Sung in Spanish with projected English translation
Appropriate for all ages
2 hours and 2 minutes
After leaving South America 20 years ago to pursue a music career, legendary opera singer Florencia Grimaldi journeys home to give a concert and to find Cristóbal, the true love she left all those years ago. Reality and fantasy come together for Florencia and her fellow passengers on the riverboat El Dorado as they travel down the mysterious Amazon toward uncharted fates.
Ana María Martínez returns to HGO to take on the title role in Francesca Zambello's updated production of Daniel Catán's opera based on the magical realism works of author Gabriel García Márquez.
An Opera in Two Acts
Music by Daniel Catán
Libretto by Marcela Fuentes-Berain
An Homage to Gabriel García Márquez
Cast and Creative Team
||Ana María Martínez
||Nancy Fabiola Herrera
||E. Loren Meeker
|Video & Projection
|S. Katy Tucker
||Eric Sean Fogel
Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Richard Bado, Chorus Master
The Sarah and Ernest Butler Chorus Master Chair
Scenery constructed by Seattle Opera.
Premiered by Houston Grand Opera in October 1996.
Commissioned in part through a generous grant from Drs. Dennis and Susan Carlyle.
Co-commissioned by Houston Grand Opera Association, Los Angeles Music Center Opera and Seattle Opera.
Setting: Aboard the El Dorado, a steamboat sailing down the Amazon from Leticia, Colombia, to Manaus in the early 1900s
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 20 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 corning aboard: a young journalist, Rosalba, who is working on a biography about 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 Capitán steers the ship out of the busy port, Florencia reflects on the emptiness of her life and her desire to rediscover herself and find her long-lost lover, Cristobal, a butterfly hunter in search of the rare Emerald Muse.
Rosalba accidentally drops her notebook into the river; she is distraught because it contains all her notes for the biography, but it is rescued by the Capitán’s nephew, Arcadio; the two 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 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.
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, they 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 discovers that her precious notebook has been ruined in the storm. She 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 singer herself.
Both pairs of lovers are reconciled to their need for each other by the time the ship nears Manaus, but no one is allowed to disembark because of a cholera outbreak. In despair at being unable to fulfil her search, Florencia allows her spirit to drift toward Cristobal’s in a mystical reunion.
The performance will last approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes, including one intermission.
HGO Performance History
Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas was co-commissioned by HGO, Los Angeles Opera, and Seattle Opera, and HGO presented the world premiere in 1996. It was subsequently staged at HGO in the 2000–01 season, with Ana María Martínez in the role of Rosalba. She sings the title role in the 2018–19 season’s performances.