D.C. Opera Opens with a Colorful Bore

WNO Florencia in the Amazon 1 - Christine Goerke as Florencia - photo Scott Suchman.jpg

Florencia en el Amazonas
Kennedy Center Opera House

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Comparisons, as the saying goes, are odious.  But with an opera like Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas, which opened the Washington National Opera’s season Saturday night at the Kennedy Center, they are also inevitable.  Florencia’s librettist has called the work, premiered by the Houston Grand Opera in 1996, an “homage” to Gabriel García Márquez, the beloved Colombian author and Nobel laureate.  The production’s star soprano has described the score as “if Strauss and Puccini and Debussy had a baby.”  The director has deemed the opera “an important addition to the operatic canon.”

Yet even as these points of reference provide a ready-made context for audiences, they also reflect the work’s “paint-by-numbers” approach.  Florencia is a superficially pleasing, aesthetically conservative, and ultimately unsatisfying work of music drama.  Call it Opera Lite.  It skillfully ticks all of the requisite boxes – a colorful, tonal score; a diva soprano role; an epic, central love story; and knowing engagement with operatic tropes.  Still, and despite a fine opening-night cast boasting America’s dramatic soprano du jour, Christine Goerke, Florencia fails to make a lasting impression…

Read the full review at Musical America (paywalled).

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