Mozart’s Requiem at the Havana Cathedral

Photos: Irina Pino

By Irina Pino

HAVANA TIMES – I still remember the movie Amadeus, by Milo Forman, which was a box office hit and won several Oscars.

While the story of the rivalry between Salieri and Mozart is based on a play, it’s a fact that there are mediocre people in the world of culture who make it, while geniuses remain anonymous, or only rise to stardom after they’ve left this world.

While I’d heard classical music CDs before, I listened to it for the first time in this movie.  Years later, a friend copied it onto a cassette for me. I also have it on video. But I prefer to listen to it as I write.

Surprise! A friend, an opera singer, told me that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem would be performed at Havana Cathedral on April 15th. He was going to be in the choir.

This is an exchange project between the Lyceum Mozartiano de la Habana and the Balthasar Neumann Chord and Ensemble. The conductor would be Thomas Hengelbrock from Germany. The program included Symphony No. 13 and Psalm No. 43, by Mendelssohn.

The celebration forms part of European culture month in Cuba. Days of church music organized by the Felix Varela Center.

I was crazy to see it. I left early after eating lunch. I took an almendron (classical ‘50s) taxi, which now costs between 100-150 (in the day)  pesos with the fuel crisis, and left for the Historic Center.

I walked along Obispo Street until I got to Plaza de Armas, and I sat on a bench. Recently, there are street musicians here who liven up the square to earn a few bills, as groups of tourists pass through regularly and leave them some money.

I sat next to a trumpet player. By the way, he made my head spin because he was repeating the tune from the Godfather and La vie en Rose over and over again. But some foreigners tossed him a couple of euros and dollars into a box, three times.

I reached Plaza de la Catedral at 6 PM, and went to the church entrance. People were already taking their place in line as if they were lining up for bread. Elegantly-dressed people began to appear, women wearing high heels on this cobbled floor. In fact, I think I was the most practical, with my simple outfit and a pair of tennis shoes.

I spoke to someone to try and sit up front and film it better. But they gave me a side seat. I had the performers backs to me. The front seats had been reserved for guests.

I recorded some videos even in those conditions, short videos. I had to stop when my battery began to run out. I also took some photos.

I don’t know whether it was the connection between the magnificent place of worship, its rich ornamentation, statues of saints, the perfect connection between musicians and the choir, but I felt like I was stuck in the 18th century, when the piece was written. I could feel Mozart’s spirit, that white light and its shadow. An intimate, healing vibration, despite the sadness embued in this music.

All of his songs trigger emotions. The power of his perfection is overwhelming. I dedicated this text to him in my book of poems De los escalones para abajo:

“Mischievous and in debt, the youngest worker can only be the first. Oh Mozart! Why don’t you commit blasphemy against yourself? You know I love you. How can I not when you fly above all the trees like a great big bird, calling on people to listen to your pieces, your polished structures free of the despicable and murderers! This fortune led you to misfortune, it buried you deeper in the grave, but you came back to life in the middle of a Requiem written for you, the perfect fruit within reach.”

Read more from Irina Pino’s diary here.

Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.

2 thoughts on “Mozart’s Requiem at the Havana Cathedral

  • April 22, 2023 at 11:22 pm

    How one sympathizes with Irina Pino, the joy of a brief period of release listening to the ageless perfection of Mozart, such clarity, and within the beauty of the Cathedral, allowing the mind to cleanse from the awful surrounding reality of the day to day endeavors to exist in a failing State.

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