Love might make you happy, but it will definitely make you different. “Florencia en el Amazonas,” is an opera about transformational love. The Houston Grand Opera is performing this Spanish-language opera through Feb. 3.
The characters aboard the El Dorado boat travel into the jungle of the Amazon searching not for metallic gold, but for a gold standard of love. The three couples are at different stages of love’s misery; the uncertain fall, the taken-for-granted stalemate and the heartbreak of loss.
The characters are traveling to far-off Manaus, each seeking something that is right in front of them. While the original El Dorado conquistadors thought that gold would make them happy, this performance asks: will love make us happy? Ultimately, whether or not love makes us happy, the message of “Florencia en el Amazonas” is that it changes us.
The title character, Florencia Grimaldi (Ana María Martínez), could sing exceptional ballads only after experiencing an exceptional love. Grimaldi tells Rosalba (Alicia Gianni) that she can become a better author if she experiences love herself. Arcadio (Joshua Guerrero) is a sailor who wants to be pilot, and he says love will give him wings.
The singing, acting and dancing throughout this performance was all enjoyable and the level of quality to be expected from a world-class opera. Martínez’s soprano solos were incredible. The duets and acting out of the couples’ dynamics were convincing and entertaining. Mesmerizing dancers combined contemporary dancing with ballet to act as the currents of the Amazon river. The jungle foliage projections onto the screens completed the beautiful and surreal stage setting.
Overall, the Houston Grand Opera’s performance of “Florencia en el Amazonas” is beautiful, mesmerizing, romantic and thought-provoking. It transported me to another place and time, but also made me think about how love shapes us.
“Florencia en el Amazonas” is by Daniel Catán, a Mexican composer and writer. It first premiered in Houston 23 years ago. The Houston Grand Opera is performing this revival at the Wortham Theater Center downtown through Feb. 3. Discounted tickets are available for opera-goers under 25 as well as first-time attendees.