Magic can happen anywhere, even in the Amazon

DANIEL CATÁN

An opera star goes down the Amazon on a magical quest.

Inspired by the writings of the great Gabriel García Márquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude), Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas is one of the most lyrical and melodious new operas of the past 30 years, embraced by critics and audiences everywhere it has played. This story of a Brazilian soprano’s emotionally fraught journey back to her homeland offers a brilliant display of magical realism—and pushes the operatic form to new limits of imagination. To portray a great artist, FGO has engaged a great artist—Ana María Martínez, acclaimed as one of the most beloved Butterflys in recent Metropolitan Opera history.

CASTING
Florencia Ana María Martínez [Apr 28, May 1, 4, 5]
Sandra López [Apr 29]
Riolobo Steven LaBrie* [ALL]
Rosalba Cecilia Violetta López* [ALL]
Arcadio Andrew Bidlack [ALL]
Paula Mariya Kaganskaya [ALL]
Alvaro William Lee Bryan [ALL]
Capitán Rafael Porto [ALL]
Conductor Ramón Tebar
Director Jose Maria Condemi
Production Opera Colorado
Set Designer Phillip Lienau
Lighting Designer Kenneth Yunker
Costume Designer Elizabeth Poindexter*
Projection Designer Aaron Rhyne*
Chorus Master Katherine Kozak
* = FGO debut

SYNOPSIS

The El Dorado, a steamboat sailing down the Amazon from Leticia, Colombia, to Manaus in the early 1900s

Act I

On the riverbank, Riolobo, a mystical character who can assume many forms, excitedly announces that the El Dorado is bound for the opera house in Manaus. There, the legendary opera diva Florencia Grimaldi, who has not set foot in her native South America for twenty years, will give a concert to reopen the theater. From among the crowds lining the riverbank and selling their local wares, we glimpse the ship’s passengers coming aboard: a young journalist, Rosalba, who is working on a biography of Florencia Grimaldi; Paula and Alvaro, a middle-aged couple journeying to hear Grimaldi in hopes of rekindling their marriage; and the diva herself, traveling incognito.

As the ship pulls away from the busy port, Florencia reflects on the emptiness of her life and her desire to rediscover herself and her long-lost lover, Cristóbal, a butterfly hunter in search of the rare Emerald Muse. Rosalba’s notebook is rescued from the river by the ship Capitán’s nephew, Arcadio, and they exchange confidences about their longings and desires. Alvaro and Paula attempt to dine on deck, but misunderstandings about the exotic menu lead only to bitter exchanges.

Florencia, awakened by the sounds of the jungle, learns from the Capitán that the butterfly hunter has disappeared into the jungle without a trace. Later, a tempestuous game of cards contrasts the growing affection between Rosalba and Arcadio and the escalating tension between Paula and Alvaro. A violent storm quickly develops, and the ship is carried helplessly in the rushing currents in a downpour of pink rain. Alvaro saves the boat from being crushed by tree trunks but is knocked overboard. With the Capitán unconscious, Riolobo appears in the guise of a river-spirit and implores the mercy of the gods of the river. Arcadio ably takes the helm but is unable to stop the forces of nature as the ship runs aground.

Act II

In the quiet after the storm, Florencia wonders whether she is alive or dead. Arcadio and Rosalba rejoice to find they have survived the storm, but, frightened by the intensity of their feelings for each other, vow not to fall in love and risk disillusionment. Paula laments the loss of Alvaro, recognizing that the wall between them was pride—not a lack of love. Riolobo once again calls upon the mystical and transformative powers of the Amazon. Suddenly Alvaro is returned to the boat, explaining that Paula’s voice called him back from the brink of death. On behalf of all the passengers, Florencia thanks him for saving their lives, and they resume their journey to Manaus.

Rosalba finds her ruined notebook, which contained all her notes for the biography of Florencia. Rosalba is distraught by the loss of two years’ work, but Florencia tells her she has lost nothing irreplaceable. The two women begin to argue about the source of Grimaldi’s talents, and when Florencia passionately declares that the diva’s gift sprang from her love for a man, Rosalba suddenly realizes the woman standing before her is the opera singer herself.

With both pairs of lovers reconciled to their need for each other, the ship is about to reach Manaus when it is discovered that no one may disembark because of a cholera epidemic. In despair at being unable to fulfill her search Florencia’s spirit drifts toward Cristóbal in a mystical reunion.

—Courtesy of Houston Grand Opera

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