Reuben Pace

Extending Maltese Heritage into Artistic Expression

From century to century, millennium to millennium our little country consisting of 3 main islands changed hands several times. This is not the right place to recount the history of Malta but, luckily for us, each empire / people who ruled over Malta over the millennia left some kind of heritage behind them (although much more has sadly been destroyed).

Starting from the several Neolithic temples scattered around the islands to modern constructions such as the new parliament each item can give us an insight about what we were, what we are and possibly where we are heading. Admired by tourists and locals alike these historical gems have also provided inspiration to several artists who either were born here or visited the islands at some point or another and who themselves left artistic heritage behind. One can mention painters such as Giuseppe Cali and Antione Camilleri , sculptors such as Melchior Cafa and Antonio Sciortino, composers such as Girolomo Abos and Charles Camilleri, architects such as Girolamo Cassar and Lorenzo Gafa, poets such as Anton Buttigieg and Joe Friggieri and authors / playwrights such as Gorg Peresso and Francis Ebejer, the list goes on.

For me as a native Maltese composer this historical heritage that we proudly show off to foreigners is one of my main inspirations. In fact my first opera Il-Kantilena is based on the oldest poem in Maltese which goes by the same name. This poem was found by accident in the 1960's in the Notarial Archives in Valletta (these archives in themselves contain hundreds of thousands of priceless documents which keep on adding to our valuable heritage). The Neolithic temples of Hagar Qim (limits of Zurrieq) were the main inspiration behind my major work The Everlink which is set for orchestra, narrator and film projection.

Belt il-Bniedem is a prime example of this patriotic and historical inspiration, the first two operas are set in what most probably are the two darkest episodes in Maltese history - the Great Siege of 1565 during which the Knights of St.John and the Maltese fought against a huge Ottoman army and World War 2 during which Malta was the most bombed place on Earth. Both libretti involved thorough historical research to make sure fact and fiction become artistically intertwined.

Thus by taking inspiration from my native country's heritage like innumerable artists before me ,I would like to leave behind my humble legacy but in the same time spur other artists to do the same. This work is dedicated to all my Maltese ancestors who over the centuries fought and shed their blood and sweat to defend this precious rock which we proudly call home. To quote a famous poem by one of the 'classic'

Maltese poets Ruzar Briffa 'U L-Kotra qamet f'daqqa – u ghajtet 'Jien Maltija !

Miskin min ikasbarni – miskin min jidhak bija!

Non-artistic translation

And the crowd stood up together and shouted 'I am Maltese!

Forsaken is he who belittles me, forsaken is he who cheats on me.

Reuben Pace producer / composer/ artistic director