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Núria Espert

Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts 2016

Your Majesties,
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury,

This award, this distinction, has been a great joy for me, above all because I share it with all my colleagues in my beautiful profession: the theatre.

The theatre took possession of me at thirteen years of age. It chose me. At first gently; but in three, four years it had become the absolute master of my life, my desires, my dreams. Ever more powerfully, ever more demandingly so. It made me a passionate, ambitious person so devoted to the theatre that I could not be myself except when on the stage, except when transformed into another person: not a character, a person. These transformations are never pleasant. My master is a very harsh master; I have caused myself harm so many times trying to serve him. I still try to serve him. But he never says “Enough… Stop… Enough...”

The Minutes of the Jury state that I represent a link between classicism and modernity and that I have built my career on my two beloved languages, Catalan and Spanish. I am grateful for and moved by both statements.
And to do more than express my thanks, I will ‘make use’ of two geniuses: Lorca and Shakespeare. Both classics and both contemporary.

I shall begin with Lorca’s Doña Rosita the Spinster: Monologue from Act 3: Rosita is 45 years old and speaks for the first time to her aunt and nanny about what she has been waiting for. The return of her cousin, who she was in love with and engaged to be married to for 30 years.

“For many years I grew accustomed to living beyond myself, thinking of things that were far away, and now those things no longer exist I go on giving more and more to that cold emptiness, seeking an escape I have never found. I knew everything. I knew he had married; he had charged a kind soul with telling me, and I went on receiving his letters, embracing an illusion, so full of sighs that I even deceived myself. If no one had said anything; if you had not known; if no one had known but me, his letters and his lies would have sustained my illusion, just as in the first year of his absence. But everyone knew, and I was met with pointing fingers that mocked my chastity as a fiancée, and made my spinster’s fan appear grotesque. Every year that passed was like a secret pledge that withered my flesh. One day a friend marries then another and another, and tomorrow has a grown-up child, and comes to show me its school report, and they make new homes and new songs, and I am the same, with the same emotions, the same; I am the same as before, cutting the same carnations, gazing at the same clouds; and one day I’m out walking and I realise I no longer know anyone; the boys and girls leave me behind because I bore them, and one says: ‘Oh, that’s the old maid’; and another, a handsome boy, with curly hair, comments: ‘No one will have her now. ’ And I hear him and I can’t say a word, only walk on swiftly, with a mouth full of poison, and an enormous desire to run away, to throw off my shoes, and rest and not move again, ever, from my corner. 

Now I am old. Yesterday I heard Nurse say that I might still marry. There is no way. Don’t think it. I have lost hope now of having him whom I loved with all my heart, whom I loved….whom I love. Everything is finished… and yet, with all illusions gone, I still wake with the most dreadful of feelings, the feeling of nursing a hope that is dead. I want to run, I want not to see; I want to be left calm, empty… (Doesn’t a wretched woman have the right to breathe freely?) Yet hope pursues me, circles me, bites me, like a dying wolf snapping its teeth for the last time.”

And, to finish, something very brief from Shakespeare’s King Lear. They are his last sane words before choosing madness as the only way to endure his pain. He talks about the homeless living day to day in that invisible situation in which he finds himself. He confesses he has never concerned himself with them before.

Poor naked wretches, whereso’er you are, That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm, How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides, Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en Too little care of this!

Thank you.

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