Florencia en el Amazonas
Florencia en el Amazonas (English title: Florencia in the Amazon) is an opera in two acts composed by Daniel Catán. It contains elements of magical realism in the style of Gabriel García Márquez and uses a libretto by Marcela Fuentes-Berain, one of his pupils. The characters are inspired by García Márquez, but the story is not drawn directly from any of his works.
Florencia was co-commissioned by Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, and Seattle Opera and premiered in Houston on October 25, 1996. It was the first Spanish-language opera to be commissioned by major United States opera houses.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast, 25 October 1996
(Conductor: Vjekoslav Sutej)
|Florencia Grimaldi||soprano||Sheri Greenawald|
The title character, Florencia Grimaldi, is a famous opera soprano returning to her homeland to sing at the opera house in Manaus with the hope that her performance shall attract her lover Cristóbal, a butterfly hunter who has disappeared into the jungle. She boards the steamboat El Dorado for a trip down the Amazon River, along with several passengers who are traveling to hear her sing. The passengers, however, are unaware of her identity. One of them, Rosalba, is a journalist planning to write a book about Grimaldi and hoping to interview her. In preparation, Rosalba has compiled a notebook for two years with information about the diva.
Florencia spends her time on the boat brooding about Cristóbal. She does not interact much with the other passengers initially, and the thread connecting the subplots in the story is provided by the ship's mate, Ríolobo, who also is the focus for the elements of magical realism. Ríolobo functions as a narrator, one of the characters, and the intermediary between reality and the mystical world of the river.
Meanwhile, Rosalba is beginning to fall in love with the steamboat captain's nephew, Arcadio, who rescues her notebook when it falls overboard. The two play a game of cards with Paula and Álvaro, a bickering couple who are also looking forward to Grimaldi's performance. After the game, a storm develops and Álvaro saves the boat but is thrown overboard. With the captain knocked unconscious and Ríolobo having disappeared, Arcadio takes the helm but the ship runs aground. Ríolobo reappears in the form of a river spirit and the storm stops after he calls upon the river gods.
The characters recover from the storm. Florencia seems to feel Cristóbal's presence and is unsure whether she is alive or dead. Rosalba, focused on her objective, resists the attraction she and Arcadio feel for each other. Meanwhile, Paula, in spite of their constanting fighting, recognizes that she still loves Álvaro and mourns his loss. Again Ríolobo again appeals to the river and Álvaro is suddenly returned to the ship.
In the storm, Rosalba's precious notebook has been lost again, and when it is recovered again it turns out ruined by the water. Distraught, she argues with Florencia about the meaning and value of its contents when suddenly she discovers that the woman she has been arguing with is the very singer she has been longing to interview. Realizing how Florencia draws inspiration from love, Rosalba decides to give in to her feelings for Arcadio.
The boat arrives in Manaus, but a cholera outbreak keeps the passengers quarantined aboard the ship. Florencia despairs of a reunion with Cristóbal, but in the end she is magically transformed into a butterfly, to represent her spirit going off to be reunited with her lover.
- First performed at Houston Grand Opera, 1996
- Los Angeles Opera, 1997
- Seattle Opera, March 1998
- Bellas Artes Opera, México City, 1999
- Houston Grand Opera, April-May 2001
- Madison Symphony Orchestra, Suite from Florencia en el Amazonas (world premiere), October 18-19, 2003
- Seattle Opera, 2004-2005 season: February-March 12, 2005
- Michigan State University Opera Theatre, March-April 2007
- Theater Heidelber (European première), 2006 
- Cincinnati Opera: July, 2008
- Moores Opera Center, University of Houston, January-February 2009
- Maryland Opera Studio, University of Maryland, November 2010
- Opera Colorado, March 2012
- Krannert Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, November 2012
- Utah Opera, January 2013
- Albany Records CD recording of the Houston Grand Opera performance with Patricia Schuman (Florencia), Mark S. Doss (Riolobo), Ana Maria Martinez (Rosalba), Suzanna Guzmán (Paula), Hector Vasquez (Alvaro), Chad Shelton (Arcadio), Oren Gradus (Captain), Patrick Summers (conductor). TROY531-32
- Seattle Opera Archives
- Houston Grand Opera: Florencia en el Amazonas
- University of Wisconsin-Whitewater[dead link]
- Michigan State University press release[dead link]
- Theater und Orchester Heidelberg: Florencia en el Amazonas
- Cincinnati Opera: Florencia en el Amazonas[dead link]
- University of Houston, Moores Opera Center 2008-2009 Season: Florencia en el Amazonas
- Krannert Center: Florencia en el Amazonas