Arts & Culture

Composer Daniel Catán Dies Suddenly

The team behind our daily arts magazine The Front Row mourns the passing of local opera composer Daniel Catán.

All of us who work on The Front Row were saddened to hear of the sudden death in Austin, TX, over the weekend of opera composer Daniel Catán.

Catán, who apparently died in his sleep, was in residence this semester at the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin where he had been commissioned to write an opera based on the 1941 Frank Capra movie Meet John Doe.

He was scheduled to be in Houston this past weekend to attend performances of his latest opera, Il Postino, currently on stage at the Univeristy of Houston’s Moores Opera Center.  Only last week he had been at the Moores School working with students in final preparation for the production.

Catán was recently here at KUHF with Moores Opera Center director Buck Ross, to talk about Il Postino ahead of its UH opening.  He and I talked not just about the new opera, but also about his larger mission to create a Latin American opera tradition.  (Click here to listen to the interview).

Given his education at Sussex and Southampton universities in England before he came to the U.S. for a Ph.D. in music at Princeton, we had a laugh swapping stories of late 20th-century life across the pond.  In the course of our conversation, which continued long after the microphones were off, he recommended a book to me, Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism by French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy, which he had recently read and very much enjoyed.

Il Postino was Catán’s fourth opera.  The Moores Opera Center produced his second, Florencia en el Amazonas, in 2009, and director Buck Ross had established a plan to perform all the Catán operas that were available.

Daniel Catán’s untimely death is a huge loss to opera.  We mourn his passing.