From the Nashville Opera

The opera needed Florencia, and magical realism needed an opera 

(versión en español aquí:

— For years we have waited for this moment! A silver key: Florencia Grimaldi’s dazzling voice will reopen the theater’s dormant lock – announced a man who went by the name Riolobo.

Undoubtedly, he was an “old sea wolf”; his ubiquitous essence, like water, had turned him into a versed creature of the freshwater ocean. It was rumored that Riolobo’s resonant chest made the naughty river sing, and my imagination fell short when I heard in the waves’ proclamation the verses, “love potion!” “pineapple delights!”

Riolobo (Luis Orozco) makes the river sing. Photo: Anthony Popolo

The river is alive! — exclaimed the renowned soprano Elizabeth Caballero. 

The media in the city of Nashville echoed Riolobo’s announcement. In their paragraphs, the names of the travelers who, alongside Elizabeth, would embark on the elegant ship ‘El Dorado,’ stood out: 

On January 26th, 27th, and 28th, immerse yourself in the Amazonian charm with the performance of “Florencia en el Amazonas” by composer Daniel Catán, presented by the Nashville Opera. Discover a unique experience where music and magic converge with the acclaimed voices of soprano Evelyn Saavedra, mezzo-soprano Sandra Eddy, tenor César Delgado, baritones Luis Orozco and Mark Whatley, under the command of the captain, who is also a lyrical singer, Ricardo Lugo (bass). 

Audiences couldn’t wait to learn about this event through the worn pages of a logbook; thus, the James K. Polk Theater held the expectations of explorers and the curious, natives, Spanish speakers, opera and literature lovers. Never had the port of Leticia witnessed such jubilation, and this was only the preamble to a living masterpiece. 

I can envision Monteverdi’s astonished expression as the stage transformed into the largest jungle on the planet. In the venue, the buzz of wasps, the fluttering of butterflies, the mating calls, and the movement of the river collided against the walls.  

The river knows no peace.  

The revolution of sound and visual effects, coupled with the exchange of exquisite verses, made me realize that this is how the Latin American novel feels in your mind when you lose yourself within its pages. Daniel Catán and librettist Marcela Fuentes-Berain seem to have conceived Florencia en el Amazonas in complete simultaneity; the reciprocity between melodies and poetry is both sensitive and precise. As the wise shamans, conductor Dean Williamson and stage director John Hoomes contemplated that the axis of the Amazon lies in its riverine current. The subtle blend of woody keys with the undulation of flutes and strings harmoniously intertwined in the dance of the choir and the river’s projections. 

Rosalba (Evelyn Saavedra) Photo: Anthony Popolo


The river that knows no peace.

As if it weren’t enough, from the carnival of stimuli emerged the stifling introspection. “Rosalba Montealbán, a writer, unaware that she possesses what she longs for.” And although it might have seemed absurd for her to cling to her notes, it was the opportunity to coincide with love. Likewise, each character embarked on a journey through ephemeral joys and storms of contradiction. All their stories were intertwined. In the crystalline water, mangroves, what ifs, and the scorching sun were reflected. Soon, a dark canvas of electricity intensified the uncertainty, and in the instant that the stripping of pride thundered over the damp wood, the Yorurá spirits calmed the agitated waters of six souls who knew no sedateness.

…and the river knows peace. 

I find the placid current opportune to throw my notes with the assurance that they won’t return amidst a horde of restless fingers. I throw them away because it’s foolish to draw parallels. The opera Florencia en el Amazonas elegantly camouflages the musical and Latin American language with such grace that its mere existence is enough to bring pleasure. Equally, the staging by the Nashville Opera and the undisputed chemistry in the cast crafted a delicate chrysalis for the vibrant Muse Esmeralda. 

When her wings unfolded, the audience knew no peace.

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