Washington National Opera: Florencia in the Amazon

Saturday, September 20, 2014 - Sunday, September 28, 2014

Soprano Christine Goerke stars as a famous singer on an enchanted riverboat journey in a "visually stunning" (Seattle Times) production of Daniel Catán's Spanish-language opera inspired by the writing of Gabriel García Márquez.


$25.00 - $300.00

Run Time:

Approx. 2-1/4 hours

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Florencia in the Amazon (1996)            
Libretto by Marcela Fuentes-Berain, inspired by the writings of Gabriel García Márquez
Company premiere
WNO co-production with LA Opera; originally staged by Houston Grand Opera and Cincinnati Opera
"Visually stunning! Gasp-inducing aerial effects… shimmering, romantic score… This is an opera that works."--The Seattle Times
Two-time Grammy Award–winning American soprano Christine Goerke stars as a famous opera singer who embarks upon an enchanted riverboat journey in late Mexican American composer Daniel Catán's mesmerizing opera. Returning after 20 years to her South American homeland of Brazil, Florencia Grimaldi boards the El Dorado in disguise and heads up the Amazon to sing at an opera house in the capital. Along the way, she hopes to track down her long-lost lover, a butterfly hunter who has disappeared in the jungle. Beset by storms and a cholera outbreak, Florencia and her fellow travelers are carried deeper into the rain forest, while Ríolobo, a mystical river creature, guides them to life-changing revelations.
Inspired by the magical realism of Nobel Prize–winning Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez (Love in the Time of Cholera), Florencia in the Amazon was the first-ever Spanish-language commission by major U.S. opera companies, and an instant audience smash when it premiered in 1996 under the direction of Francesca Zambello. WNO's Artistic Director now brings this fantastical opera to Washington, eager to revisit the production with fresh insight as part of her commitment to present a major American work each season. Last seen as Chrysothemis in WNO's Elektra in 2008, Christine Goerke brings her "big, gleaming sound" (The Chicago Tribune) to a dazzling score led by rising star conductor Carolyn Kuan in her WNO debut. As the Washington Post says: "Catán writes in a lush, post-Puccini melodic idiom, creating music that's well suited to a story that reaches toward mythic timelessness."
Florencia Grimaldi: Christine Goerke / Melody Moore* (Sep. 24)
Ríolobo: Norman Garrett^
Rosalba: Andrea Carroll*
Arcadio: Patrick O'Halloran**
Paula: Nancy Fabiola Herrera*
Álvaro: Michael Todd Simpson
Captain: David Pittsinger
Conductor: Carolyn Kuan*
Director: Francesca Zambello
Set Designer: Robert Israel
Costume Designer: Catherine Zuber
Lighting Designer: Mark McCullough
Projection Designer: S. Katy Tucker
Choreographer: Eric Sean Fogel

* WNO debut
** Current Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist
^ Former Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist

In Spanish with projected English titles. Titles may not be visible from the rear of the orchestra.

Performance Timing: Act I - 61 min.; Intermission - 25 min.; Act II - 48 min.

Musicologist Saul
Lilienstein leads the Friday, September 26 Opera Insight, starting 1 hour and 15 minutes before the performance and lasting 35–40 minutes. All other Opera Insights start 1 hour before the performance and last 20–25 minutes. Informative and entertaining, Opera Insights take you inside the composer's mind, behind the scenes of planning a production, and into the history and social context of each opera.
These lectures are free, but patrons must present a ticket from any performance of Florencia in the Amazon.

Following these performances:

Monday evening, September 22
Sunday matinee, September 28
Join WNO artists for a unique opportunity to ask questions about the production.
All discussions begin immediately after the performance and are free with your ticket.

Florencia in the Amazon synopsis



Passengers board the El Dorado, a steamship sailing down the Amazon from Leticia to Manaus. Ríolobo, spirit of the river, tells of Florencia Grimaldi, the legendary diva who will soon re-open the opera house in Manaus. Florencia herself, unrecognized by the other passengers, is the last person to board. She has returned to search for Cristóbal, the butterfly hunter whose passion once awakened her voice.


When Rosalba, a young writer at work on a biography of Florencia, accidentally drops her notebook in the river, Arcadio, the Captain's nephew, retrieves it. The two speak of their dreams: Arcadio wants to be a pilot, while Rosalba hopes to meet Florencia, "a woman dedicated in body and soul to singing." Paula and Álvaro, an older couple who hope Florencia's singing will rekindle their romance, bicker over dinner and finally drop their wedding rings into a champagne bottle, which is knocked overboard. The next morning, the Captain speaks with Florencia and suggests that Cristóbal may have died; Florencia faints. On deck, Rosalba, Arcadio, Paula, and Álvaro play cards. As the tension mounts between Paula and Álvaro, Rosalba and Arcadio find themselves drawn to each other. Later that afternoon, they encounter a storm. Attempting to push a log away from the ship, Álvaro falls overboard. Ríolobo pleads with the gods of the river: "Do not destroy the world!" The Captain faints and Arcadio is forced to take the wheel.




Florencia, having survived the storm, declares that she will search for Cristóbal as long as she lives. Rosalba and Arcadio again speak of their determination to pursue their separate dreams and avoid the trap of love. Paula searches unsuccessfully for Álvaro, calling to him: "I want to save our love...to be by your side forever." Ríolobo gives thanks that the world was not destroyed by the storm. As the Captain prepares to sail, Paula comes in to tell the passengers that Álvaro is lost; at that moment, Álvaro enters, telling everyone that a voice called him back from death: "It came out of love." Rosalba finds her notebook, ruined by the storm. She explains to Florencia that she is writing a book on the great diva. Florencia challenges Rosalba's interpretation of her as "a free woman," insisting that her voice was born from her love for Cristóbal. Rosalba, finally recognizing Florencia, suggests to Arcadio that they try to "be free together." As the ship nears Manaus, Ríolobo announces a cholera epidemic. The Captain says they will be safe if they do not disembark. Florencia sends her song toward her lover, Cristóbal: "I know that you hear me in life or in death. If you were not listening, my song would cease."

Watch and Listen

WNO Commentary: Florencia in the Amazon 1 of 5: Act One: The El Dorado and its passengers (audio only)

WNO Commentary: Florencia in the Amazon 2 of 5: The journey begins (audio only)

WNO Commentary: Florencia in the Amazon 3 of 5: Intermission: The composer and his sources (audio only)

WNO Commentary: Florencia in the Amazon 4 of 5: Act Two: Romantic resolutions, tragic denouements (audio only)

WNO Commentary: Florencia in the Amazon 5 of 5: Florencia Grimaldi stands alone (audio only)

Francesca Zambello discusses Florencia in the Amazon

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