Lyric Opera Presents FLORENCIA EN EL AMAZONAS Review — Take a Magical Adventure

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Even though you’ll remain in your seat for the just-over-two-hour running time of Lyric Opera’s Florencia En El Amazonas, you’ll feel as if you yourself have been on Florencia’s love-fueled journey down the Amazon River by the time you’re rushing to join the standing ovation for soprano Ana María Martínez.

Photo by Andrew Cioffi

Much of this feeling has to do with the way that light plays against the colossal, two-story river boat that set designer Peter J. Davison has conjured on Lyric’s stage. Paired with S. Katy Tucker’s lush, natural projections, lighting designer Mark Mccullough paints the buff-colored boat in evocative, brilliant hues. The culminating effect transports us and cast alike, taking the cast of seven deep into the sunsets, storms, and sunrises of the Amazonian jungle as shadows grow and diminish across the ship’s structure. The scenery changes little, yet these design touches and a revolving stage vividly transport us to the heart of the jungle.

Spanish-Language Opera Takes Lyric Opera’s Mainstage

In a first for Lyric, Florencia En El Amazonas marks the mainstage debut of a Spanish-language opera. The driving beat of drumming anchors the storytelling in the jungle even as the orchestra swells during heightened moments of romance and drama. All of this keeps the action moving forward with the driving force of a river’s current.

The late Daniel Catán is notable as one of Mexico’s finest opera composers, and the music in Florencia illustrates his talents, in this writer’s opinion.  Catán’s arias, which are lyrically focused on the highs and lows of romantic entanglements, are suffused with a deep longing fitting to each character’s circumstances. There is something very accessible about attending a contemporary opera composed in the second-most-spoken language in the United States.

Photo by Andrew Cioffi

Magical Realism and Opera a Winning Combination

The story at the heart of Catán’s opera—that of a famed, yet reclusive, diva journeying by boat to perform in Manaus, Brazil—is infused with magical realism. Inspired by the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (and with several nods to his work Love in the Time of Cholera), Florencia En El Amazonas mixes fantasy with naturalism to deepen the emotions and events of its story in ways this reviewer found both subtle and surprising. Characters literally and figuratively go through a metamorphosis due to their journey down river on the El Dorado.  Just wait until you witness the omnipresent ​​Riolobo (baritone Ethan Vincent) and his mysterious relationship with the river and the Amazons who inhabit it!

Under the direction of Francesca Zambello, opera proves to be an ideal theatrical home for magical realism away from prose-based forms like the novel or novella. Thanks to opera’s ability to bring together the emotional resonance of Catán’s soaring score, top-notch operatic performances, and large-scale spectacle drawing on visual design, dance, and stage magic, Florencia Grimaldi’s voyage is rendered in all of the trappings of the genre avid readers of Garcia Marquez could hope for, in this writer’s opinion.

Florencia En El Amazonas will especially appeal to opera lovers and devout fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.


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Thru November 28, 2021

November 14, 18, 21, 26, 28
Running time: 2 hours and 5 minutes, including one intermission


Lyric Opera
20 North Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606



For tickets visit the Lyric Opera website.

Photos by Cory Weaver unless otherwise noted

Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago.

This story has been added to the Picture This Post roundup article on OPERAS WE LOVE.
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Brent Ervin-Eickhoff

About the Author: Brent Ervin-Eickhoff

Brent Ervin-Eickhoff is a director, writer, and educator based in Chicago, IL. He has worked with A Red Orchid Theatre, Silk Road Rising, Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co., Facility Theatre, and others as a director, assistant director, and in a variety of artistic capacities. Brent served as Co-Artistic Director and then Managing Director of Blue Goose Theatre Ensemble for three years, of which he was a founding member. His productions of Herculaneum and Bison? Bison. Bison! with Blue Goose were praised by critics and audiences. Bison? Bison. Bison! was selected and performed as part of Chicago’s Night Out in the Parks Initiative. An award-winning filmmaker, Brent’s films have screened as part of the Frog Baby Film Festival and Indianapolis 48 Hour Film Project. His play Puget Sound was workshopped as a staged reading as part of A Red Orchid Theatre’s Incubator Program in 2017. Brent graduated from Ball State University Magna Cum Laude with degrees in Directing and Theatre Education, as well as Ball State’s prestigious Academic Honors in Writing.

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