Daniel Catán’s new opera “Il Postino” glows

October 5, 2010

I went to a performance of Daniel Catan’s new lyrical opera “Il Postino” based on the movie by the same name. These remarks are not intended as a review, but rather comments from another composer (me) pregnant with an opera of his own.

Daniel’s orchestration is gorgeous. His sense of melody is excellent. On first listening, I did not go away humming any tunes but imagine that I might if I got to know the work better. He knows the voice well. He wrote grateful music for the entire cast.

I couldn’t help wonder whether the orchestra “enjoyed” playing the work. The orchestral accompaniment shimmered with often beautifully airbrushed chords that float and underpin the voice, and never, ever getting in the way. I don’t recall prominent countermelodies in this work; no churning arpeggiation, no busy counterpoint; just pretty chords that we all loved hearing.

I don’t speak Spanish but followed the supertitles to keep up with the story. I wondered whether the audience members who speak Spanish could follow the whole opera without supertitles? Most Americans laughingly agree that we need supertitles even to understand opera in English!

It was a highly instructive work for me to hear. Catan must be a singer’s dream composer, always supporting, never detracting. And the audience seemed to like the piece quite a lot. Even Mark Swed liked it, and it didn’t sound anything like Mr Lachenmann.

I loved that the final message of the piece for me seems to celebrate the joy and importance of mentorship. Love played second fiddle in this opera.

Bravo, Daniel! Write another one!

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