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Florencia en el Amazonas

Love comes in many hues, all of which are intensified under the influence of the tropics and vividly displayed in this compelling homage to the great South American novelists and poets who brought "magical realism" to the world.

Keith Miller as Riolobo
Keith Miller as Riolobo
Photo: Matthew Staver
Florencia Grimaldi (Pamela Armstrong), a famous opera singer, leaves behind an engagement at La Scala to journey from Leticia, Colombia, down the Amazon in search of her long lost lover, Cristóbal, a butterfly hunter, reportedly lost in the jungle years before. Her destination is the grand opera house in Manaus, Brazil, perhaps the most remote urban setting on the planet, a remnant of the late 19th century rubber boom.

She boards the ship El Dorado and mingles incognito with the other passengers, a natural premise that allows the librettist, Marcela Fuentes-Berain, to explore three distinct relationships, each representing a different form of love.

Inna Dukach as Rosalba and Greg Fedderly as Arcadio
Inna Dukach as Rosalba
and Greg Fedderly as Arcadio
Photo: Matthew Staver
In the physical and early romantic thrall of love are Arcadio (Greg Fedderly), nephew of the ship's captain, and Rosalba (Inna Dukach), a journalist working on book about Florencia.

Hoping to reignite the passion in their middle-aged marriage are Paula (Beth Clayton) and Alvaro (Hector Vasquez), for whom love has grown elusive, either to be transformed or lost.

Pamela Armstrong as Florencia
Pamela Armstrong as Florencia
Photo: Matthew Staver
And finally, there is Florencia's love for Cristóbal, which, like the butterflies that he chases, metamorphoses, in this case, from unfulfilled longing to a realized spirituality embodied in her songs.

Narrative insights and mystical forces are navigated by Riolobo (Keith Miller), who is just as handy tethering the boat as importuning the spirits to temper a storm. Keeping an even keel with his rich tenor is Capitán (Kevin Langan). William McCormick brings smiles as the Cabin Boy.

Beth Clayton as Paula and Hector Vasquez as Alvaro
Beth Clayton as Paula
and Hector Vasquez as Alvaro
Photo: Matthew Staver

Composer Daniel Catán's score is both atmospheric and lyrical, reminiscent of Debussy, alternately celebratory, dreamy, ominous, stormy, and ethereal, echoed perfectly in the fine voice work. Ramón Tebar leads the Opera Colorado Orchestra through a delightfully refined rendition. The piece is bookended with compelling chorus work, honed under the direction of John Baril.

Kevin Langan as Capitan
Kevin Langan as Capitán
Photo: Matthew Staver
José Maria Condemi's staging—with video projections of the Amazon and its rainforests by Aaron Rhyne and a nifty, moveable and malleable boat deck by set designer Phillip Lienau—brings the wonders of the Amazon basin to our doorstep.

The final performances of Opera Colorado's Florencia en el Amazonas are this Friday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 2:00 PM at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. For tickets, 1-800-982-2787 or www.operacolorado.org.

Bob Bows

 

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