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.
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