Florencia en el Amazonas

How far would you go for love? Would you travel halfway around the world? Would you forsake your fear of suffering? Would you return from the brink of death, or transform into another being? Florencia en el Amazonas by Daniel Catán, one of the most prominent composers of Spanish-language opera of his generation, tells the enchanting story of a Brazilian opera diva who returns to her homeland to perform at the legendary opera house of Manaus—and to search for her lost lover, who has vanished into the jungle. Along the way, we meet a motley crew of characters aboard the steamship El Dorado, all faced with the crises and comforts of romantic love, the pitfalls of professional life, and the transcendent power of nature.

 This work, with a libretto by Mexican writer Marcela Fuentes-Berain and inspired by the magical realism of Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez, is the first Spanish-language opera to grace the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in almost a century. In the spellbinding new production directed by Mary Zimmerman and conducted by Met Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, vivid costumes, glowing projections and lighting design, and spectacular puppetry bring to life the mysterious and magical realm of the Amazon. “I wanted to put the emphasis on the landscape and the sky—the gorgeous setting of the Amazon,” Zimmerman remarks. “Another thing that’s present in the production is the flora and fauna of the Amazon, which is all exaggerated. There are exaggerated takes on water lilies, and there’s a heron and a hummingbird and butterflies. We have dancers and actors as those creatures, but we also have some puppet evocations as well, which heighten everything in terms of color.” Soprano Ailyn Pérez stars as the opera diva Florencia Grimaldi, alongside a distinguished ensemble of artists, including soprano Gabriella Reyes as the journalist Rosalba, bass-baritone Greer Grimsley as the ship’s captain, and baritone Mattia Olivieri as the mystical, shape-shifting Riolobo.

This guide approaches Florencia en el Amazonas as a window onto the world of Daniel Catán’s varied compositional output and the flora and fauna of the Amazon that provide the opera’s setting. Along the way, students will have the opportunity to explore the history of opera in Mexico and Latin America, the tenets of magical realism, and the narrative elements driving the passengers aboard the El Dorado—whether they reach their final destination or not.

Included in the 2023-24 season of HD Live in Schools.