Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Daniel Catan's Il Postino on Great Performances

It was early 2011 when John Clare first asked me about contact information for the Mexican born composer Daniel Catan. John wanted to approach Daniel about writing a short piece for San Antonio based Soli Chamber Ensemble. Fast forward a few months, to April, and I saw the opportunity to introduce John to Daniel, face to face. Daniel had been in Austin on a special project at UT, doing some teaching while working on a commission from the UT Opera Theatre. At this same time, the University of Houston Opera was mounting a performance of Daniel's adaptation of the film Il Postino. Postino had premiered in Los Angeles in September of 2010 to rave reviews.

I had known Daniel Catan for a number of years, but had only recently met him in person for an interview. We hit it off immediately, "like old friends" as Daniel said. Thus I was not surprised that Daniel was eager to get me tickets for the Houston performance of Il Postino. I picked up John the afternoon of April 8 for the drive over to Houston. As we entered the foyer to Moores Opera House, on the campus of the University of Houston, I half expected to see Daniel. He wasn't there, but the tickets were. As John and I entered the theater, I continued to scan the crowd for the familiar faces of Daniel and his wife, harpist Adriana Puente. No luck, nor was Daniel present at the post-performance reception. I supposed he had been detained in Austin for one reason or another, that his busy schedule had kept him from Houston on that Friday evening.

"Next time," I told John. "Next time you will get to meet him." Sadly, there would be no next time. My phone rang the following day with news that Daniel was missing. The next day's news was devastating. Daniel had passed away on April 8, the same day we were to have met him in Houston.

This personal connection makes all the more poignant the broadcast this Friday evening of the Los Angeles Opera's performance of Il Postino. If you love opera in the grand tradition, with soaring melodies and lush harmonies, this is for you. Il Postino will appeal to your heart, your soul, and your intellect. Need another reason to tune in to KLRN November 25 at 8 o'clock? Here it is:

Speaking of Catán after his death, Placido Domingo (who plays the role of Pablo Neruda in the opera) remarked, “To have lost a composer of his stature at the very height of his powers is a devastating loss to the world of classical music. Daniel Catán was one of the great opera composers of our time, beloved by audiences and especially by the musicians who had the privilege of performing his incredible work.”

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