Daniel Catán (b. 1949)
Daniel Catán, Latin America's pre-eminent living composer, was born in Mexico City in 1949. A Sephardic Jew of Russian descent, he spent his first 14 years in Mexico, relocating to England to study philosophy and music. After several years at Sussex and Southampton, Catán moved to the United States, where he earned his Ph.D. at Princeton under the tutelage of Milton Babbitt. Having spent just as many years outside of Mexico as he had growing up there, he returned to Mexico City in 1977 to rediscover his Spanish-speaking roots, serving a term as Music Administrator at the Palace of Fine Arts. In 1994, San Diego Opera premiered his work Rappaccini's Daughter, launching an opera career in the United States that was sealed by the Houston premiere of Florencia en el Amazonas, the most popular new work the company has produced to date. In 1998 Catán won the Placido Domingo award from the Los Angeles Opera. Now a resident of Los Angeles, Catán is currently working on a new "comic" opera for the Houston Grand Opera, Las Bodas de Salsipuedes (Caribbean Wedding).
Although Catán studied under Babbitt, his own compositional voice is radically different, and his works incorporate the twelve-tone system only as occasional structural devices. Catán's music is composed for the heart and ear, and has been frequently labeled neo-Romantic or neo-Impressionist. Puccini, Strauss, Debussy, and Ravel are all names that frequently appear when people describe Catán's music; and though these are certainly apt comparisons, they should not detract from what is a very original and expressive voice. His melodies are rich and expansive, and often take some intriguing turns; drifting along like spun gold or rising into unforced and often blissful crescendos. His command of the orchestral palette is masterful, and his music fairly shimmers with delightful phrases and painterly surprises.
Primarily a composer of operas, his subject matter is frequently derived from "magical realism" and fantastical literature, and some of his sources have included Nathaniel Hawthorne, Octavio Paz, and Gabriel García Márquez.
García Márquez-Related Works
Florencia en el Amazonas -- Catán's opera, loosely based on Love in the Time of Cholera.
More Information on Catán
Daniel Catán Faculty Page -- Catán's faculty page at the College of the Canyons.
Schirmer Catán Page -- Schirmer Music maintains a section on Daniel Catán, where you can order the scores to his music and read press releases.
Encore Catán Page -- Encore has a small page devoted to Rappaccini's Daughter.