I walk around, and the things ask me to sing”, wrote Pablo Neruda at the beginning of his Elementary Odes. In his poems he gives poetic life to even the smallest and most insignificant things: an artichoke, conger chowder and a chestnut on the ground. His love of the little things, of nature, of simple people naturally led to his unequivocal political stance which forced him, as a communist, into years of exile – and made him a folk hero in Chile. Daniel Catán’s opera pays homage to Pablo Neruda, the poet of the people and of lovers.
On the Italian island of Calla di Sotto nearly all the men live from fishing. Mario wants to do something different and becomes a postman. There is only one person he delivers letters to: the writer Pablo Neruda who, during his long years of exile, seeks refuge for a while on this island with the love of his life Mathilde. Mario is fascinated by the way the poet sees the world and puts it into words. The two men become friends and Mario learns about poetry and politics from Neruda. When he falls in love with the beautiful Beatrice he turns to his friend, the celebrated writer of love poems, for help and wins the heart of his beloved with the aid of the poet’s verses. On the day that Mario and Beatrice are to marry, Neruda receives permission to return to Chile. When he returns to Calla di Sotto years later he finds a poetic message from Mario extolling the beauty of his island which Neruda opened his eyes to see. Mario himself is dead. He died at a political rally that got out of control just as he was about to recite his first poem, which was dedicated to Neruda.
Along with Mario we become pupils of Neruda. We witness the birth of poetry, we see and hear how the beauty of nature flows into language and music and the power it can exert over others: the magic of lyricism arouses in Beatrice love for the poor postman. Daniel Catán sets all this to brilliant music and presents a moving portrayal of the power of poetry in this fictitious episode in Neruda’s life.