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FALL PREVIEW / COVER STORY | Music

Fall's Fresh Faces

September 04, 1997|MARK SWED

Daniel Catan, 48, Mexico's most prominent contemporary composer

Look for: "Florencia en el Amazonas," Catan's latest opera, which will be given its West Coast premiere by L.A. Opera Oct. 5, 7, 12, 15 and 18 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Why he matters: We regularly look east to New York and Europe; we look west to Asia; we look north to the Bay Area. But how often do we look south for composers? Far too seldom, otherwise we would know Daniel Catan much better than we do. He's one of the liveliest voices in a vigorous new music scene in Mexico City that is all too often ignored here. But now that he's been bitten by the opera bug, Catan is helping turn our attention toward his musical culture. Indeed, the time couldn't be riper for a new Mexican opera, not only because of our increasing awareness of Latino culture, but because there happens to be all those marvelous Latino opera singers who have exceedingly little to sing in their native language.

Catan's second opera, "Florencia en el Amazonas," which had its premiere at the Houston Grand Opera last fall (the first Mexican opera ever commissioned by a U.S. company) and which now makes its way to L.A. Opera, takes its theatrical inspiration from novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez's magical realism (real life with just a little help from otherworldly forces). The music has less folk music and folk instrumentation than some of us might like. It also has less grit than some of Catan's other scores. But it is not entirely without either. New to Catan's style is a great Puccinian swath of melody that the singers simply adore, as did the opening-night Houston audience.

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