LUCIANO PAVAROTTI, A DIPLOMAT ARTIST - January 8, 2009
The world a stage probably fit no other artist more than Luciano Pavarotti. His
stage for the world was the other side of Pavarotti. He engaged his talents and
fame as the ambassador for the globe's most vulnerable disempowered by the conspiracies of nature, man and fortune.
A NEW FATURE ON ART AS DIPLOMATIC DISCOURSE
This will be an ongoing feature taking a closer peek and providing some perspective on the role of film, art, music, stage and prose as diplomatic discourse. Fame has become the meeting ground between politics and popular culture. Celebrity has become the spokesperson for various national and international causes. It happened way before Bono, Clooney, Pitt and Jolie. It is neither necessarily left or right, or for that matter politically neutral. Audrey Hepburn and Peter Ustinoff had become the elegant spokespersons for UNICEF. This is not though just about celebrity as a spokesperson or fundraiser but rather film, art, books and music supplementing or being the substance of diplomatic discourse.
The United Nations has been the globe's diplomatic platform for over six decades now. Initially it was almost an exclusive realm for professional diplomats. Diplomats would deliberate pressing issues within the horseshoe shaped formal chamber of the Security Council. More likely though, the real debate would occur in nonpublic chambers and be dominated by the "P-5," the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
The UN General Assembly encompasses all member states of the United Nations and is presumably the more egalitarian counterpart to the Security Council where all have an equal vote. It was the globe's stage as the world's political and diplomatic leaders stepped up to the raised speaker's podium at the front of the Hall. There were only a few occasions though when the globe's citizens more broadly were drawn to watch: Fidel Castro mesmerized with his theatrical oratory, and Nikita Khrushchev pounded his shoe on his plinth, giving his heel to diplomatic protocol. Then, there was the moment that Rod Stewart almost three decades earlier was afforded the stage, after hours to hold a televised concert to benefit the world's children.
"DO YOU THINK I'M SEXY"
As Rod Stewart danced, pranced and solicited with his song: "Do You Think I'm Sexy," at the head of the UN General Assembly, the Hall's podium was transformed from diplomatic protocol to that speaking the language of art, or, perhaps in some people's view, stooping to popular culture. More lasting than the memory of Rod in spandex though was the performance as testimonial to what the United Nations could reach even if perhaps stooping in some opinions. While being entertained, many, at least, were also being exposed to the plight of the most vulnerable in our world. Both the children to be helped and the audience urged to step into the void seemed empowered by not so much the song but the attention bestowed upon a stage normally utilized for staid diplomatic speech.
It was perhaps and odd, but at the time I thought fitting meeting point between diplomacy and popular culture. The performance may have appeared in conflict with traditional diplomacy generally reserved on this podium for ambassadors, ministers, and sovereigns; but it was this apparent contradiction that in fact may have inspired more attention for the worthy benefit cause and simultaneously rendering the platform more relevant as a world stage.
REACHING & CONTENDING FOR A GLOBAL AUDIENCE:
SOUND BITE LIKE A HOOK IN A POPULAR TUNE
In the 1990's I would appear on the same podium addressing the world assembly on matters of political and human rights, from genocide to international justice. The issues were pressing and somber, and I had the platform of the suffering people of Bosnia & Herzegovina, (BiH), to boost my message. Speakers from the podium, unlike Rod Stewart, were largely limited by the traditional language of diplomacy enclosed by protocol. While this language could offer more cultivated dialogue, it also could mute or diffuse the urgency and relevance of the message. However, it was not just the matter of protocol but also the manner of delivery.
On each occasion that I presented the case, Bosnia & Herzegovina and its victimized people were contending for attention not only with other issues of political, military or human rights significance but also the tug of popular culture. The technology of communication has been transformed, but with this revolution we are also emerging with a collective global Attention Deficit Disorder. It is up the diplomat and advocate to not only speak but to be heard. Substance is only part of the consideration. Brief is more likely to be cited, broadcast and heard. Diplomatic vocabulary may need to be enlarged. Tone and rhythm is as critical to the short, allotted time given to words. A presentation before the UN Security Council may need to be edgy without undue insult or furthering tension, perhaps more like a musical composition rather than a confrontational statement. The "sound bite" consciously planted in a diplomat's speech can be as effective as a good "hook" in a popular song.
A diplomat, in order to be heard, may need to have the sensibilities of an artist. It is more likely though that an artist can employ his skills on behalf of diplomacy or a preferred cause. "Live Aid" delivered music in the cause of raising awareness and feeding the hungry in the mid-1980s. Only a couple of years later, the artistic community was heard by first not performing in South Africa's Sun City, and then it heralded the boycott into a rallying cry against apartheid. This was a period when it had become fashionable for artists to disengage, declaring that they were artists and not about politics. Nonetheless, it was becoming no longer cool to be ignorant or casual. An artist could be an activist and not be considered "uptight." Could an artist though claim his/her professed calling without being involved, or at least politically aware. This did not necessarily translate into setting aside the art or its frequently ambiguous, even relaxed methodology to convey a grave message.
Art on its own in fact may best convey a cause, and not be overbearing or appear contrived. Whether through film, canvas, music or prose, the artist can maintain the audience's interest and convey a message that is retained both intellectually and emotionally. Through the eminence of his/her art as well as celebrity's attributes, the artist can claim the media's attention when calls for action by politicians and NGOs could be lost in diplomatic language or simply a glut of worthy and superficial news stories all competing for attention.
"LUCIANO PAVAROTTI & FRIENDS"
Luciano Pavarotti did not need the United Nations as a stage, even if he was a "Goodwill Ambassador." He was welcome as artist and personality regardless of culture and politics. He perhaps was perceived as a fickle performer for hire, but he was devoted with his talents and person to his humanitarian commitments.
Modena, Italy, his hometown, became Pavarotti's annual stage for humanitarian causes, particularly those helping children. In the 1990's, he benefited "War Child" and children victimized by conflict in Bosnia & Herzegovina and then West Africa. He brought together the world's greatest talents. Most would want to come to Modena to share the stage with Pavarotti, but all eventually would be caught up in the spirit of contributing their talents to the cause: Eric Clapton, Melissa Etheridge, Sting, Lionel Ritchie, Spike Lee, Zuccero, Bryan Adams, The Corrs, Neville Brothers, Meatloaf, Chieftains, Nenad Bach, Sheryl Crow, Brian Eno, the Edge, Bono, (and I'm certain that I negligent in all that participated).
Pavarotti was the gracious host to the music stars for days of rehearsals and to the "honored" guests. But it was not just the celebrities that received Pavarotti's gracious response. No doubt others were inspired by both Pavarotti's giving spirit and the manner of the delivery. Perhaps Lady Diana found inspiration and humility in Pavarotti's efforts. At a table shared with Princess Diana and myself at the after event, Pavarotti raised his huge frame and delivered a smile to every individual who came by to greet the great maestro.
On the Modena stage, Pavarotti was not master of ceremonies as much a part of each performance. He contributed his voice to make performances a fusion of styles and cultures. Through the four hour program, Pavarotti's enthusiasm kept the presentation fresh, the music unique and the audience tireless despite standing through the night's performances.
The "Pavarotti & Friends" concerts and his further contributions made the "Pavarotti Music Center" in Mostar a reality. Pavarotti came to open the center in Mostar in 1997, not because of the name, (the name was my idea and not his initiative). Rather, he understood that Bosnia & Herzegovina could most benefit from the psychological and sociological therapy of music. It was his contribution to a country and its children in need of healing. On the opening night in Mostar, Pavarotti was already feeling the constraints of his health situation. He had just a night or two earlier cancelled a paying gig in England, but he made sure that he made it that rainy raw December night to Mostar despite the obstacles of logistics and politics.
Pavarotti's humanitarian voice was not to the exclusion of concerns politically contiguous. With Brian Eno and U2, Pavarotti contributed a song uniquely composed for the besieged citizens of Sarajevo in the mid-1990s. ("Miss Sarajevo" was inspired by a beauty pageant put together by Sarajevo's young women calling out to the world to help lift the siege and "Don't Let Them Kill Us." It became the theme of a short film by Bill Carter documenting the city's plight). While not overtly political, the composition was a definitive challenge to the political powers standing idly by while the siege, suffering and genocide went unabated: time to stop the killing!
Is there a time for keeping your distance
A time to turn your eyes away
Is there a time for keeping your head down
For getting on with your day
Is there a time for kohl and lipstick
A time for curling hair
Is there a time for high street shopping
To find the right dress to wear
Here she comes
Heads turn around
Here she comes
To take her crown
Is there a time to run for cover
A time for kiss and tell
Is there a time for different colours
Different names you find it hard to spell
Is there a time for first communion
A time for East Seventeen
Is there a time to turn to Mecca
Is there time to be a beauty queen
Here she comes
Beauty plays the clown
Here she comes
Surreal in her crown
Dici che il fiume
Trova la via al mare
E come il fiume Giungerai a me
Oltre i confini
E le terre assetate
Dici che come il fiume
Come il fiume...
E non so più pregare
E nell'amore non so più sperare
E quell'amore non so più
[Translation of the above]
You say that the river
finds the way to the sea
and like the river
you will come to me
beyond the borders
and the dry lands
You say that like a river
like a river...
the love will come
And i don't know how to pray anymore
and in love i don't know how to hope
and for that love i don't know how to wait anymore
[End of Translation]
Is there a time for tying ribbons
A time for Christmas trees
Is there a time for laying tables
And the night is set to freeze
O lijepa, o draga, o slatka slobodo,
[dar u kom sva blaga višnji nam bog je do...]
LUCIANO PAVAROTTI, THE EXAMPLE FOR THE DIPLOMAT-ARTIST
In this column, "Diplomat-Artist," we will take a look at some of the more recent as well as longer standing, obscure or established works of film, art, music, stage and prose that reflect the intersection between diplomacy and artistic expression. The diplomatic message is in the art.
Author was a Signatory of the Dayton Accords and Foreign Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The whole article: http://www.europeancourier.org/154.htm