Edited By Hyunseon Lee and Naomi D. Segal
Daniel Catán’s Butterflies; or, The Opera House in the Jungle
ROBERTO IGNACIO DÍAZ
From a certain angle, Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas [Florencia in the Amazon] (1996) is an opera about opera – or, more specifically, an opera about the pleasures and perils of composing Latin American operas in a globalized age.1 Commissioned from Catán by the Houston Grand Opera in conjunction with several other companies, Florencia en el Amazonas is probably the most successful Latin American opera ever written – at least since Brazil’s Carlos Gomes appeared at La Scala in the 1870s.2 Catán’s opera was premiered in Houston in October 1996 in a ← 31 | 32 → production by Francesca Zambello, which travelled to Los Angeles in 1997 and Seattle in 1998. A concert version was performed in Mexico City and Manaus, Brazil, while excerpts and an orchestral suite were played in Bogotá, Colombia. The work was revived in Houston in 2001 and Seattle in 2005, had its European premiere in Heidelberg in 2006, and received new stagings at the Cincinnati Opera in 2008 and Opera Colorado in 2012; it has also been performed at several universities in the United States.3 In an era in which new operatic commissions often fall quickly into oblivion, the performance history of Florencia en el Amazonas, as well as a recording of it released in 2002, are evidence of the presence of a living, if not flawless, example of music drama. Yet the story of Catán’s rise within the American operatic establishment has not been not devoid of...
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