daniel catán (1949-2011)

I note this morning the death on Friday of Mexican composer Daniel Catán, whose most recent stage work, Il Postino, based on the 1994 Oscar-winning film, debuted last year at the Los Angeles Opera with Plácido Domingo as Pablo Neruda and Charles Castronovo as the shy young postman who befriends the poet.

Details of  Catán’s passing are still kind of sketchy, but I’ll try to post more as they become available.

Here’s a brief biography of the composer from the website of his publisher, G. Schirmer:

Daniel Catán’s lyrical, romantic style lends itself particularly well to the human voice, which features in the majority of his works. Lush orchestrations reminiscent of Debussy and Strauss along with Latin American instruments and rhythms are regularly heard in his music. His opera Florencia en el Amazonas has the distinction of being the first opera in Spanish commissioned by a major American company. The success of this opera led to the commission of Salsipuedes for Houston Grand Opera. His fourth opera, Il Postino, was commissioned by Los Angeles Opera and premiered in Los Angeles, Vienna and Paris in 2011 featuring Plácido Domingo. Catán is currently at work on his next opera Meet John Doe which premieres in 2012. Born in Mexico, Catán studied philosophy at the University of Sussex in England before enrolling in Princeton as a PhD student in composition under the tuition of Milton Babbitt, James Randall and Benjamin Boretz.

UPDATE: Obituaries and tributes started appearing not long after I first posted here, including this appreciation from Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times, which offers some insight into what Catán hoped to communicate through his music.

I also received the following email from David Ashley White, director of the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music, which I’ll pass on in its entirety.

Please be sure to note in future messages that at the time of his death, Mr. Catán’s Il Postino was being performed by the Moores Opera Center, Moores School of Music, University of Houston.  He was scheduled to be with us Saturday and Sunday for two of the four performances.  He made special arrangements with Placido Domingo for us to produce the opera so soon after its premiere, and he was thrilled with our production and our wonderful student singers.   Our opera was in the midst of producing all of his operas, having mounted Florencia two years ago.  He will be greatly missed at the University of Houston!


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