Monday, April 11, 2011

Daniel Catán

LA Opus is saddened to learn of the death of Daniel Catán, composer of the highly successful opera "Il Postino", which had its premiere last September as the opening production of the LA Opera's current season. Catán died unexpectedly in his sleep on Sunday in Austin, Texas, at the age of 62. With his wife, Catán was a resident of South Pasadena. For many years he had been part of the higher education community in greater Los Angeles. At his death, he was on a semester's residency at the University of Texas' Austin campus, where he was working on a new opera based on the Frank Capra movie, "Meet John Doe."

LA Opus publisher Rodney Punt said of the premiere of "Il Postino":

Catán's Postino is a well-crafted, old-fashioned romantic opera, a crowd-pleaser with a conservative but genuinely expressive musical vocabulary. The score suits its subject (with) characters well-etched by a savvy Catán.

Some will criticize Catán's score as not spiky enough for today's audiences. But this composer knows his mind and owns a technique fully capable of expressing his dramatic intentions. Just as Puccini had made more polished and sensuous the crude Verismo tradition he inherited, so Daniel Catán has made subtler the Puccinian tradition to fit this less overtly intense drama.

This is a civilized and gentle tragedy brought to life by a gifted artist and craftsman. Compared to other premieres the LA Opera has offered in recent years - Grendel, Nicholas and Alexandra, or The Fly, for instance - this work's musical expressivity soars high. It should stay with us for years to come.

(The) opera had sung in the apt but still unusual operatic language of Spanish. That made it feel more akin to an Hispanic than an Italian spirit, even with its Italian title and setting. Sonorous words like azul, luminosa, mariposa, and desnuda were projected on the stage's backdrop as its poet protagonist taught his novice pupil the art of metaphor and poetic perception. They announced also the operatic potential of a new world, more properly The New World. Audience members from the longstanding Hispanics for LA Opera support group were not the only misty-eyed ones seeing the enchanted words of their native language floating on a heavenly blue background.

Requiescat in pace, Daniel Catán.

Above photo by Robert Millard courtesy of LA Opera

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