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Butler School of Music Announces Commission of ‘Meet John Doe’ By Daniel Catán

Today The Butler School of Music announced the commission of a new opera by acclaimed Mexican composer Daniel Catán. Meet John Doe, based on the classic 1941 Frank Capra comic drama, will premiere at The University of Texas at Austin Butler Opera Center (BOC) in the 2012-13 season. The Butler School has commissioned the work in dedication to Sarah and Ernest Butler for their long history of support to the school. "I can think of no better way to honor the Butlers for their magnanimous support of this school than to commission a major opera," said B. Glenn Chandler, director of the Butler School of Music.

Plans for the commission began in 2008, shortly after the Butlers announced a $55 million naming gift to the UT School of Music. The gift, which is the single largest gift ever made to a public school of music, was the culmination of more than twenty years of support of the school. When the idea to present the Butlers with a new opera came about, BOC director Robert DeSimone immediately proposed that Catán compose the work. "Daniel is one of the most significant operatic composers today," said DeSimone. "Presenting the world premiere of Meet John Doe is an extraordinary project for the Butler Opera Center."

When Catán attended the re-opening of Bass Concert Hall in Austin in January 2009, he met with Chandler, DeSimone, and the Butlers. After Meeting the Butlers, Catán accepted the invitation to compose the opera. "I am deeply honored to be writing an opera to celebrate Sarah and Ernest Butler," said Catán. "This will be one of the happiest events in my entire life. They've done so much for music and musicians that I am moved to write my very best work."

Marking a significant departure from the Latin themes of Catán's previous opera, Meet John Doe is focuses on American musical and theatrical ideas of the early 1940s. The libretto, based on the original screenplay by Richard Connell, Robert Presnell and Robert Riskin tells the story of a grassroots political campaign that is unwittingly started by a newspaper columnist that gains national recognition when a wealthy businessman gets behind it. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Story in 1942.

Catán is in residence at the Butler School of Music in spring 2011 to complete the opera and workshop select scenes with the BOC. "It is very exciting to deepen my relationship with UT, one of the finest Universities in the world," said Catán. "I hope that my new opera will add glory to an already glorious university and music school." As part of the residency, Catán is also working with the Butler Opera Center on their upcoming production of his earlier opera Rappaccini's Daughter, which opens on February 25, 2011 on the UT campus. The BOC production marks the world premier of Catán's new orchestration of the work. Previously scored for a large orchestra, Catán has reworked the score for two pianos, harp, and percussion.

Meet John Doe will not be the first time Catán has adapted a screenplay for the opera stage. His latest opera Il Postino, is based on the much-loved 1994 film by director Michael Radford. For that libretto, Catán referenced both the screenplay and Antonio Skármeta's original novel .Los Angeles Opera premiered Il Postino, starring Placido Domingo, on September 23, 2010. The opera's opening weekend has received overwhelmingly positive reviews.

The World Premiere of Meet John Doe Is currently set for fall of 2012, on the UT campus. "Providing exceptional opportunities such as this is an essential part of our mission as educators," said Chandler. "The opportunity to perform a new work where there are no preconceived notions based on previous performances provides a unique environment for artistic growth."

Daniel Catán's lyrical, romantic style lends itself particularly well to the human voice, which features prominently in the majority of his works. Catán's proficiency can easily be heard in his opera Florencia en el Amazonas, a Spanish-language opera co-commissioned by Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera and Seattle Opera. Though Catán was born in Mexico he is a product of both British and American schooling, receiving degrees from University of Sussex (in philosophy), University of Southampton and Princeton University, where he studied with Milton Babbitt. His influences belie his native land: he has been compared to Debussy, Richard Strauss, and Puccini, with a wisp of Japanese influence.

The Butler School of Music is a world-renowned comprehensive music school. Its diverse array of degree programs, internationally acclaimed performing and academic faculty, and strong commitment to individual development of its students have made it a top destination for some of the world's most promising young musicians. Each year it presents over 500 musical events in the Austin area.


Friday, October 01, 2010