May 21, 2021

Get to Know: Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas

Lyric has announced the full details of the 2021/22 Season, including the Lyric Opera of Chicago premiere of Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas. Learn more about this magical opera and secure your seats today by becoming a subscriber.

Mexican-born composer Daniel Catán (1949-2011) is best known for his Spanish-language contributions to the international operatic repertoire. Catán’s Rappaccini’s Daughter became the first Mexican opera to be produced in the U.S. by a professional opera company. Shortly after the success of Florencia en el Amazonas in 1996, Catán’s Salsipuedes: a Tale of Love, War and Anchovies premiered at the Houston Grand Opera and Il Postino premiered at the Los Angeles Opera. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship Award for his contributions to music. In his lifetime, Catán composed music for ballet, chorus, chamber ensembles, film, theater, television, solo voice, orchestra, and opera.

The libretto for Florencia en el Amazonas was written by one of Catán’s pupils, Marcela Fuentes-Berain, and was based on the characters of the Gabriel García Márquez novel, Love in the Time of Cholera. Márquez is considered one of the most significant Spanish-language authors of the 20th century, having won the 1972 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature.

The opera details the journey of the legendary diva Florencia Grimaldi and her fellow passengers on a boat ride down the Amazon. As they travel through the magical rainforest toward their destination, the opera house in Manaus, each passenger harbors a secret hope of what the trip will bring.

Catán described the opera as “the journey to transcendent love…with all its intricacies, subtleties, wretchedness, and glorious happiness.” Says Lyric’s general director, president & CEO, Anthony Freud, agreed: “Catán’s music has Puccini-like romance and expansiveness, but it also has the Márquez characteristic of magical realism. It’s a really beautiful piece.” Houstonia magazine declared that “the magic of this production lies in the visuals” and the Wall Street Journal called Catán’s score “a lush, colorful cross between Puccini and Ravel.”

Here are some other important things to note about the opera and Lyric’s production:

  • Florencia en el Amazonas was the first Spanish-language opera commissioned by a major American opera company, and it is the first traditional Spanish-language opera to be performed at Lyric. (The two mariachi operas premiered and presented by Lyric comprise their own hybrid category.)

  • Since the opera’s 1996 premiere at Houston Grand Opera, Florencia has also been performed at Seattle Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Opera Colorado, Utah Opera, Washington National Opera, Nashville Opera, Arizona Opera, New York City Opera, the University of Illinois School of Music, and Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

  • Magic realism is a Latin-American narrative strategy that weaves fantastical or mythical characters or elements seamlessly into realistic fiction and visual arts (e.g. the paintings of Frida Kahlo).

  • The 2002 Houston Grand Opera recording of Florencia en el Amazonas features Lyric favorite Ana María Martínez as Rosalba and Suzanna Guzmán as Paula, who also originated the role of Paula in 1996. Martínez will be porttraying the title role in Lyric's production opening November 13.

November 13 – 28, 2021

Florencia en el Amazonas

Florencia en el Amazonas

Lyric’s first Spanish-language work to be presented as part of the mainstage opera season, this story about a glamorous diva on a life-changing adventure on the Amazon is suffused by the entrancing allure of magical realism. Florencia Grimaldi, a renowned diva, is engaged to perform at the opera house of Manaus, Brazil. Traveling there by boat, she’s consumed by longing for her long-lost lover, who she hopes will be awaiting her. Florencia and her fellow passengers are all intensely memorable characters, and they’re illuminated by the magnificent, sumptuous romantic music created by a true musical genius — Mexico’s finest opera composer, Daniel Catán.

Photos: Lynn Lane / Houston Grand Opera