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Daniel Catan, 62; Mexican composer known for operas

By Chris Tomlinson
Associated Press / April 16, 2011

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AUSTIN, Texas — Mexican composer Daniel Catan died April 8 while working on a new opera in Austin, Texas, a University of Texas spokeswoman said Monday. He was 62.

The cause of his death was not immediately released.

Mr. Catan was best known in the United States for his operatic adaptation of the Italian film “Il Postino,’’ which is sung in Spanish. The Los Angeles Opera premiered “Il Postino’’ last year with Placido Domingo playing the poet Pablo Neruda and tenor Charles Castronovo as the wide-eyed postman Mario Ruoppolo.

The performance won rave reviews, and the University of Houston performed the opera over the weekend. The opera is more traditional than most contemporary compositions, with arias, duets, and lush tonal music, closer to the style of Puccini.

The Butler School of Music had commissioned Mr. Catan to create an opera from the Frank Capra film “Meet John Doe,’’ and he was temporarily living in Austin, said Leslie Lyon, a spokeswoman for the College of Fine Arts of the University of Texas.

Mr. Catan became the first Mexican composer to have his work performed in the United States when the San Diego Opera produced “Rappaccini’s Daughter’’ in 1994.

Mr. Catan was also known for his 1996 opera “Florencia in the Amazon,’’ which included elements of magical realism. He had also composed symphonies, choral works, a ballet, and a film score.

A native of Mexico City, Mr. Catan was of Jewish and Russian descent.

He received a doctorate in composition from Princeton and studied philosophy at the University of Sussex in Britain.