Daniel Catan, Mexican-born opera composer, dies in Austin
Daniel Catán, a leading Mexican-born composer known for his lyrical, romantic operas, died this weekend in Austin.
No cause of death has been reported.
Catán, 62, was a longtime resident of South Pasadena, Calif., but was living in Austin while serving as the composer-in-residence at the University of Texas' Butler School of Music for the spring semester. He was found in his Austin apartment Sunday after he failed to show up Saturday for a scheduled appearance at the University of Houston Moores School of Music. A UT College of Fine Arts spokeswoman said no foul play was suspected.
In October, the Butler School of Music announced that it had commissioned the composer to write an opera in honor of Austin philanthropists Sarah and Ernest Butler. The opera, "Meet John Doe," was to be based on the classic 1941 Frank Capra film and debut in October 2012. The Butlers had recently commissioned Catán to write a smaller, chamber version of his opera "La Hija de Rappaccini (Rappaccini's Daughter)," which premiered at UT in February.
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend and colleague Daniel Catán," said Glenn Chandler, director of the Butler School of Music. "We are honored to have had the opportunity to work with him. This is a tragic loss for the entire world of opera and the arts."
Born in 1949 in Mexico City to parents of Russian and Sephardic Jewish descent, and later an American citizen, Catán was the first Mexican composer to have an opera produced in the United States when the San Diego Opera staged "La Hija de Rappaccini" in 1994.
In 1996, the Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera and Seattle Opera commissioned "Florencia en el Amazonas," the first Spanish-language opera ever commissioned by major U.S. opera companies. A collaboration between Catán and Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez, "Florencia" is loosely based on García Márquez's novel "Love in the Time of Cholera."
Catán's opera "Il Postino," based on the Oscar-winning film of the same name, premiered at the Los Angeles Opera in 2010 with Plácido Domingo in the lead role.
Catán attended the University of Essex in England and later Princeton University, where he studied composition with famed American composer Milton Babbitt. After his studies, Catán returned to Mexico City and served as music administrator at the Palacios de Bellas Artes. Later he settled in Southern California and taught at College of the Canyons, a community college in Santa Clarita.
Catán is survived by his mother, Louisa Porteny of Mexico City; his third wife, Andrea Puente, a professional harpist; three children; four grandchildren; and two brothers, Luis and Jaime.