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LA Opera's Florencia En El Amazonas -- Enchantment and Power of Nature

By Georja Umano

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Florencia En El Amazonas, now playing at the LA Opera, is a lovely, magical and touching opera, different in many ways from other operas we have seen in Los Angeles.  The composer, Daniel Catan, is familiar to LA Opera audiences from his beautiful and heartwarming opera Il Postino, as are several of its main performers also known for their previous stellar work here.  Yet there is an aura and theme in Florencia - of enchantment, of nature as a central and formative element we’ve not seen or heard before. It expresses in the jungle motif, the weather, the dancers of the river, the creative musical innovations and in the hearts of the characters themselves.

Much drama on one small ship

 

In Catan’s article in the program, he concedes that when he first visited the rainforest he was so enchanted by the sounds of the birds and the insects that the first morning, he became a pantheist.  His further collaboration and that of his team with the great magical realist novelist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez encouraged him in the direction of the secrets and power of the natural world.

 

Florencia hides her identity on the ship

Veronica Villarroel as the lead soprano and starring as the character Florencia Grimaldi is a world-renowned singer who returns to her roots in the South American jungle to find her first and true love, Cristobal. He is the one whose love made her talent blossom and whom she left for fame and fortune. He had stayed in the jungle to search for butterflies. Her voice is powerful, clear and languid.

David Pittsinger as Captain

She learns from the kindly ship captain, played by David Pittsinger, of her lover’s probable death in the jungle, and she continues to search for him in any case. She wants to merge with his essence and love.  In a very touching ending, she calls out to Cristobal as her voice becomes more rapturous.  The addition of the percussion instruments of the gong, timpani and marimba suggest she is merging with the magical jungle surrounding her. And then, in the final moments, she appears wondrously as a giant butterfly.

 

Rosalba and Arcadio (Lisette Oropesa and Arturo Chacon-Cruz), budding lovers

Many faces of love are seen, including the young biographer, Rosalba, Lisette Oropesa, so enraptured with the life and work of Florencia that she cannot see her own love in front of her in the disguised ardor of Arcadio, played by the dashing Arturo Chacon-Cruz, until her eyes are opened.  It is because of her love and admiration for Florencia that Rosalba finally sees love all around her.

Paula (Nancy Fabiola Herrera) and Alvaro (Gordon Hawkins) squabble while the new couple is happy

 

The wonderfully performed quarrelling couple Paula and Alvaro, played to the hilt by Nancy Fabiola Herrera and Gordon Hawkins, are stuck in their prideful stances until a natural calamity at sea takes Alvaro’s life.  Only then do both realize the true depth of their love and become able to be reunited in life and death.

 

Riolobo (Jose Carbo) the wise shipmate

The light-footed shipmate Riolobo, played by Jose Carbo, has spent his life on the river. He is the most in tune with nature and is a kind of guardian angel to the others. He also appears as a spiritual bird.

 

River dancers are involved with every wave of nature and emotion

Many kudos to the dancers of the river, who enacted a vivid character life and interacted with the humans. They were wonderful to watch. The scenery designer Robert Israel ‘s stagecraft with the ship which was turned every which way and the river and the fog worked very well. The moving jungle backdrop gave the impression of the ship's movement.  Costumer Catherine Zuber’s designs fit the bill. And the director, Francesca Zambello, pulled it all together wonderfully and seamlessly as everything flowed.

 

Florencia (Veronica Villarroel) searches for her love

The score includes lush orchestrations with rising and falling lines in wind and percussion instruments, adding exotic flavors. Conductor Grant Gershon and the orchestra are magnificent.

Although it seemed a little slow to get into the heart of the drama at first, if you give in to the jungle beauty, you may well be swept up in the magical experience of Florencia en las Amazonas, as was I.

Photos by Craig T. Matthew courtesy of LA Opera
Georja Umano is and actress and animal advocate.


www.laopera.org
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LA Opera “Florencia En El Amazonas” by Daniel Catan (Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Downtown)
remaining presentations:


Sunday December 14, 2014 02:00 PM
Thursday December 18, 2014 07:30 PM
Saturday December 20, 2014 07:30 PM

 

Published on Dec 11, 2014

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