Bold. Brave. Brilliant.

A Message from the Director of Florencia en el Amazonas, Joshua Borths

Josh Borths – November 13, 2015

When European explorers came to the New World, they encountered a land of magic. When compared to temperate Western Europe, the Amazon had a spirit and mind of its own that defied their conquest. If an explorer exposed a chair, a trunk, a gun or his own body to the elements, for even a short amount of time, the forest would claim it as its own. Everything Europeans brought across oceans soon belonged to the Amazon.

Magical Realism in the Amazon

Realismo mágico (magical& realism), a literary movement that began in the 20th century, beautifully captures this mysterious spirit. What seems ordinary and mundane is actually magical, and magic is a part of daily life if you look at it from the right perspective. Florencia en el Amazonas was inspired by the works of magical realism by Gabriel García Márquez, Nobel Prize-Winning author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. In this opera, composer Daniel Catán turns Márquez’s interpretation of magic and reality, life and death, love and exploration into a lush, musical soundscape.

At the beginning of the story, we meet a group of people who are traveling down the Amazon River to the opera house in Manaus, Brazil. We see them each struggle with their feelings about love and companionship. They are all connected to one another, but they can’t see it. Isn’t this something we all do? When grappling with tough situations, disappointment and ambiguity, we put our “blinders” on and cease to recognize the world around us? We forget we are connected to one another, and it is these connections that help us discover ourselves.

By the end of the opera, each character realizes that in order to keep moving forward, they need to open their hearts to one another. They learn that they are not autonomous, but part of a complex, living web of experience and love. Despite the fact that at the end of the opera, Florencia becomes a butterfly, it is the characters’ realization that they are all connected that creates is the most beautiful transformation of all.

Florencia en el Amazonas: A Web of Human Experience

The dominant design element you will see—outside of the boat ’s realism—is a web; an overwhelming network of curved lines symbolizing how all of the characters are connected and how they, in turn, are connected to the natural world surrounding them. This network could also be seen as a river system connecting water to land, or the roots of a mangrove, or the branches of a tree connecting the water to the sky. This network is both the Amazon and life.

At this performance, we hope to transport you, taking you on a mystical journey where everything is not as it seems, where simple, beautiful solutions can be found for even the most complex questions, and where magic is real. Just as the first explorers who traveled from Europe to the New World had to become lost in the Amazon to find themselves, so, too, must we surrender to the mystical unknown and let the jungle take hold.