Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Metropolitan Opera’s music director, had stepped onto the rostrum on Thursday night to start the efficiency. The theater was hushed earlier than his downbeat when a voice rang out from a balcony.
“Viva la ópera en español!” somebody shouted, and the viewers erupted in applause.
That is what’s most notable in regards to the firm premiere of Daniel Catán’s closely perfumed “Florencia en el Amazonas,” starring Ailyn Pérez: It brings a language spoken at house by about a quarter of New York Metropolis again to the Met.
Simply the third work in Spanish to be offered by the corporate, “Florencia” is the primary in practically a century, the primary full-length and the primary to have been written by a composer from Latin America. Born in Mexico in 1949, Catán studied with the serialist grasp Milton Babbitt, then proceeded to jot down lush, tonal music that couldn’t be extra completely different from his instructor’s.
Earlier than his loss of life in 2011, Catán specialised in appealingly colourful, politely uninteresting works that harkened again to a a lot earlier period — one which ended with the loss of life of his operas’ guiding spirit, Giacomo Puccini, in 1926.
That occurs to be the yr the Met final placed on a Spanish-language opera, and there’s one thing amusing in the truth that subsequent to nothing in “Florencia,” which premiered in Houston in 1996, would have shocked an viewers again then. You virtually need to applaud the spectacular, if perverse, achievement of a rating that so totally rejects all of the galvanic musical developments because the early 1900s, when the opera is ready.
The motion — hardly advanced, however crowded — takes place aboard a steamboat within the Amazon rainforest. The passengers are on their approach to hear the nice diva Florencia Grimaldi sing on the Belle Époque opera home in Manaus, Brazil.
There’s a swooning pair of younger lovers, and a bickering married couple; a would-be Grimaldi biographer and a mystical narrator; oh, and Florencia, too, one way or the other unrecognized by everybody else and returning to Manaus seeking her lover, a butterfly hunter she misplaced way back.
Marcela Fuentes-Berain, the work’s librettist, was a scholar of Gabriel García Márquez, and whereas the opera isn’t primarily based straight on any of his books, its debt to his dreamlike magical realism — a mode that has dominated exterior views on Latin American tradition to the purpose of cliché — is evident.
The characters emote with the wealthy, sticky languor of a lava lamp, and none come to life with the power of these within the works to which Catán nods. That is an opera that’s, at the beginning, a tribute to opera. In case your predominant character is a well-known singer, Puccini’s “Tosca” is an inescapable comparability, and Florencia’s final identify is similar because the lead soprano function’s in Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra.”
A recurring, darkly watery tremor motif is borrowed from the music of the phantoms in Puccini’s “Turandot”; in a quick orchestral interlude, a fragile chord that builds from the underside to the highest of the strings is snipped from the opening of Act III of his “La Bohème.”
Performed with easy polish on the Met beneath Nézet-Séguin, Catán’s rating endlessly undulates and glitters, in case we’ve forgotten that we’re on a river. Mellow combos of winds mix with luxurious strings, accented discreetly with brasses for an general glow. Each composer and conductor are delicate to singers, not smothering their vocal traces however supporting them.
These traces are effusively lyrical sufficient to make “Useless Man Strolling,” the extraordinarily accessible 2000 opera that opened the Met’s season, look like nails on a chalkboard by comparability. It’s not that there’s something inherently unsuitable with nostalgia. However “Florencia” feels encased in amber, a useless custom strolling.
The piece exudes homogeneous, interchangeable, anesthetized prettiness; you get the sense that any character’s music may have simply as simply been transferred to anybody else. Whereas it’s not an disagreeable approach to spend a few hours, there may be nothing approaching vivid characterization or compelling drama — the issues that mattered to Puccini, that his supreme lyrical present was serving.
What “Florencia” does have on its facet is brevity, hardly the advantage of many of the new and up to date operas which have come to the Met. “Useless Man Strolling” sags beneath two and a half hours of music — the identical as “Grounded,” which is able to open the corporate’s season subsequent yr. Forty-five minutes shorter, “Florencia” is much more slender than its Puccinian fashions.
Mary Zimmerman’s pared-down but busy, inelegant manufacturing suggests places on board the ship with just a few movable items, like railings and deck chairs. Riccardo Hernández’s set surrounds the enjoying house with curving partitions flooded with verdant projections to offer a way of the partitions of forest flanking the river.
Puppets and sprightly dancers frolicking in fish and fowl headdresses — Ana Kuzmanić designed the “Lion King”-esque costumes — cutely attempt to convey the area’s unique explosion of fauna. T.J. Gerckens’s lighting evokes radiant dawns, dusks and nocturnes.
However Zimmerman is at a loss conjuring thriller. The violent storm on the finish of the primary act is dominated, oddly, by a mild fall of crimson confetti. And whereas the baritone Mattia Olivieri, in his Met debut, sings Riolobo, the narrator, with agency, juicy tone, the staging struggles to seize his standing on the blurry boundary between actual and magic. The remainder of the supporting forged additionally performs with vitality, however Pérez is, appropriately, the uncontested star: wistful, tender and honest, her voice not monumental however generously delivered, her excessive notes glistening.
She manages to be each hovering and movingly reserved in Florencia’s closing aria, and the ultimate moments deliver a pleasant costuming coup, stylishly lit. The rating ends not with “Tosca”-style fortississimo, however in muted, modest quiet — a genuinely candy contact on an typically saccharine night.
Florencia en el Amazonas
Via Dec. 14 on the Metropolitan Opera, Manhattan; metopera.org.