Speaking of beautiful melodies, you probably thought that you would
never hear another great Puccini opera (because he is dead), right?
Wrong. Wait till you hear Mexican composer Daniel Catán’s Florencia
en el Amazonas, premiered in 1998, and available on Albany Records
(Troy 531/32) from a live Houston Grand Opera performance in 2001.
With masterful understatement, Catán (1949–2011) said, ‘‘In my work
. . . perhaps, the greatest ofmy debts is having learnt that the originality
of an opera need not involve the rejection of our tradition . . . but
rather the profound assimilation of it.’’ I’ll say. How else could he have
gotten the nerve to write such impossibly beautiful, 2183 ecstatic music?
Catán believed that ‘‘what opera is really about is those expressions
which are the foundation of our humanity: love, death, passion, happiness
and that kind of basic emotion. There is really very little else
in life that is as powerful as that which makes two people’s destiny
into one—that, and death. That’s where the great tradition lies. That
is what opera is great at doing: It touches on those things and takes
you through them. It’s something that has been absent from modern
2184 works for a long time and we need to get back to that.’’
Catán has succeeded supremely in that effort in Florencia. If this opera
does not take your breath away, you have not had a stroke; you are
dead. But this might actually bring you back. Everyone and everything
in this recording are wonderful. If you have even a faint interest in
2185 opera, this purchase is de rigueur.