“Cecilio Valdes, King of Havana” goes to Philadelphia

I am thrilled to introduce four songs from Paquito D’Rivera’s zarzuela, entitled Cecilio Valdés, King of Havana, an opera in the Spanish style with libretto by Enrique del Risco, and lyrics by Enrique del Risco and Alexis Romay.

The story of Cecilio… is loosely based on Cecilia Valdés —Cuba’s most famous opera, from the early XX Century— it takes place in contemporary Cuba, and it adds a racial undertone to the theme of impossible love inherited from Montescos and Capuletos.

The songs were performed, in the order in which they appear in the opera, in Philadelphia, at the Lenfest Hall at Curtis Institute of Music, on June 13, 2012, during the New Works Forum of the annual conference organized by Opera America.

In “Don’t Tell Me You Don’t Know,” Cecilio’s wife explains to a foreign tourist the state of Cuban affairs.

Music: Paquito D’Rivera
Lyrics: Alexis Romay
Mezzo-soprano: Katy Pracht
Piano: Jerome Tan

“Patricia’s Song,” is sung by the female lead as she refuses an advance from a suitor and demands to be respected according to her high social status.

Music: Paquito D’Rivera
Lyrics: Alexis Romay and Enrique del Risco
Soprano: Evelyn Santiago
Piano: Jerome Tan

In “Nothing Lasts Forever,” Patricia’s father, fearing that he is falling from grace with the government, commands his daughter to marry the nephew of his Spanish business partner.

Music: Paquito D’Rivera
Lyrics: Enrique del Risco
Soprano: Evelyn Santiago
Baritone: Eric Dubin
Piano: Jerome Tan

“Betrayal,” features Patricia’s father and Cecilio’s mother as they admonish their respective children for engaging in an interracial romance.

Music: Paquito D’Rivera
Lyrics: Alexis Romay
Soprano: Evelyn Santiago
Baritone: Eric Dubin
Piano: Jerome Tan

Enjoy the drama!

World Book Night 2012: reaching out to light- and non-readers


On the night of Monday, April 23, 2012, I participated in World Book Night 2012, an initiative with an ambitious goal: handing out 1 million books across the United States, in one night. I did it in Penn Station, and live-tweeted about it. Here’s a chronological account of the experience, which includes photos of the future readers. Having shared the joy of reading, and twenty books lighter, I invite you to keep an eye out for World Book Night 2013. If you love books (and if you are reading this, you probably do), you’ll be happy you joined the book-giving ranks.

WORLD BOOK NIGHT 2012 (#wbnamerica)

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: give away 20 books. Your target: light- and non-readers. #wbnamerica. http://t.co/jc1ITaRO

I’m giving out books at Penn Station, NYC. Here’s the first future reader! http://lockerz.com/s/203649579 #wbnamerica

Second book recipient of the night: the flower vendor. #wbnamerica http://pic.twitter.com/sBAn4hg0

Third book recipient of the night: woman with red coat. #wbnamerica http://pic.twitter.com/ovMtyQmw

Fourth book recipient of the night: looking for her train, she still found time to be part of #wbnamerica. http://pic.twitter.com/OOvYfq6D

Fifth book recipient of the night: even the dog will read this novel. #wbnamerica. http://pic.twitter.com/7k5uz2Qr

The sixth book recipient of the night was shy (no paparazzi); this is the seventh, making books hip. #wbnamerica. http://pic.twitter.com/MTJaj3Pm

The eight book recipient of the night was also shy, but we found a solution for the photo. #wbnamerica. http://pic.twitter.com/rrc6geR8

The ninth and tenth book recipients of the night already have two people for their future book club. #wbnamerica http://pic.twitter.com/nMwjgGSh

The 11th and 12th book recipients of the night could not wait to dive into the novel. #wbnamerica http://pic.twitter.com/duvwpQbx

The 13th book recipient of the night was wearing a uniform. Thus, the hand. #wbnamerica http://pic.twitter.com/geRzDCOO

The 14th book recipient of the night told me he had never owned a book. Until today, that is! #wbnamerica http://pic.twitter.com/0iMxoFym

The 15th book recipient of the night wanted no photos. But she’ll start reading tonight during her trip. #wbnamerica http://pic.twitter.com/HBl7vGkr

The 16th book recipient of the night: close up of a redhead. #wbnamerica. http://pic.twitter.com/t9dLozKZ

It took effort to convince my 17th book recipient for #wbnamerica. When she said “no photos,” I settled for this one. http://pic.twitter.com/pUpu3C4S

My 18th book recipient for #wbnamerica was wearing a uniform as well. Here’s the hand of a future reader. http://pic.twitter.com/N2ZEv49o

My 19th book recipient for #wbnamerica holds his gift with the bookmark that marks the date when he decided to read. http://pic.twitter.com/PPSttcVl

“I haven’t read since November. I left school to have my baby.” “Welcome back to reading!” She was the 20th. #wbnamerica http://pic.twitter.com/FWR6mqfy

Highlight of #wbnamerica: “Where am I going to put the book?” he asked. “In your head!” I said. He laughed… But didn’t take the book!

#wbnamerica’s goal was to reach light- and non-readers. When I was approached by readers, I told them: “You already have the gift. Enjoy it!”


NJTransit and Spanish, the upside-down language


[No comments].

Just a Minute, by Paquito D’Rivera


Just a Minute!

When the organizers of the Transient Glory Symposium asked me to write a one-minute long piece for the wonderful Young People’s Chorus of New York City, I thought they were pulling my leg. But then I remembered Chopin’s famous “One Minute Waltz” (that very few players finish on time), called my poet friend Alexis Romay for some help with the lyrics, and got down to work.

First thing I did was to set a page with 30 bars and the metronome mark of 120 quarter notes a minute on it. Then I accommodated a simple rhythmic melody to the Spanish and English words I’d written already with the ones Alexis sent me; so starting with the phrase: Un minuto, tengo solo un minuto para cantar esta canción. All I’ve got is a minute to sing this song, I little by little built a bilingual, sort of humoristic song that lasted exactly that. Just a minute!

Paquito D’Rivera
February 2012


Un minuto

Music: Paquito D’Rivera
Lyrics: P. D’Rivera & Alexis Romay

Un minuto, un minuto.
No preguntes cómo o cuándo,
el tiempo pasa volando.
Tengo solo un minuto
para cantar esta canción.

All I’ve got is a minute
To sing this song.

Just a minute?
Do you mean it?

Hurry up, please it’s time!
Don’t you see, time is gold?

Un minuto diminuto,
¡y no tengo sustituto!

Just one minute,
Only a minute, got a minute.
Solo tengo un minuto.
Un minuto diminuto.
Solo un minuto.
Un minuto.

Hurry up, time flies!
All I’ve got is one minute.
Y el tiempo pasa volando.
Se acabó el minuto.


On (Cuban) dissidents and other pests


The first thing tyrants (and those who support them) do is to dehumanize their enemies. In doing so, they give their allies and followers carte blanche to deal with the dissidents as if they were vermin. The logic of this action is as simple as it is macabre: it is not the same to beat up women on any given street, in broad daylight (what Castro’s thugs did over and over to the the late Laura Pollán, depicted in the photo above) than to just crush a pest who has already been conveniently stripped off her humanity.

Qaddafi had a name for those who opposed him: “rats.” Fidel Castro calls them “worms.” His niece, Mariela Castro Espín, calls them “despicable parasites.”


Twelve years


Today I am celebrating twelve years of living in the United States: twelve years of not having to look over my shoulder when I speak, twelve years of not going to bed hungry, twelve years of not waking up in fear.

The Battle for Content

If you are reading this is only because thanks to blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Google + (and fill in the blank with your favorite social networks), everybody and his aunt has gone from consumer to generator of content. Not only do we choose, based on our preferences and prejudices, where we get the news that inform our opinions and keep our moral compass pointing North. We have also become providers of content, and we put it out there for the world to be improved by our enlightened thoughts. And still, when the world wide web is not enough, people take their message(s) to the streets, and walk around with Japanese, Chinese and Korean characters, quotes from The Book or their favorite writers and every conceivable half-formed thought tattooed on their midriffs, necks, ankles, shoulders, forearms…

We are bombarded with information due to the endless need to stay in our minds and be relevant so innate to humans and corporations alike.

We have “Snapple real facts” in the inside lid of the ubiquitous iced tea bottles, and there we can learn the speed of the fastest serve in tennis, how many times one can fold paper until it is no longer possible to keep folding it, or the amount of hours vultures can fly without flapping their wings. The list goes on.

The day I accepted a job offer from my current employer, we celebrated with Chinese food. As the ritual demands it, at the end of the meal I opened my fortune cookie. It read: “Your income will increase.” We had a good laugh.


We (and this includes you) have gotten used to reading platitudes in fortune cookies, that is of course until we get the ultimate and most accurate of all: “Now you are reading a fortune cookie.” But there’s a new kid on the block to keep us on our toes: Halls, the maker of cough drops whose sales probably go through the roof in the winter, now has raised the bar. It has included a “pep talk” in each and every one of its lozenges.

It annoyed me at first. But I know I will learn to live with it. After all, this is not a bad way to kickstart the day: