MUSIC SALES | CONTEMPORARY OPERAS
i Title of work
Daniel Catรกn Operas La Hija de Rappaccini | Florencia en el Amazonas Salsipuedes | Il Postino
‘Daniel Catán is possibly Mexico’s most significant [contemporary] composer of operas.’ Robert Kirzinger, Fanfare
Cover image: Elizabeth Beristain
Daniel Catán, whose sudden death in April 2011 shocked the opera world, composed in a lyrical, romantic style that lends itself particularly well to the human voice, which features in the majority of his works. Lush orchestrations reminiscent of Debussy and Strauss along with Latin American instruments and rhythms are regularly heard in his music. His opera Florencia en el Amazonas has the distinction of being the first opera in Spanish commissioned by a major American company. The success of this opera led to the commission of Salsipuedes for Houston Grand Opera. His fourth opera, Il Postino, was commissioned by Los Angeles Opera and premiered in Los Angeles, Vienna and Paris in 2011 featuring Plácido Domingo. At the time of his death, Catán was at work on his next opera, Meet John Doe. Born in Mexico, Catán studied philosophy at the University of Sussex in England before enrolling in Princeton as a PhD student in composition under the tuition of Milton Babbitt, James Randall and Benjamin Boretz.
La Hija de Rappaccini An opera in two acts
La Hija de Rappaccini An opera in two acts (1983) Libretto in Spanish by Juan Tovar. Based on the play by Octavio Paz and short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
1 hour 45 minutes
Premiere April 1991, Teatro del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City Cast & Orchestration S, Mz, 2T, Bar, 3 offstage female voices; 3(pic)+ 2rec.3(ca).3(bcl).3/4331/timp.3perc/pf.cel.hp/str Reduced Orchestration 2perc.hp.2pf
Synopsis Catán’s setting of Rappaccini’s Daughter is based on the Nathaniel Hawthorne story, and retold by Mexican Nobel Prize-winning author Octavio Paz. Set during the Italian Renaissance, Rappaccini’s Daughter is a multi-layered story that deals not only with the scientific struggle of good and evil, but also with the blurring gray lines created as both good and evil merge.
‘Catán’s music is outwardly conservative but colorful, often beautiful. His flair for dramatic orchestration, as well as his melodic language, is an update on the tradition of Puccini and Respighi [with a] lushness of the score.’ Robert Kirzinger, Fanfare
La Hija de Rappaccini (Nathan Russell)
Florencia en el Amazonas (Lynn Lane)
‘Florencia en el Amazonas is a beautifully crafted work... The music glistens like sun on the river; it is graceful and ravishing. And, in case you haven’t figured it out, it’s absolutely tonal... in the face of such exquisite music, music that drinks the listener in sensually... it flows and flows, uninterrupted... I’m enchanted. This is a gorgeous, fascinating, familiar-yet-new experience, and I recommend it to everyone.’ Robert Levine, Classics Today
‘In an era when so many new operas are weighed down by familiar literary and theatrical texts, Florencia en el Amazonas seems motivated by its music: it surges forward in gusts of lyrical inspiration. It’s a theatrically canny work that moves swiftly [and] the opera’s characters and plot are original.’ Fred Cohn, Opera News
(1996) Libretto in Spanish by Marcela Fuentes-Berain. Duration
1 hour 40 minutes
Premiere October 25, 1996, Houston Grand Opera Cast & Orchestration 2S, Mz, T, 2Bar, 2B, chorus; 2(2pic).22+bcl.2(cbn)/3221.timp.4perc/hp.pf/str
Synopsis The steamboat El Dorado is sailing down the Amazon in the early 1900s. The passengers are travelling to hear the legendary but intensely private opera singer Florencia Grimaldi sing at the reopening of the theatre in Manaus. Florencia is travelling alone and incognito, harboring a burning desire to find her long-lost lover Cristóbal, a butterflyhunter, whose love unlocked her staggering powers of musical expression. Once en route, Rosalba accidentally drops her research notes overboard. The Captain’s nephew, Arcadio, manages to rescue them, and the pair becomes aware of a strong mutual attraction. The evening concludes as Paula and Alvaro’s attempt at a romantic dinner dissolves into a bitter squabble. Initially unaware of her identity, the Captain tells Florencia of the fate of Cristóbal, who disappeared without trace in the jungle, thus dashing her dearest ambition. As a heated card game brings out the contrasting sexual and hostile tensions between Rosalba and Arcadio, and Paula and Alvaro, a violent storm brews outside. In saving the ship from being crushed, Alvaro is swept overboard; the Captain is knocked unconscious and despite Arcadio’s efforts at the helm, the ship runs aground. Paula mourns the loss of Alvaro, realizing that it was pride and not lack of love that stood between them. Riolobo appears again mysteriously to return Alvaro to the ship, claiming that Paula’s laments saved him from death. Rosalba, distraught that her notebook has been ruined in the storm, talks to the incognito Florencia about her research. During the ensuing discussion on Grimaldi, Florencia declares passionately that Grimaldi’s gift was a result of her love for Cristóbal. Rosalba realizes that she is talking to her heroine and, hearing her story, decides her own love for Arcadio shouldn’t be suppressed.
Florencia en el Amazonas An opera in two acts
Florencia en el Amazonas An opera in two acts
Salsipuedes, A Tale of Love, War and Anchovies A comic opera in three acts
Salsipuedes, A Tale of Love, War and Anchovies A comic opera in three acts (2004) Libretto by Eliseo Alberto and Francisco Hinojosa. Translated by Shane Gasbarra and Daniel CatĂĄn.
2 hours 30 minutes
October 29, 2004, Houston Grand Opera
Cast & Orchestration 3 S, Mz, 4 T, Bar, B-bar, B, SAT Chorus (24 voices total); 3(pic)25(bcl)2/3.4Ctpt.2+btbn.1/timp. perc+4onstage-perc/pf.hp/vc.db
Synopsis This opera is set on the fictional island of Salsipuedes in 1943. When the islandâ€™s one-boat navy gears up to take on the Nazis, the males of two newly-married couples are mistakenly taken aboard the ship to the consternation of their wives. The couples are finally reunited in Puerto Alegre, where they learn about love, trust and fidelity. Once reconciled, the couples unearth a treacherous plot by the captain of the ship, resulting in tragedy, sacrifice and new beginnings.
Salsipuedes, A Tale of Love, War and Anchovies (Brett Coomer)
‘Though billed as a Caribbean comedy, this lively opera was unexpectedly dark… The opera alternated between high-spirited crowd scenes, with pungent African drums and Latin rhythms, and rhapsodic vocal writing that recalled Madama Butterfly and La Rondine... Catán’s orchestral originality went beyond his use of unconventional instruments.’ Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal
‘Catán’s wondrously transparent music, strongly influenced by the work of Cuban musicians in exile, is scored for large orchestra without upper strings and enhanced by Latin percussion. He has easily met the self-declared challenge of integrating Caribbean rhythms with the flowing vocal lines of traditional opera... The two-and-a-half-hour work is... provocative...’ Wes Blomster, Musical America
Il Postino An opera in three acts
Il Postino An opera in three acts (2010) Libretto in Spanish by Daniel Catán. Based on a novel by Antonio Skármeta and the film by Michael Radford. Duration
2 hours 5 minutes
September 23, 2010, Los Angeles Opera, CA
Cast & Orchestration 2S, Mz, 4T, Bar, B-bar, 5T, 2Bar, 2B, 1 silent role (boy), TB chorus; 3(pic).2(obda).2+bcl.2/4.3.2+btbn.1/timp. 2perc.pf.hp/str; Onstage: ssx, tpt, sous, perc, riq, can Reduced Orchestration 1(pic).1.2([ssx]:bcl).1/2.1.0+btbn([sous]).0/timp. (by Stefan Kozinski)
Synopsis The action takes place on a small Italian island in the 1950's – Mario Ruoppolo is a gentle young man in an insular Italian fishing village where time moves slowly. Since Mario's seasickness doesn't allow him to fish, he takes the job of postman, delivering mail on a bicycle to only a single customer, the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Neruda has been exiled to Italy because of his communist views. After a while, the two become good friends. In the meantime, Mario meets and becomes smitten with a beautiful young lady, Beatrice Russo, in the village's only cafe. With the help of Neruda, Mario is able to better communicate his love to Beatrice through the use of poetic metaphors. Soon Mario is composing poetry of his own, with hopes of not only attracting Beatrice's attention, but of winning her heart.Mario and Beatrice are later married, and at the same time Neruda and his wife Matilde learn that they are allowed to return to Chile. Some months after Neruda's departure, Mario makes a nostalgic recording of island sounds for Neruda. Several years later, Neruda comes back to the island and finds Beatrice and her son in the same old cafe. She tells him that Mario was killed just before the birth of their son, at a communist rally in Naples, and gives Neruda a letter that Mario left for him.
Il Postino (Robert Millard)
‘The piece... is undeniably beautiful, and it packs an emotional punch.’ Joshua Kosman, The San Francisco Chronicle
‘You’ve got something with considerable crowd appeal, which brought the opening night audience to its feet.’ Anne Midgette, The Washington Post
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Daniel Catán - opera brochure 2019: La Hija de Rappaccini | Florencia en el Amazonas | Salsipuedes | Il Postino