Composer Daniel Catan dies unexpectedly at 62 (Updated)


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Daniel Catán, the composer of the opera ‘Il Postino,’ which opened the current season at Los Angeles Opera, died unexpectedly Sunday in Austin, Texas. He was 62.

Catán lived in South Pasadena with his wife but was teaching for a semester at the University of Texas at Austin. He had been commissioned by the university’s Butler School of Music to adapt the Frank Capra movie ‘Meet John Doe’ for the operatic stage.


The composer died in his sleep in his apartment in Austin, and no foul play is suspected, according to a spokeswoman for the university. The composer’s representative also confirmed his death, saying that he wasn’t suffering from any known illnesses.

Born in Mexico City, Catán studied in Britain and later completed his music studies at Princeton University. He was the first Mexican composer to have an opera produced in the U.S. -- ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter,’ at the San Diego Opera in 1994.

‘Il Postino’ received its world premiere at L.A. Opera in September. The opera, based on the popular 1995 movie, starred Plácido Domingo as the exiled Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

Catán’s other operas include ‘Salsipuedes,’ ‘Florencia in the Amazon’ and ‘Encuentro en el ocaso.’ He also wrote orchestral, choral and chamber music. In addition to his post at the University of Texas at Austin, the composer also taught at the College of the Canyons.

The composer and his wife, a professional harpist, have two grown children.

Update: Read the full obituary here and an appreciation by Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed here.



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Upper photo: Daniel Catán. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Lower photo: Plácido Domingo with Cristina Gallardo-Domâs in ‘Il Postino.’ Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times