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Critic's notebook: 'Il Postino' and the Latin moment

October 19, 2010 |  9:00 am

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At the final performance of “Il Postino” Saturday night, Los Angeles Opera was sold out and then some. I’m told the company scrambled to find seats for the company’s music director, James Conlon, who had just flown into town, and for Eloísa Maturén, the wife of Gustavo Dudamel. Several people approached me in front the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion asking if I had an extra ticket to sell.

“Il Postino” is the most successful new opera the company has mounted since its founding 25 years ago. And many, inside and out of the company, are now asking why. Nothing really is new. The opera is based on a popular film. So was “The Fly” two seasons ago; that was a flop. “Il Postino” stars Plácido Domingo as the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Domingo created the role of Rasputin in “Nicholas and Alexandra” seven years ago; that was a flop.

Daniel Catán’s score for “Postino” is accessible. But this is not his first opera for the company, which produced his “Florencia en el Amazonas” a dozen years ago. “Postino’s” popularity has meant something that even last spring’s “Ring” fever did not — last-minute funding for a hoped-for DVD (to be fair, Wagner’s four-opera “Ring” cycle, would have been vastly more expensive to film).

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-- Mark Swed

Photo: Plácido Domingo (left) as Pablo Neruda and Charles Castronovo as Mario in Daniel Catán’s "Il Postino." Credit: Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times.

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