By Yasmin Rincon
LOS ANGELES – The career of the Mexican Daniel Catan as a composer of opera in Spanish marks a new milestone on Thursday with the premiere in Los Angeles of “Il Postino” featuring tenor Placido Domingo in the starring role.
The is the fourth grand opera for Catan, who was born in Mexico City 61 years ago in Mexico City and who has spent 30 years composing operas.
Domingo, who is also director of the Los Angeles Opera, will be the voice of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda onstage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
“This is the first time that Placido Domingo will sing some of my compositions and it is a real honor and privilege to work with him, because he is a singer of enormous experience and is also a great artist who enriches the role with his comments and observations,” Catan told Efe.
Catan is the first Mexican composer whose operas have been widely presented at theaters in the United States and other countries around the world.
His first work in this genre was the 1980 opera “Encuentro en el Ocaso” (Meeting at Sundown), which the composer describes as his “work zero.”
“This opera was a great learning experience for me, after which I did ‘La Hija de Rappaccini’ (Rappaccini’s Daughter) in 1990, whose libretto is based on a story by the American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne and a play by the Mexican writer Octavio Paz.
“‘La Hija de Rappaccini’ marked the beginning of my career as a composer,” Catan, who studied music in England and the United States, said.
With the approval of Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Catan premiered in 1996 “Florencia in the Amazon,” an opera based on some of the characters in the Nobel laureate’s novel “Love in the Time of Cholera.”
“‘Florencia in the Amazon’ has had a great deal of success all over the world, it’s still performed almost every year, it has been my strongest work up to now,” the composer said, adding that writing an opera usually takes from 4 to 6 years.
The Hagen Theater in Germany provided the stage in 2004 for the premiere of “Salsipuedes, a Tale of Love, War, and Anchovies,” Catan’s third operatic composition, in which he included Afro-Cuban rhythms.
“This work has a very special orchestration, there are no strings, no violins, so the sound produced in it is something very attractive. But undoubtedly my most mature opera, into which I have poured all my experience, is ‘Il Postino,’” said the musician, who has lived for the past 11 years in Pasadena, California.
Catan’s compositions are indelibly sealed with love for his roots and his language.
“My operas have always been in Spanish, because my wish and my lifetime project is to represent not only our language, but also the richness of our culture. Very few operas in Spanish are part of the international repertoire, so I think it’s important to keep working at it,” he said.
“I feel extremely proud of all that it means to be Hispanic. Spain gave us a wonderful culture and Latin America has known how to enrich it, so that this people, this culture enriched through the centuries is well worth bringing to the world in all its splendor,” the composer said.
Catan’s music is heard with continuing frequency on the stages of Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Michigan, Germany, Mexico, Vienna, Paris, Central and South America – theaters of the world where opera in Spanish is taking its place. EFE