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Classical Sprouts: The Making of 'Florencia en el Amazonas' at the Met Pt. 1

Dancers in colorful costumes portraying a hummingbird, heron, and a water lily in the Metropolitan opera's 2023 production of "Florencia en el Amazonas"
Ken Howard2021
Dancers portraying a hummingbird, heron, and a water lily in the Met's production of "Florencia en el Amazonas"

When you think of opera, what comes to mind? Probably not pink dolphins, monkey marionettes, and singing in Spanish, right?

But that’s exactly what we’ll get to explore as we hear all about what it takes to put together "Florencia en el Amazonas" at the Metropolitan Opera.

Our producer, Emily Duncan Wilson, got to go to the dress rehearsal at the Met in New York City.

"Florencia" isn’t a new opera, but it's certainly a lot newer than other operas like ones by Mozart or Rossini.

It originally premiered in Houston in 1996, and was written by Mexican composer, Daniel Catán with a libretto (text) by Marcela Fuentes-Berain.

And, for the first time, it is being presented at the Metropolitan Opera. This is also the first time in over 100 years that the Met has produced an opera in Spanish.

"Florencia" tells the enchanting story of an opera diva who returns to her native South America to perform at the legendary opera house of Manaus—and to search for her lost lover, who has vanished into the jungle.

Click here for a beautifully illustrated synopsis.

This Met premiere stars soprano Ailyn Pérez as Florencia Grimaldi, with Yannick Nézet-Séguin on the podium to lead a new production by Mary Zimmerman that brings the mysterious and magical realm of the Amazon to the Met stage.

In this episode, Emily chats with director Mary Zimmerman, puppet designer and puppeteer Tom Lee and the singer performing the role of Rosalba, Gabriella Reyes, about what it takes to create the world of the Amazon onstage at the Met.

Emily even got to talk to some Sprouts from local elementary schools in Manhattan that were also there to see the dress rehearsal.

Between scenes, Catán's score features instrumental interludes that help create the illusion of being in the Amazon, which provides an opportunity for Zimmerman and the designers to play.

Human-sized waterlilies, puppeteer-operated alligators, fully costumed and masked piranhas, knife fish, various birds, and even pink dolphins fill the stage as the music fills the air with sounds of water, insects, and birds.

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Want to experience the opera yourself?

Saturday, December 9, 2023 at 1 p.m. EST, tune into IPR for a live radio broadcast of this production.

It is also being broadcast live in HD in theatres regionally and around the country.

The Met has provided an educational guide for even more exploration of this opera for younger audiences.

DIRECTOR: Mary Zimmerman
CONDUCTOR: Yannick Nézet-Séguin
SET DESIGNER: Riccardo Hernández

Thanks to Chanel Williams and the Education Team at the Metropolitan opera for helping to organize the interviews presented in this episode.

Emily Duncan Wilson is the producer of "Kids Commute."
Kate Botello is a host and producer at Classical IPR.