It’s the early 1900s, and the steamship El Dorado makes its way along the Amazon River towards Manaus, a city in the heart of the Brazilian rainforest. Onboard is the world-famous opera singer Florencia Grimaldi. She’s got a gig at the opera house in Manaus, but that’s just a cover. She’s actually hoping for a reunion with her long-lost love, the butterfly catcher Cristóbal.
But on the journey, Florencia learns that Cristóbal went missing in the rainforest while in pursuit of a rare butterfly. From the deck of the ship — and now in quarantine due to a cholera outbreak — she delivers her final aria, calling out to him, the river and the rainforest that surround her: “Escúchame.” Hear me, listen to me. “From you my song was born,” she affirms — and in embracing her love for him, she is released and reborn.
Daniel Catán’s lush and lyrical score has become a staple of contemporary operas, and its staging marks the Metropolitan Opera’s first Spanish-language production in nearly 100 years. In this episode, host Rhiannon Giddens and her guests take us on a journey through natural wonder, transcendent love, and self-discovery.
Soprano Ailyn Pérez makes her Metropolitan Opera debut in her native language of Spanish as Florencia Grimaldi. She identifies with Florencia and the sacrifices that are sometimes necessary to pursue an artistic career.
Andrea Puente-Catán is a harpist, director of development at Ballet Hispánico, and the widow of “Florencia” composer Daniel Catán. She met Catán when she was 17 years old. Decades later, playing harp in that opera’s production at Palacia de Bellas Artes brought them back together.
Author, filmmaker, and fearless traveler Alycin Hayes knows a thing or two about Amazonian adventures. When she was 21, she hitchhiked from her home in Canada to South America, where she met up with other roving internationals to paddle along the Amazon River in a dugout canoe.
Paul Rosolie is conservationist, writer, and wildlife filmmaker whose memoir “Mother of God” details his extensive work in the Amazon. He’s the founder and field director of Junglekeepers, a conservation outfit based in Peru, and he joins the show via a remote interview taped in the jungle.