Interview with Andrea Puente Catán

Andrea Puente-Catán is the caretaker and promoter of Daniel Catán’s legacy, participating in panels and conferences for opera companies and universities. At the moment two operas of Catán are presented in Mexico, Salsipuedes in the Palace of Fine Arts and The Daughter of Rappaccini in the University Cultural Center of the UNAM.

Andrea Puente-Catán is a native of Mexico City, has music degrees from the Music Conservatory of Mexico City and the California State University, as well as a Master’s Degree in Fundraising and Grant making from the University of New York. As a harpist, she has held major positions with the Jalisco Philharmonic in Guadalajara, the Ciudad de Málaga Orchestra, the Carlos Chávez Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra of Teatro de Bellas Artes and the National Orchestra of Mexico. Currently residing in Los Angeles, California, she is an active chamber music performer and founder of the harp and flute duo Arpa and Aulos with flutist Salpy Kerkonian.
A days before the premiere of Salsipuedes in the INBA, what can you tell us about this work?
Over the last twenty years I have lived, interpreted and promoted the works of Mexican composer Daniel Catán and I share with him the mission and the importance of opening the way to an “opera in Spanish.”
Both in Rappaccini’s daughter, As in Florence in the Amazon, Daniel continues with the European tradition. To what the orchestration refers; a generous and voluptuous orchestration, inspired by some of his favorite composers: Strauss, Debussy, Alban Berg and Ravel.
The chamber version of Rappacinni’s daughter is a condensation of the harmonic elements of the orchestral score that plunges us into a magical environment where reality, dream and science mix.
If I had to define Salsipuedes in a single word, it would be: rhythm. Daniel uses the rhythm to structure the score from start to finish. The surprising thing in the opera Salsipuedes it is just the orchestration. Salsipuedes lacks the string section, the violins do not participate and only a couple of cellos and basses are included in this orchestral fabric. The stars in this tragicomedy are the percussions, the great group that structures and moves forward the work. It’s as if we had a great salsa combo telling us the story of the Caribbean island of Salsipuedes.
Salsipuedes is a bet on the hope that better times will come … It is a vow to the nobility of human relationships, an honest look at characters blinded by the power and sweetness of young characters who only long to be happy.
Finally, the element of love as always in Catán, the last ace that leaves us.

To what do you attribute the success of Daniel Catán’s operas and what do you think was his greatest contribution to Latin American music?  
The contribution of Daniel Catán to Latin American music is that he was the pioneer in the creation of operas in Spanish in the United States and in the world. He opens the gap for the composers who follow him. In my opinion that was his contribution, his mission, his vision, and I believe that he achieved it.

What do you think about the Latin composition nowadays and how could it be having more international visibility?
The contribution of Latin music is gigantic if we think that we are international. If we stop thinking that we are living nothing else in our cities and countries, and feel part of the universality of music.
In order for our music to be heard, what we need is a lot of promotion and directors who believe in Latin American music, who direct it and entertain international audiences.

You are currently linked to the San Diego opera. Can you tell us more about your work?
Actually I work for the San Diego Opera. I’m in charge of raising funds so that we can present our operas, and I’m also in charge of the direction of Hispanic relations, and as you will know about 45 million Spanish speakers in the United States, which gives us incredible strength. My initiative in the San Diego company is what I call “Opera in Spanish”, which is a continuation of Daniel’s project and our project together, and we are starting to commission “Opera in Spanish” with new composers who write in Spanish and present these works. I think this is a job that all American companies are looking for and we need to give voice to our people, because in the United States it is the place where all of Latin America lives.  

Like Daniel, you have had a great musical career. You have played together with great orchestras such as Philharmonic of Jalisco, the City of Malaga Orchestra, the Mining Symphony Orchestra, Santa Barbara Symphony, Santa Cecilia Orchestra, Antelope Valley Orchestra and the Orchestra of Baja California. And you are currently a cultural ambassador of the US- Mexico Chamber of Commerce in California. How has this experience been as a woman and what do you think is her role for all Latin American women artists?
What I would recommend to women is that they believe in what they are doing, when you believe in what you are doing and you do it well, things fall under your own weight. You must only apply dedication, discipline, structure, move forward and you will achieve it.
The most important thing is that there is no discrimination for being a woman, we all have to contribute, be you a man or a woman.

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Salsipuedes, Daniel Catán’s opera is presented at the INBA in Mexico 70 years after his birth