Inspired by the 1994 film by Michael Radford, “Postino” tells the story of a shy postal carrier who delivers mail to poet Pablo Neruda, forming a friendship that facilitates an unlikely, budding romance between the mailman and a young woman who lives on his route.
Lyrical, romantic style and lush orchestration are hallmarks of Catán’s work. “Il Postino” was first performed in 2011 at the LA Opera, the year the composer died.
Three artists driving the OSB version shared their vision for this production, and their deep background with the work: OSB artistic director and “Postino” conductor Kostis Protopapas; tenor Daniel Montenegro, who’ll sing the title role of Mario; and Crystal Manich, stage director of this and two previous “Postinos.”
Each makes a passionate case for jumping on the limited remaining tickets to this weekend’s performances on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.
Protopapas extoled “Postino” as a “work of one of the greatest opera composers of the turn of the 21st century, and a perfect example of what the best music theater can be: a moving and meaningful story, [with] text beautifully set to music in a way the audience can follow, and a sweeping symphonic score.”
Montenegro met Catán in 2007 when the composer had just finished writing the first act of “Postino” and was looking for vocalists to sing it. The two connected via Montenegro’s vocal coach and worked together at Catan’s home in Pasadena.
“It truly was a wonderful experience. He was so generous and such a humble man. A year or so later, after he finished [it], I worked with him on the whole opera, singing Mario for the workshop for LA Opera,” the tenor remembered.
“I enjoy the role of Mario; he is so innocent, maybe a bit naïve at times, but very honest. The music is glorious and it has been a part of my life for over a decade now.”
Manich staged Leos Janacek’s “The Cunning Little Vixen” for OSB three years ago; she has recently set “Il Postino” on the Virginia Opera and Opera Southwest.
“I have been living with this opera for almost two years and I have loved discovering new things about it every time I look at it,” she said.
“’Il Postino’ is about finding love for the mundane through poetry. I feel strongly that this is a message we need to be communicating and feeling in the world right now,” Manich said.
The OSB production “is an adaptation of the 1994 film, not a carbon copy. It achieves something that only the theater can do: it stirs emotions in a community in real time. Each theater is unique and you need to design to the strengths of the space and the strengths and desires of a company like OSB.”
“It is a very theatrical production, designed for the intimate Lobero Theater,” Protopapas said. “It is fast-paced and cinematic, an effect that is amplified through the use of digital video projections. We of course have a cast of superb singing actors, and a 28-piece orchestra in the pit.”
Asked what an opera newcomer might need to know to enjoy the performance, Protopapas is clear: “They don’t really need to know anything about it! Just come prepared to experience a beautiful story about love, poetry, and personal responsibility.”
“Contrary to what some people think, opera is not a 19th century European artifact,” he said. “Opera is a living, breathing art form, and the U.S. is currently the epicenter of a boom in creating new operas that are inspired by the contemporary experience. ‘Il Postino’ perfectly exemplifies how opera is relevant and accessible to contemporary audiences.”
Performances of “Il Postino” are 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 7 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 8.
Buy tickets online; call the Lobero box office, 805-963-0761; or visit the ticket window 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday or noon-5 p.m. Saturday, at 33 E. Canon Perdido St.