Catán: “Florencia” in Heidelberg

Catán: “Florencia” in Heidelberg
Ken Howard; courtesy, Houston Grand Opera
“Five centuries have passed since the discovery of the Americas, and still we are amazed at the wonders of the New World.” So proclaims Heidelberg Theatre director Bernd Feuchtner on the eve of the European premiere of Daniel Catán’s opera Florencia en el Amazonas. With stage direction by Michael Beyer and conducted by Noam Zur, the production showcases soprano Larissa Krokhina in the title role.

Feuchtner continues, “...while opera in old Europe seems dead as a doornail, over there it is giving birth to magnificent things... At the 1996 [premiere] of Florencia en al Amazonas at the Houston Grand Opera, a new singular and very powerful aroma began to filter through from the stage... Grand, easily memorable phrases, with dramatically effective high notes, catch the listener by surprise. [His] instrumental palette [possesses] powerful melodic writing [that] shimmers with all the colors of an exotic butterfly...”

Feuchtner observes that the old and new worlds meet in story and music. “Old realism [was] replaced by the magic realism of Latin America. [And] Florencia is an opera about a journey — the journey of life.” The story follows the Amazonian trip of the steamship El Dorado, as diva Florencia Grimaldi travels to Columbia to take the stage after a 20-year absence. During the journey she also grapples with her longing for Cristobal, the lover she abandoned for the sake of her career. Feuchtner adds, “Stravinsky was the stimulus for [Catán’s] forming of sounds and instrumentation. Also Ravel. But [Florencia’s] great, impassioned vocal lines would have been unthinkable without Puccini...” And within Catán’s conjuring of the Amazon, Feuchtner views the river as “none other than the river of love, and it is the waves of love that inspire the music.”

Florencia opens a week-long festival of Mexican art and culture, during which time Catán also participates in lectures and seminars at the University of Heidelberg. The production runs through July for a total of nine performances.

Florencia en el Amazonas 140'
Opera in Two Acts
Spanish libretto by Marcela Fuentes-Berain
2S, Mz, T, 2Bar, B; SATB
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