San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Legend Serrat wows San José crowds for three nights

On Friday and Saturday night, a packed Melico Salazar Theater greeted a Catalán legend – singer Joan Manuel Serrat, who captivated audiences during three nights of music in the Costa Rican capital.

Serrat, 69, is wildly popular here, and his two concerts at the downtown Melico Salazar Theater sold out in a matter of hours. On Sunday, Serrat wrapped up the weekend with a free concert in front of an estimated 17,000 people in western San José La Sabana Park. The municipality of San José organized the final night’s free concert.

Both indoor concerts were divided in two parts – during the first, Serrat paid tribute to Hernández by reciting bits of his poetry before each song. While the poems did not directly inspire Serrat’s well-known compositions, they did provide an interesting complement to them. In the background, video projections offered striking images from Spanish newspaper clips during the era of General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship.

Hernández, known as the “people’s poet,” fought Franco’s troops during the Spanish Civil War and was later sentenced to death for his poetry. The sentence was commuted to a long prison term, but Hernández died in prison at the age of 31.

Serrat’s well-known classics – some of which Serrat has been singing for the past 46 years – captivated the audience during the show’s second half. “Caminante No Hay Camino” and “Mediterraneo” are just as poetic as they are melodic, and Serrat received a standing ovation for both.

After selling out two nights in a row, Serrat drew tens of thousands of fans to Sunday night’s free concert in the park. During that concert, San José Mayor Johnny Arraya declared the Catalan singer a “Distinguished Visitor of San José,” an uncommon public tribute.

In appropriate fashion, Serrat ended the weekend’s concerts with “Fiesta,” a song that tells the story of how a party begins and ends.

Serrat’s tour is titled “Hijo de la luz y de la sombra” (“Son of light and shade”), named in honor of Miguel Hernández, an important Spanish poet and playwright.

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