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Daniel Catán

Publisher: AMP

Salsipuedes, A Tale of Love, War and Anchovies (2004)
Text Writer
libretto by Eliseo Alberto and Francisco Hinojosa; English trans: Shane Gasbarra and Daniel Catán
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Opera and Music Theatre
Year Composed
SAT Chorus (24 voices total)
German, Spanish
Solo Instrument(s)
3S, Mz, 4T, Bar, B-bar, B, Spkr
Programme Note
Daniel Catán Salsipuedes, A Tale of Love, War and Anchovies (2004)
Listen to the complete 'Salsipuedes'
Performed by Houston Grand Opera


Composer note:

My new opera uses the rhythms [of] the Caribbean. The Caribbean, it's worth recalling, was the great melting pot of three fantastic music cultures. On the one hand there was the European culture brought by so many immigrants from the Continent; there was the very rich legacy from the Middle East brought by the Spanish in particular; and finally, there was the African stream. These elements combined to produce a remarkable result that has barely been explored. I consider the comic opera a very delicate genre. A comedy in this century cannot be the same as it was in the 17th or 18th century. For me, comedy is a very serious matter, because it has to joke about things that are otherwise difficult to discuss, and it must also reflect contemporary issues. You have to draw a smile from the listener and at the same time deliver a very serious message. That is what makes it so very challenging.

— Daniel Catán

Cast List:

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ULISES, Singer and trumpet player for Los Delfines. The Colonel's son. Newly married to Lucero. A dreamer, always seeing the bright side of life: Tenor
    LUCERO, Ulises' wife and Magali's sister. A critical, decisive and self-assured young woman, who never gives up in the face of adversity: Soprano
      CHUCHO, Clarinetist and singer for Los Delfines. Newly married to Magali. A pragmatic and slightly skeptical man: Baritone
        MAGALI, Chucho's wife and Lucero's sister. A tender, easily-startled young woman: Mezzo-Soprano
          THE COLONEL, Veteran of a thousand battles. Ulises' father. A slightly decrepit old man. A good father: Bass-Baritone
            GENERAL GARCIA, President of the country. A real tin-pot dictator. A petty thief in the presidential palace: Tenor
              SERGEANT GUZMAN, Personal assistant to General Garcia. A consummate traitor, who conceals his personal ambitions beneath the mask of a weak and obsequious man: Spoken part
                EL CHINO, Exotic character. Sells lottery tickets. Fortune teller: Character Tenor
                  CAPTAIN MAGALLANES, Captain of EI Invencible. An old sea wolf. A close accomplice of General Garcia in his covert operations. Despite everything, a good man, who will know how to die with dignity: Bass
                    LIEUTENANT, The frigate's second-in-command: Tenor
                      LA CHINA AND ORQUIDEA, The port's painted ladies. Being quite young, they still have a lot of innocence: Sopranos
                        MADAME COLETTE, Hostess of a prosperous establishment, played by a baritone (same singer as El Coronel): Bass-Baritone
                          CHORUS - sopranos, mezzos and tenors (no basses)


                          The opera is set on the fictional island of Salsipuedes in 1943. When the island’s one-boat navy gears up to take on the Nazis, the males of two newly-married couples are mistakenly taken aboard the ship to the consternation of their wives. The couples are finally reunited in Puerto Alegre, where they learn about love, trust and fidelity. Once reconciled, the couples unearth a treacherous plot by the captain of the ship, resulting in tragedy, sacrifice and new beginnings.

                          View Full Score - Act II
                          View Full Score - Act III
                          View Vocal Score

The static and mysterious overture at once conjured up subterranean stillness....The excellent Spanish- language libretto recounts the story of two newlyweds whose honeymoon is interrupted when their tiny island declares was on Nazi Germany. It's a if the cast of COSÌ had wandered into Rick's Café Américain, relocated from Casablanca to a Caribbean port....Robinson's direction was always sensitive to the work's combination of political and social commentary, romantic intimacy and message of redemption. If there was no actual dancing in the aisles, the reason was the music, which, while offering Caribbean rhythms and a battery of African drums, rain sticks and marimbas in the pit, uses repetitive and interlocking harmonic units under soaring Puccini-like melodies. There are several effective arias and set-pieces....
Judith Malafronte, Opera News,01/01/0001
...[The] premiere of Catán's warmhearted comedy about ordinary people accidentally caught up in the machinations of a corrupt and delusional dictator evoked smiles, chuckles and good feelings...Director James Robinson and set designer Allen Moyer provided a vigorous, colorful production that was perfectly outlandish in look and gesture. Conductor Guido Maria Guida confidently steered an imaginative, rhythmically tricky score using an orchestra without violins or violas. ...A major asset was the literate and deftly imaginative libretto of Eliseo Alberto and Francisco Hinojosa. With just a few words the pair could establish mood as well as sketch characters and send the action careening forward...Repeatedly, the story inspired Catán to compose very striking individual scenes...Permeated with Afro-Caribbean rhythms, the score had powerful writing for the voices¬big duets for the lovers, aching arias for the distressed women, and major scenes for seemingly secondary characters....
Charles Ward, Houston Chronicle,01/01/0001
Salsipuedes roughly parallels Mozart's Così fan tutte as a tale of two young men, Ulises and Chucho...separated by patriotic duty from their mates Lucero and Magali...As in Così, the couples emerge from their experience more mature in their love...Catán, who...tells the story through the eye of "the man on the street," here underscores the degree to which ordinary people must swim — or sink — in waters muddied by ideology and corruption. Salsipuedes is probably more relevant than Catán intended; the shadow of contemporary events darkens the story, despite its ample comic turns and twists...Catán's wondrously transparent music, strongly influenced by the work of Cuban musicians in exile, is scored for large orchestra without upper strings and enhanced by Latin percussion. He has easily met the self-declared challenge of integrating Caribbean rhythms with the flowing vocal lines of traditional opera...The two-and-a-half-hour work is...provocative...
Wes Blomster,,01/01/0001
On Oct. 29, Houston Grand Opera celebrated its 50th anniversary year with its 31st world premiere, Daniel Catán's Salsipuedes...Though billed as a Caribbean comedy, this lively opera was unexpectedly dark...The opera alternated between high-spirited crowd scenes, with pungent African drums and Latin rhythms, and rhapsodic vocal writing that recalled Madama Butterfly and La Rondine...Catán's orchestral originality went beyond his use of unconventional instruments. The orchestra has no violins or violas, and the winds, brass and low strings that remained were used with a refreshing spareness, sometimes dropping out of the mix altogether...the opera was entertaining and at times very touching.
Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal,01/01/0001
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