Daniel Catán, Composer Of Lyrical Operas, Dead At 62

Mexican composer Daniel Catán's opera Il Postino debuted at the Los Angeles Opera last year, with tenor Placido Domingo.

Mexican composer Daniel Catán's opera Il Postino debuted at the Los Angeles Opera last year, with tenor Placido Domingo. Elizabeth Beristain/G. Schirmer hide caption

itoggle caption Elizabeth Beristain/G. Schirmer

Composer Daniel Catán died suddenly on Saturday, April 9, at age 62 in Austin, Texas according to reports confirmed by his publisher, Associated Music Publishers/G. Schirmer. The cause of death is still to be determined.

A resident of Pasadena, Calif. and the winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Catán was spending the semester teaching at the University of Texas Butler School of Music. He had been scheduled to spend this past weekend in Houston at performances of his opera Il Postino at the University of Houston.

Born in 1949 in Mexico City, Catán first studied philosophy and music in England before receiving a doctorate from Princeton University, where his teachers included Milton Babbitt, James K. Randall and Benjamin Boretz. He then returned to his native country to become administrator at Mexico City's Palace of Fine Arts. Catán later became a U.S. citizen.

Though he was not exclusively an opera composer, Catán found strong champions for his work within the vocal music community, perhaps most notably tenor and impresario Plácido Domingo. In 1998, Catán won the Plácido Domingo Award; Catán's 2010 opera Il Postino (based on the novel and film of the same name), premiered at the Los Angeles Opera with Domingo playing Pablo Neruda.

Il Postino had its European premiere at Vienna's Theater an der Wien last December; of that staging, George Loomis wrote in The New York Times, "You can understand why singers like operas composed by Daniel Catán. They abound in real melodies — melodies with musical shapeliness, a capacity to soar and the potential to move the listener."

The composer also found ardent champions at the Houston Grand Opera, which premiered two of his operas, beginning with 1996's Florencia en el Amazonas — a work co-commissioned by HGO, Los Angeles Opera and Seattle Opera. It was the first Spanish-language opera to be commissioned by major American companies. HGO also commissioned Catán's third opera, Salsipuedes, A Tale of Love, War and Anchovies, in 2004 in celebration of the company's 50th anniversary.

At the time of his death, Catán was working on a new opera, Meet John Doe, which was scheduled to premiere next year at the University of Texas at Austin, where the chamber version of La Hija de Rappaccini was premiered in February 2011.

He is survived by his wife, Andrea Puente, as well as by three children and four grandchildren.

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