“Will you tell my story, so that they should not forget me?” the Gentleman from Paris asked psychiatrist Luis Calzadilla. “I promise it. Nobody will forget you”, the doctor answered. And this way it was because Havana also lives in his legends and that of José Maria López Lledín (1899-1985) is one of the most singular.
Years later, very close to one of the most ancient squares of the colonial Havana — that of San Francisco of Asissi — it was placed a human figure sculpted in bronze that has integrated perfectly to the world of myths that inhabit the metropolis. They say that if you touch his index finger or his beard, your wish will come true. And there is the Gentleman from Paris, recreated by artist José Villa Soberón, with his beard and his so brilliant finger to prove it.
José Maria was born in the village of Vilaseca, in the province of Lugo, Spain and came to Cuba as an adolescent. Here he worked multiple trades to survive until he had to serve an unjust imprisonment in the Castle of the Prince which provoked him parafrenia (type of schizophrenia) who accompanied him for the rest of his days.
His walking the streets of the city, his greetings filled with the generosity of an educated and polite aristocrat, inspired chronicles and songs. The most famous, till now, announced: “Look who is coming, the Gentleman from Paris ”. It was the danzón From Paris, a Gentleman, by Antonio Maria Romeu, immortalized by Barbarito Diez.
But the legend of the sanest madman who has inhabited this capital grows and in a few weeks a new musical will be released inspired by his figure, written by Spanish Tomás Maceira, with choreography by Eduardo Blanco and with the music of Descemer Bueno and Kelvis Ochoa.
“We Cubans have idealized the Gentleman from Paris but actually he had an interesting life, this is the story this piece tells”, confessed recently Descemer; whereas Kelvis said that the new piece, which includes 10 songs, including pop, rock, mambo and more, quite loaded with a deep sense of Cuban idiosyncrasy.
“ This doesn’t have anything to do with my habitual work as choreographer of the National Ballet of Cuba”, Eduardo Blanco said, but it is something that fills me with enthusiasm and turns out to be enriching for my career ”.
The piece, to be premiered at the Karl Marx theater next January 17, will have 8 functions and will begin with the audio-visual work about the visit of children from a school to the statue of the Gentleman. There the teacher (Laura de la Uz) and a guide (Ulises Toirac) tell them the story of the mythical personage and one of the children dreams of him.
“Nothing better than the world of the infantile fantasies to tell the life of one of these unforgettable personages who has distinguished Havana. I hope this work serves to revitalize the musical theater that was so important some decades ago in Cuba”, Kelvis concluded.