Commissioned by the Los Angeles Opera
- 3(pic).2(obda).2+bcl.2/4.3.2+btbn.1/timp.2perc.pf.hp/str; Onstage: ssx, tpt, sous, perc, riq, acn
- 1(pic).1.2([ssx]:bcl).1/2.1.0+btbn([sous]).0/timp.perc/kbd/str - orchestration by Stefan Kozinski
- 2S, Mz, 4T, Bar, B-bar, 5T, 2Bar, 2B, 1 silent role (boy)
- 2 hr 5 min
- Libretto by the composer, based on the novel by Antonio Skármeta and the film by Michael Radford.
MARIO RUOPPOLO: Tenor
MARIO'S FATHER: Character Tenor
PABLO NERUDA: Tenor
MATILDE NERUDA: Soprano
DI COSIMO: Baritone
PRIEST: Character Tenor
DONNA ROSA: Mezzo-soprano
PABLITO (son of Mario and Beatrice): Silent
4 THUGS: 2 Tenors, 2 Baritones
5 PATRONS: 3 Tenors, 2 Basses
The action takes place on a small Italian island in the 1950s. Mario Ruoppolo is a gentle young man in an insular Italian fishing village where time moves slowly. Since Mario's seasickness doesn't allow him to fish, he takes the job of postman, delivering mail on a bicycle to only a single customer, the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Neruda has been exiled to Italy because of his communist views. After a while, the two become good friends.
In the meantime, Mario meets and becomes smitten with a beautiful young lady, Beatrice Russo, in the village's only cafe. Mario has no idea how to pursue the longings of his heart. With the help of Neruda, Mario is able to better communicate his love to Beatrice through the use of poetic metaphors. Soon Mario is composing poetry of his own, with hopes of not only attracting Beatrice's attention, but of winning her heart.
Mario and Beatrice are later married, and at the same time Neruda and his wife Matilde learn that they are allowed to return to Chile. Some months after Neruda's departure and subsequent lack of contact, Mario makes a nostalgic recording of island sounds for Neruda, including the heartbeat of his unborn son. Several years later, Neruda comes back to the island and finds Beatrice and her son in the same old cafe. She tells him that Mario was killed just before the birth of their son, at a communist rally in Naples. He was selected to read his poetry (dedicated to Neruda) for the crowd, but police stormed the rally before he could reach the stage. Beatrice gives Neruda a letter that Mario left for him.