Utah Opera turns fantasy into reality in upcoming production of 'Florencia en el Amazonas'

Published: Saturday, Jan. 12 2013 12:00 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — An opera diva returns to her homeland in hopes of finding her long-lost love, a butterfly collector who has vanished in the jungle. On a voyage down the Amazon River, mystical forces show the diva and other passengers just how powerful love is.

That is the plot behind "Florencia en el Amazonas," Utah Opera’s new production opening Jan. 19.

In it, Nmon Ford plays Riolobo, the intermediary between reality and the mystical world of the river. Ford hopes that people sitting on the fence ultimately decide to go to the Spanish-language opera.

"There is never a dull moment and the music is very pretty and exciting in many ways," Ford said.

Playing the role of the captain of the steamboat is Hector Vásquez, who worked with the composer of "Florencia en el Amazonas" during its world premiere back in 1995.

"This production is perfect for someone's first opera because it's really easy to follow. It's not opera-feeling because the scenes move along quickly like in a movie," Vásquez said.

Main character Florencia is played by one of Utah's favorite opera singers, Cynthia Clayton. She believes everyone who comes to the performance will be amazed by what they see.

"It's thrilling with the different instruments and music performed by the orchestra. The costumes and colors seen in the jungle are beautiful. The best part to me is the storyline, as everyone can relate to it in one way or another, " Clayton said.

"Florencia en al Amazonas" is the first Spanish-language opera commissioned by major opera houses in the U.S. and is inspired by the "Magical Realism" style and writings of Nobel Prize-winning Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez.

The production will be held Jan. 19, 21, 23 and 25 at 7:30 p.m. and Jan. 27 at 2 p.m. at Capitol Theatre.

Utah Opera Principal Coach Carol Anderson will offer an opera prelude lecture, free of charge, in the front of the orchestra seating level of Capitol Theatre one hour before curtain of each performance.

Utah Opera Artistic Director Christopher McBeth will hold a question-and-answer session, free of charge, immediately following each performance in the Founders Room on the mezzanine level at Capitol Theatre.

Single tickets for the performances range from $13 to $78 and can be purchased by calling 801-355-ARTS, in person at the Abravanel Hall ticket office (123 W South Temple) or by visiting www.utahopera.org. Discounted student tickets will be available on the dates of the performances. Season ticket holders and those desiring group discounts should call 801-533-NOTE. All ticket prices are subject to change and availability. Ticket prices will increase $5 when purchased on the day of the performance.

Kylie Lewis is an intern for the Deseret News where she writes for Mormon Times and does other feature articles. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho, receiving a bachelor's degree in communications.

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