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No shortage of love (or puppets) in The Met's 'Florencia en el Amazonas'

From L: Director Mary Zimmerman, singer Gabriella Reyes and puppet designer and puppeteer Tom Lee
From L: Director Mary Zimmerman, singer Gabriella Reyes and puppet designer and puppeteer Tom Lee

Get insight into what it takes to put on an opera at the Met. Emily Duncan Wilson chats with the director, puppet designer and the singer performing the role of Rosalba in "Florencia en el Amazonas."

"Classical Sprouts" and "Kids Commute" producer Emily Duncan Wilson caught up with the director, puppet designer and star of The Metropolitan Opera's current production of Daniel Catán's "Florencia en el Amazonas" after the final dress rehearsal.

The singer performing the role of Rosalba, Gabriella Reyes, was still abuzz after finishing the performance.

"It was kind of buzzy on stage. It felt so amazing, and I'm so glad that it sounded like everyone enjoyed it," she said.

And enjoy it they did. The audience was full of industry professionals, designers and creatives working on the production, press, and most importantly, hundreds of elementary aged school kids from the greater Manhattan area, watching the opera as a field trip.

This is the first time in almost a hundred years that the Metropolitan Opera has put on a Spanish language opera, and although this is a new production at the Met, it is not a new opera. It just isn't done very often.

Composer Daniel Catán and librettist Marcela Fuentes-Berain first premiered the opera in Houston in 1996.

Director Mary Zimmerman talks about how she created her design team and how the collaboration began, including bringing on Tom Lee as a puppet designer from the Chicago Puppet Studio.

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

A major element in this production is the presence of animal puppets and elaborate naturally-inspired costumes.

There are piranhas, water lilies, an alligator, an iguana, a monkey, knife fish, a heron, a hummingbird, pink dolphins and more.

The each of the trio comment on how important it was to the team to create the illusion and the feeling of the Amazon on stage, not necessarily creating a realistic representation.

"When you enlist the audience in completing the image, you give them a suggestion, that creates a kind of collaboration with them, where we're all making this together, and it creates a kind of intimacy," says Zimmerman.

Catán includes sonically and musically rich instrumental interludes between each scene, and the team members agreed that those are some of their favorite moments within the piece.

This isn't the first encounter with the piece for singer Gabriella Reyes. She's sung the role of Rosalba before, and she was delighted to meet the character again with a new perspective.

Reyes, a native Spanish speaker, is thrilled to be singing in Spanish.

"It has been liberating to be able to sing in a language that I have been speaking since birth. If my ancestors could have seen me I know they'd be so proud," she said.

The process has been a positive one all around, which always heightens the level of art created in a piece.

"When people work together as a team, we share a vision and we're all committed to the vision and that with that, the work that we put in is full of love because truly this has been a work of love. putting this show up on its feet from day one. There has been no shortage of love going around. We're all cheering for each other, " said Reyes.

Hear the Met's live broadcast on IPR of "Florencia en el Amazonas" Saturday, December 9 at 1 p.m. EST.

The Met Live in HD production will also be broadcast in theatres nationwide that same day.

This episode of In Studio A was hosted, recorded, and produced by Emily Duncan Wilson.

Instead of the usual recording in IPR's Studio A, today's recording took place at the Metropolitan Opera.

Emily Duncan Wilson is IPR's digital content manager and is the producer of "Classical Sprouts" and "Kids Commute".