Met Opera House building–Lincoln Center/Friday November 16th, 2023.
This week, friends, welcome once again to the Met Opera.
And welcome this time, to current, contemporary, lush, luxuriant, exotic, winding, super entertaining, classically beautiful opera, which premiered that evening, at the Met Opera.
And welcome to the only third Spanish language opera, ever presented on the Met stage.
Welcome to an opera including unbelievably stunning soaring melodies, sumptuous arias, surreal and magical realism, and romantic drama, inspired by Gabriel García Márquez novels, in particular his iconic “El amor en los tiempos del cólera (“Love in the time of cholera”), and an opera evocative also of the 1977-1986 American TV series “The Love boat”, as well as evocative of German film director Werner Herzog’s works, and in particular, both his 1972 film, “Aguirre, the wrath of god” about a “mad” expedition to find the mythical “El Dorado”, or Herzog’s 1982 film, “Fitzcarraldo”, as this opera is also set on a large river boat, a steamboat (called El Dorado), in the Amazon River Basin, en route towards an opera house in Manaus, Brazil.
Wow and yay!
Welcome to Mexican composer Daniel Catán (1949-2011), and his sumptuous, tropical, exotic and colorful two acts opera :”Florencia en el Amazonas” (1996), with a wonderfully mystical, enchanting, mythical and tight libretto, by celebrated Mexican writer across film, television and radio, and student of García Márquez, Marcela Fuentes-Berain (b. 1955).
Wow and Yay!
Let’s now, listen to the beautiful trailer and admire the wonderful colors:
So, what is “Florencia en el Amazonas”‘ plot about ?
It is about a successful and nostalgic diva, hoping to find again her “lost” love (a “butterfly hunter”), at the end of an Amazon river trip, she (Florencia, the diva), is about to embark on.
Her full name is Florencia Grimaldi, and she joins, “incognito”, and last minute, in addition to the crew, a few other passengers (a mystical character who introduces the passengers, a young journalist obsessed with the diva, the nephew’s captain who will eventually “fall” for the young journalist, and a “quarreling” long timed married couple, who will eventually rekindle their love), and all board an Amazon riverboat, en route towards an opera theater, in Manaus, Brazil.
Of course at the end of Act 1, once we have met all the characters, a violent storm overturns the ship. And by Act 2, in the aftermath of the accident, all characters find or rekindle their love for one another. Florencia in particular, explains that her success as a diva, is due to the love her “butterfly hunter” has inspired her.
Yet, as the steamboat called “El Dorado”, finally reaches Manaus, everyone learns that the city has been struck down, by cholera.
The opera concludes elegantly, with Florencia’s “spirit” then, entering a beautiful “metamorphosis”.
Her “transformed spirit” allows her then, to drift towards her “butterfly hunter”‘s own spirit, as she magically and mystically starts growing “wings”, and turns into a stunning “butterfly”.
She then, glides /”flies” delicately into the welcoming, humid and dark jungle.
What to say about the production?
That the feast of imaginative characters brought to Mary Zimmerman’s colorful and poetic (mostly green and blue) production, was incredibly entertaining. Zimmerman’s production choices telegraph perfectly that the characters are on a “quest” (for love), while sailing on a huge, mighty (and potentially dangerous), mystical tropical river.
And I especially enjoyed the supernatural shape sifting mystical and mysterious “narrator” character, who changes appearance as the opera unfolds, as he brings instant magic and surrealism to the production.
I also truly enjoyed the huge variety of fun tropical fauna and flora found in the Amazon river: among other “characters”, loved in particular, the wonderful and beautiful dancing water lilies, laughed at the great and hungry school of silvery fish, and was truly awestruck by the amazing and majestic huge heron, as well as by the beautiful looking fire bird/humming bird, with a special nod to the super fun, cartoonish looking, yet entertaining alligators, roaming the winding river.
Just awesome, and instantly transporting us to the lush, beautiful, wild and predatorial Amazon river.
I also really liked being able to read easily the libretto text on stage, as to be able to take in all of the beautiful set, text, and action in one glance.
I also absolutely loved the spectacular costumes by Ana Kuzmanić: not only all the truly fantastical and spectacular looking tropical “creatures”, but also, the wonderfully early 20th century long dresses and skirts.
I also especially enjoyed another majestic production set pieces: in particular the wonderfully realistic, huge and half submerged, sinking steamboat “maquette” in Act 2.
What to say about the conductor and performers?
That the orchestra, and all the singers, under the expert baton of Met’s Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer Music Director, and conductor extraordinaire, the terrific and super talented, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, were wonderfully energized, convincing, and in top form.
And three singers, particularly stood out for me:
First, American soprano, Ailyn Pérez, was incredibly moving in the title role, as Florencia Grimaldi, the dazzling diva, which she depicted with great conviction, while enhancing interestingly, her truly nostalgic and interiorized character. And what great control, subtlety and emotion, in her singing and acting, for this metaphysical role.
Second, American soprano, Gabriella Reyes, as Rosalba, the intense and passionate journalist writing about the diva’s career, and later, in Act 1, falling in love with the captain’s nephew, was wonderful both as a singer and an actress, and her powerful and silky voice soared beautifully throughout the opera.
Thirdly, Guatemalan tenor, Mario Chang, as Arcadio, the besotted love interest of Rosalba, and as the captain’s nephew, was just terrific, charismatic, and fun. And what a beautiful and clear sounding voice he has.
So, to sum up my feelings, about Catan’s “Florencia en el Amazonas”, admired two weeks ago, at the Met Opera, in great company: what a gorgeous, surreal and moving, contemporary opera, set to awesomely beautiful music, and what terrific arias. And how wonderful to have it sung in Spanish, and to especially pay homage to García Márquez’s great literature. And how awesome are the singers, in particular, Pérez as Florencia, the nostalgic diva. Also, what a beautiful youthful and intense sounding Rosalba, Reyes embodies perfectly, and how entertaining is Chang, as the charismatic Arcadio, Rosalba’s love interest, and the captain’s nephew. And finally, what a spectacular, imaginative, colorful, metaphysical, timeless, Zimmerman production, allowing us to enjoy with great delight the Amazon’s rich, magical, supernatural, and mysterious environment.
And not to be missed!
Until next time friends!
Eternal butterflies 😊