Il Postino From LA Opera
About the Opera

THIRTEEN’s Great Performances presents the world premiere performance of Daniel Catan’s opera Il Postino from LA Opera starring Placido Domingo on Friday, November 25 at 9 p.m. ET, as part of the PBS Arts Fall Festival.

Based on the Academy Award-winning 1994 Italian film that became a surprise hit with audiences around the world, and also on the 1985 novel Ardiente Paciencia by Antonio Skármeta, Il Postino tells the story of a shy young postman in a tiny Italian fishing village, who discovers the courage to pursue his dreams through his daily deliveries to his only customer, the esteemed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, played by Domingo.

Watch a preview:


The other leading roles will be performed by tenor Charles Castronovo in the titular role of Mario Ruoppolo and soprano Amanda Squitieri as the beautiful café waitress Beatrice Russo, the object of Mario’s romantic ardor. Other performers include soprano Cristina Gallardo-Domâs as the poet’s wife Matilde Neruda, baritone Vladimir Chernov as the postmaster Giorgio and mezzo-soprano Nancy Fabiola Herrera as Donna Rosa, Beatrice’s aunt.

Grant Gershon, LA Opera’s chorus master and associate conductor, conducts this production which was directed by Ron Daniels, with scenery and costumes designed by Riccardo Hernandez, projections designed by Philip Bussmann and lighting designed by Jennifer Tipton. The choreographer is David Bridel. The opera, sung in Spanish, was performed in September and October of 2010 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

“I am very excited to participate in the world premiere of an opera by one of today’s most important composers,” said tenor Plácido Domingo, LA Opera’s Eli and Edythe Broad General Director, when the opera premiered last fall. “Daniel Catán’s operas have been very popular throughout the United States and elsewhere, and his Florencia en el Amazonas was a great success at LA Opera in 1997. For several years, he and I had wanted to collaborate on a new work. When he told me that he was working on an operatic adaptation of Il Postino, I immediately felt that Pablo Neruda was a role that I very much wanted to bring to life.”

Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle music critic, wrote, “Operagoers who complain that they don’t write ‘em like they used to can take comfort from Il Postino…Catán’s lush, singable score is fashioned almost entirely on the models of Madama Butterfly and Tosca, with a few snippets of La Bohème thrown in…it is undeniably beautiful, and it packs an emotional punch. Best of all, it provides a role superbly tailored to the great Plácido Domingo, who delivers it magnificently.”

The Los Angeles Times’ Mark Swed enthused, “Domingo has never had a role better tailored for him…from Neruda’s tender opening love scene, to his stylish ‘50s costumes, to his father-knows-best warm humor (Domingo happens to be a gifted comic actor)…his beaming avuncular compassion, especially in his relationship with Mario, is pretty hard to resist.”

Born in Mexico City in 1949, Daniel Catán was, until his untimely death on April 8, 2011, one of the foremost composers in contemporary opera. In 1994, San Diego Opera presented his first opera La Hija de Rappacini (Rappaccini’s Daughter). Its success led to his next opera, Florencia en el Amazonas, loosely based on Gabriel García Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Houston Grand Opera commissioned Catán’s third opera Salsipuedes, which had its premiere in 2004.

Speaking of his fourth opera, Il Postino, the composer recalled, “I realized, from the very first time I saw the film, that it was a suitable theme for an opera. It deals with Art and Love: the foundations upon which we build our lives. Love is what makes us human. Art is our most sophisticated tool for achieving that humanity. And opera is one of the most complete art forms ever imagined, for it includes music and poetry.”

At the time of his death, the 62-year-old composer was reported to be working on an operatic adaptation of another classic film, Frank Capra’s “Meet John Doe.”

The film Il Postino, directed by Michael Radford, was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture; the film’s score, composed by Luis Enríquez Bacalov, won the Academy Award for Original Music Score. For his opera, for which he was both composer and librettist, Daniel Catán drew additional inspiration from Antonio Skármeta’s 1985 novel Ardiente Paciencia, upon which the film was based.

Speaking of Catán after his death, Domingo remarked, “To have lost a composer of his stature at the very height of his powers is a devastating loss to the world of classical music. Daniel Catán was one of the great opera composers of our time, beloved by audiences and especially by the musicians who had the privilege of performing his incredible work.”

Il Postino from LA Opera was directed by Brian Large, and produced by Moshe Barkat and Christopher Koelsch; for Great Performances, John Walker is producer, Bill O’Donnell is series producer, and David Horn is executive producer. Commissioned by LA Opera, Il Postino is a co-production with Theater an der Wien (Vienna) and Théâtre du Châtelet (Paris). The world premiere production was made possible by a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. Milan Panic, with special commissioning support provided by Edward E. and Alicia Garcia Clark, and additional generous underwriting support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Barbara Augusta Teichert, Hispanics for LA Opera, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Great Performances is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, Vivian Milstein, Annaliese Soros, the Starr Foundation, the Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, public television viewers and PBS.
For more information on the life, work and legacy of Daniel Catán, please visit: http://www.catanfoundation.com

  • cdolph

    When can I see more Roberto Alagna………..he is amazing! Please feature more of him and the operas that he is in.

  • david ernst

    Hi Cathy,

    We’re fans of Mr. Alagna as well (he was in Don Carlo last season). However, it’s up to the Metropolitan Opera to set their season and their casts within the operas they have programmed for that season. It’s our job to make sure the programs are delivered to your television screen for a virtual front row seat!

  • Theodore Warner

    I very much hope that this performance will be offered eventually on DVD. I’m not sure whether Il Postino is or will be travelling, but it seems such a shame that more people aren’t enjoying this opera.

  • LarryAt27N

    This preview is worthless to curious visitors.

  • Carol Ch

    The Thirteen logo is a tiresome intrusion on the screen — why are you doing this?

  • J. Sewall

    Your logo is horribly offensive when there are subtitles in white. Can’t you make it yellow?

  • C. Currier

    The advertisement for the PBS Fall Arts Program was not only vulgar, unnecessary, and intrusive but was a distraction from the opera narrative as well as covering the subtitles at crucial moments.

  • Nancy Charlton

    I second that! I would love to have a DVD of Il Postino. Thanks, PBS, for giving it to us. I thought I was a knowledgeable about opera, but I had never even heard of, let alone heard, Daniel Catan. The music, the singing, the staging, the direction, the special effects were flawless. The story was told with properly restrained ardor, so that the emotions and ideas came through. High on my list of things to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

  • Billy D Burnett

    I have never watched a complete opera. 74yrs old. Watch PBS regularly. 1st opera I have tuned into with English subtitles. The story … the discussion of metaphors … caught my attention … the language was beautifull, and, hooray, understandable with the subtitles. Loved it, I will watch more with subtitles.

  • Willliam Schwab

    I was very deeply moved by this opera and join those who would like to have it available on DVD.
    I simply did not believe that a contemporary opera could have such magnificent music and a credible story line as this piece. Hopefully the PBS production will be repeated.

  • Alan Frank

    One of the best operas I have ever seen! Please make this available on DVD.
    thank you.

  • Sarge Legard

    Wonderful!! Lighting was superb… Jennifer Tipton is a marvel…

  • Candy

    I am totally thrilled by this opera. Usually when I watch an opera, I cry on the inside. This time I cried on the outside right along with Placido. The whole thing was AWESOME and such a treat. I also hope it is available on DVD soon. Great performances! Thank you.

  • Jean Pinataro

    Unfortunately I missed the first 5 or 10 minutes of this opera which may be why I never could figure out what was going on. Especially unclear was the relationship between the poet & Mario. Why didn’t Mario hear from his friend the poet? His wife was angry about this & said they would not name their baby after Pablo. But she did…. she named him Pablito. Am I missing something? Was this opera based on facts… events that actually occurred? I could understand the Spanish which was nice & I recognized Puccini in the music & Charles Castronovo’s Mario & his beautiful tenor voice were a pleasure. The nudity & sex seemed forced like an attempt to bring this opera into the 21st century but maybe I am just getting old? What you don’t depict can have more power than what you do show. However I managed to stay with it to the end. The drama of the photography & settings were definitely 21st century!

  • bob king

    Domingo is still the greatest(including Pavaroti) but that other tenor. I kept thinking iit might be Kaufmann but thought not. I thought the opera better than most current compositions but still no Puccini.
    Look out Kaufmann and Grigolo and the rest. This is a gorgous and rivalling new tenor.

  • Paul Kamen

    I thoroughly enjoyed this spectacular and deeply moving performance. More to the point, my wife, who is not particularly an opera fan, enjoyed it too. Big bravos to all the performers. This was a perfect role for Placido Domingo. I am deeply saddened to learn of Daniel Catan’s untimely demise. What a great loss to the world! My only quibble, as stated by others, was the very poor quality of the subtitles. They were too small, too high on the screen, and impossible to read against the sets with a white background. I can only hope that the producers of future projects have the common sense to correct this seemingly trivial, but disastrous problem.

  • John M. Witheford

    I tuned in quite accidentally at a football halftime Saturday after the opera had started but immediately knew what it was since I’d seen the movie. I was then riveted through the whole thing, truly well done in concept, construction and performance. Not since attending the old Met in the fifties as an opera neophyte have I seen anything as surprising, toe curling, and guttily entertaining. This is the first of the modern grand operas that’s got to me. Congratulations to all the performers, all into it and good. Sorry to see the composer is no more.
    John M. Witheford

  • mocrava

    A huge thank you. To end an opera with a male duo with tears streaming down their faces, is WONDERFUL!
    The last notes were soft and thrilling. Not really a duo, but sung as with one heart.

  • tanya

    I missed the show! I hope PBS plays it again soon!

  • Beth A

    I was surprised, may I add shocked, when my husband was flipping through the channels and stopped on an opera. We unfortunately missed the beginning but were riveted by the rest of the performance. Since we saw Il Postino years ago I didn’t remember how the story ended. Really touching. Placido Domingo was fantastic as usual, but really a strong cast overall, and the harmonies and music were consistently beautiful. Even during comedic scenes the music was emotional and haunting. Please show this again and definitely release it on DVD.

  • Laura L

    I missed it! When will there be a rebroadcast of Il Postino???

  • Laura

    I fell in love with it live—would love to see the Great Performances piece! So VERY sorry I missed it…

  • Alan Mayers

    Another vote for a DVD of this beautiful and touching opera.

  • Ronnie Young

    Please re-broadcast this, with plenty of advance notice, and make it available for purchase on DVD. Unfortunately, unavoidably, I missed it…..and I’m so sad about that.

  • George Wruck Jr

    As viewed Friday night, lipsync appeared somewhat “off” throughout, sometimes picture leading sound.

    It was almost like some “perfect” studio sound recording, which was silently being lipsynced to in a theatre for TV.

  • david ernst

    Hi Carol,

    We’re glad that everyone enjoyed our production of Il Postino from LA Opera. The THIRTEEN logo is a station “watermark” of sorts for the PBS affiliate you happen to be watching the program on, so for example; if you lived in the Boston area you would have a WGBH “watermark” on the program. We try to make the logo as passive as possible so it doesn’t interfere with viewers’ enjoyment of the program.

    Thank you for your comment.

  • david ernst

    Dear Nancy and other viewers,

    We hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving and are glad that everyone enjoyed Il Postino from LA Opera. We are told that although there is no DVD/Blu-ray at this time, our production partners are in discussions to release a DVD of the program in the future. We promise to keep you posted and we’ll note it here on GREAT PERFORMANCES’ website and also on our Facebook page if and when a DVD becomes available for purchase.

    Thank you all for your comments and questions and for tuning into GREAT PERFORMANCES.

  • Maryann

    Il Postino is a beautiful opera. I’d like to see more of Daniel Catan’s operas. This opera was the first. All the singers fit their roles perfectly. Mario and Beatrice were so charismatic together as the young lovers. I was impressed how well Spanish is suited to opera.

    The theme of “social justice” pervades Il Postino. At the beginning we learn Pablo Rueda has been exiled from Chile because of his activist poetry. In the finale, Mario is murdered for reading Rueda’s poetry at a political protest rally.

    The finale is bitter-sweet. Bitter that Mario had to die; but sweet that he’s survived by Pablito.

    Placido Domingo was great in the role of Pablo Rueda.

    BRAVO, DOMINGO! WELL DONE!

  • Maryann

    Pardon my spelling error. The correct name of the Chilean poet is Pablo Neruda.

  • John Rather

    PBS viewers need more Great Performances like Il Postino. Truly inspiring!
    Please add me to the list to be informed when the BluRay disc becomes available.

  • Patti

    I hadn’t read either my local PBS mag. or newspaper in time & ran to the TV in time to watch the 2nd hour. I’d seen the movie. As a member of the Washington National Opera, we were very fortunate to have Maestro Domingo as our Director until last year–for many reasons, he left–including WDC’s reluctance to feature new opera such as Il Postino.
    Please add me to the list of those wanting a DVD of this luscious, haunting, funny, loving, & beautifully written, sung, & designed opera. I thought the use of the scrim was masterful (I wish the Met would tone it down sometimes & keep it simple). Thank you for airing it!

  • Verlie Fenk

    Semper Fi “Top” from a fellow Marine, My brother Ricky was in bootcamp at MCRD SD in 1966 and I went in 1978. When i was there they still had a lot of quonset huts plus the new three story squadbays. The quonsets are all gone now. Your video moved my heart reminding me of my late brother. He did two tours in Vietnam and was at the battle of Hue City in 68. We were both “0311 and we both went to the Drill Field. I would never change a thing if I could do it again.

  • Elena-Beth Kaye

    Had recorded this and just watched it, was going to just watch the beginning and then was riveted, and it’s now after 4am! And still am choked up, with tears streaming. Thank you!

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