UT artist-in-residence dies before finishing opera

Yvonne Marquez

Mexican opera composer Daniel Catán died over the weekend in Austin while working on a new piece for the Butler School of Music. He was 62.

The exact time and cause of death is not confirmed, said College of Fine Arts spokeswoman Leslie Lyon. She said paramedics told Catán’s wife he died in his sleep.

Catán was the first Mexican composer to have an opera performed in the U.S. when the San Diego Opera produced “Rappaccini’s Daughter” in 1994. His most recent opera, “Il Postino,” which is based on the Academy Award-winning Italian film of the same name, premiered in Los Angeles last September.

The Butler School of Music commissioned Catán to write an opera titled “Meet John Doe,” dedicated to Sarah and Ernest Butler for their long history of support to the school. It was expected to debut in Fall 2012.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend and colleague Daniel Catán, who has been artist-in-residence in the Butler School of Music this term,” Glenn Chandler, Butler School of Music director, said in an email. “We are honored to have had the opportunity to work with him. This is a tragic loss for the entire world of opera and the arts. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Catán was supposed to be at the University of Houston on Saturday evening for the opening of their production of “Il Postino.” He never checked into his hotel and didn’t attend the performance, said Lyon.

“The world has lost a special artist and, more important, his family has lost a gentle spirit, a humanitarian, somebody who had no enemies,” said Michael Alexander, a friend of Catán for more than 10 years. “He was remarkable in the sense he was not only a remarkable talent but one of those kinds of people who was friendly to deal with and was not a remote individual.”

Catán is survived by his wife Andrea Puente. Puente said Catán was 18 when his passion for opera began while he was a supernumerary, or extra, for different productions in England. “Opera talks about emotions and feelings and that’s why [he loved opera],” Puente said.