WORKS: Florencia en el Amazonas
PERFORMER: Patricia Schuman, Mark S Doss, Ana María Martínez, Suzanne Guzmán, Hector Vasquez, Oren Gradus, Chad Shelton; Houston Grand Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Patrick Summers
CATALOGUE NO: TROY 531-32
Compared with some other recent American operas – Previn’s Streetcar Named Desire and Picker’s Thérèse Raquin come naggingly to mind – Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas is a strong work. But those operas, sadly, are low points of reference and Florencia (premiered in Houston in 1996) is not without its disappointments. Yet it promises much, thanks to a compelling plot and the good theatrical instincts of this Mexican-born composer. Like his earlier opera Rappaccini’s Daughter, Florencia sets a Spanish libretto and reflects an American trend towards embracing the potential audience among those who speak the USA’s second language. The trouble is it sounds more like Puccini’s daughter, with elements of Hollywood thrown in.
Dedicated to Gabriel García Márquez, Florencia is inspired by the great writer’s brand of magical realism. The plot tells of a voyage up the Amazon to Manaus in the early 1900s; the opera singer Florencia is returning home after 20 years, ostensibly for a concert, but really in search of her roots and her former lover. In the title role, Patricia Schuman is believable as the diva, soaring through her final aria with plenty of beautiful tone and no less temperament. She is surrounded by a fine cast, and Patrick Summers draws a warm performance from his Houston Grand Opera forces. John Allison