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'Florencia' Goes up the Amazon Again

The short run of Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas at Washington National Opera closes tomorrow. After our reviews of the first and second performances, the third performance on Wednesday night offered the chance to hear a different singer in the title role. Soprano Melody Moore made a commendable company debut as the opera singer returning to Brazil, dignified of presence and vocally lush but lighter in heft than Christine Goerke. One missed Goerke's overwhelming power -- and her surety on the role's top notes -- especially in the ensemble numbers, like the storm quintet near the end of the first act, but overall Moore's performance confirmed my suspicion that the role is better suited to a voice that can be a little more transparent and shimmery than Goerke's generally is.

It is always good to hear a relatively new work several times -- before this production, I knew this opera only in recording -- and the chance to hear it over three evenings brought out many details in my appreciation of it. Most notably, Catán managed to avoid the cliched sound of piles of unusual percussion so often found in the music of Latin composers, adding tinges of such sounds in a few places in the score, infusing rather than submerging it -- hints of steelpan, djembé, even wind machine as unexpected colors added subtly here and there. In particular, drums enter sotto voce at times -- the signature rhythm is 1 & 2 & - & 4, with the accent on the offbeat of beat 2 -- seeming to indicate the pulse of the Amazon that bubbles through the characters' minds and actions. They are some of the score's most seductive moments, which stand out because the sound of percussion is held in reserve.

This production continues through September 28, in the Kennedy Center Opera House.

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