Florida State University student director José Israel García sees Daniel Catán’s “La Hija de Rappaccini” as a “relationship between life and death and the limits those can represent; the fragility of life and unexpected comfort that can be found in death.”
Those components drew him to the work, which the College of Music will present as its final opera production of the 2021-2022 season at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 27, and Saturday, May 28, at the Richard G. Fallon Theatre.
“‘Life versus death’ is huge in Mexico,” said García, who grew up near the Mexico/U.S. border in Brownsville, Texas, as a child of a Mexican immigrant father. “The way we honor the dead with Día de Muertos, where death becomes almost a celebration, makes this story special.”
Based on a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne and later turned into a play by Octavio Paz, “La Hija de Rappaccini” (Rappaccini’s Daughter) is a tale of science vs nature.
“Dr. Rappaccini seeks a cure for all human disease through plant life, but fellow scientist Dr. Baglioni objects to his reckless methods — Rappaccini is conducting experiments on his daughter, Beátriz,” García said.
“Giovanni, a young research assistant, is hired to work with Rappaccini and begins to fall in love with Beátriz, who longs to explore the world beyond her father’s research lab. Unbeknownst to Giovanni, Beátriz has developed a side effect from Rappacinni’s experimentation: her touch has become poisonous.”
From a production standpoint, the opera begins in a greyscale format “with a colorful thread of experience throughout” and ends again in tones of black and white.
García, a graduate student in FSU’s College of Music, said he finds Catán’s music beautifully representative of Mexico with its “florid strings and woodwinds … combined with the colorful Ballet Folklórico movement rooted in indigeneity and community.”
While this production uses a reduced orchestration, those colors remain present within the score and staging.
The production features FSU’s voice-performance students, plus students and alumni in the orchestra, led by Master’s conducting student Sebastián Jiménez.