opera and film (and novel) Neruda helps the uneducated Mario understand metaphors and poetry so that he can woo the beautiful Beatriz. I will say no more except about the story; you have to see this great production on the screen.
And read Neruda's poetry.