Composer Daniel Catán dies at 62

Composer Daniel Catán dies at 62
© Elizabeth Beristain
Acclaimed and beloved composer Daniel Catán passed away suddenly on Saturday, April 9 at the age of 62. He was in Austin, TX at the time where he was teaching for a semester at the Butler School of Music, University of Texas. Cause of death was a heart attack.

Catán is known best for his lyrical romantic style and his operas, acclaimed by critics and audiences alike. His most recent opera, Il Postino, premiered with great success at Los Angeles Opera in September 2010 starring Plácido Domingo. With a libretto by the composer based on the novel by Antonio Skármeta and the film by Michael Radford, Il Postino “is undeniably beautiful, and it packs an emotional punch” (The San Francisco Chronicle) and “delivers in a way few modern operas do.” (The San Francisco Examiner) His second opera, Florencia en el Amazonas, was frequently performed and garnered great acclaim: “The world-premiere engagement… in 1996, was one of the most successful in the history of Houston Grand Opera. It is a ravishing piece of music, written in an unabashedly tonal idiom that just recently had seemed extinct.” (Opera news) Florencia en el Amazonas has the distinction of being the first opera in Spanish commissioned by a major American company. Its success led to the commission of Salsipuedes for the same company. Catán had recently created a new chamber version of his first opera, La Hija de Rappaccini, and was currently at work on his fifth opera, Meet John Doe, which was due to premiere in October 2012.

Born in Mexico and later an American citizen, Catán studied philosophy at the University of Sussex in England before enrolling in Princeton as a PhD student in composition. Following his studies, he served as music administrator at Mexico City’s Palace of Fine Arts (1983-89).

His death is a great loss to the music world and to the many friends and fans who knew him to be a very talented, kind, erudite, and generous person. He lived in Pasadena, California and was on the faculty of College of the Canyons. He is survived by his wife Andrea Puente, three children, Chloe, Tom, and Alan, and four grandchildren.

Upcoming performances include:

June, 2011: Il Postino at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris

October, 2011: Il Postino at the Center City Opera Theater, Philadelphia

March-April, 2012: Florencia en el Amazonas at Opera Colorado, Denver

LA Opera's tribute page
obituary by David Patrick Stearns in The Guardian
Mark Swed's appreciation in The Los Angeles Times