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It seems Spanish poetry is all the rage in NYC. The NYPL has a free exhibit on Federico Garcia Lorca‘s Poet in New York, and this past Saturday the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center hosted Viva Pablo Neruda! / An Evening of Wine & Music, celebrating Nobel Prize-winner Pablo Neruda, the controversial Chilean social activist, diplomat, politician, and one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century.

Neruda’s body was recently resumed for an autopsy using today’s technology as his death is suspected of being the result of foul play. One of the most widely read poets, one could say that the raising of his dead body has brought interest in his work back to life.

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The evening began with a wine tasting featuring red and white Chilean wines from Pascual Toso, Anakena, Veramonte, Los Vascos and Primus.

But it was the live performance that truly made the evening spectacular. The performance featured a poetic and dramatic exploration of Neruda’s extraordinary life and work, showcasing scenes from Voice Afire’s upcoming show, Off-Broadway hopeful, My Life with Pablo Neruda which is based on and inspired by his popular poetry collection, 100 Love Sonnets. Voice Afire had its debut in 2007 and powers through this season with a new variety of programming.

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The live performance featured poems sung by soprano Kacey Cardin, tenor Javier Sanchez, performances by actor Lea McKenna-Garcia, actor Paul Bellantoni, and a dance featuring dancers Derek Stratton and Beth Lewis. Cardin’s soaring alto and Stratton and Lewis’ dance proved to be the highlights of the evening. This show was presented with support by The Ontario Arts Council.

The performance was in the form of a concert reading with singers at music stands, no props or proper set. This form helped the viewers focus on the voices and the poetry, however it did not in any way suggest a show of proper size for an Off-Broadway run were on the horizon. Nonetheless, the talent was enough to invite a second chance.

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Those interested can contribute to support the show by June 12 here.

- Darrel Holnes