- Associated Press - Monday, April 11, 2011

AUSTIN, TEXAS (AP) - Mexican composer Daniel Catan has died while working on a new opera in Austin, Texas, a University of Texas spokeswoman said Monday. He was 62.

The cause of his death on Friday was not immediately released.

Catan was best known in the United States for his operatic adaptation of the Italian film “Il Postino,” which is sung in Spanish. The Los Angeles Opera premiered “Il Postino” last year with Placido Domingo playing the poet Pablo Neruda and tenor Charles Castronovo as the wide-eyed postman Mario Ruoppolo.

The performance won rave reviews, and the University of Houston performed the opera over the weekend. The opera is more traditional than most contemporary compositions, with arias, duets and lush tonal music, closer to the style of Puccini.

The Butler School of Music had commissioned Catan to create an opera from the Frank Capra film, “Meet John Doe,” and he was temporarily living in Austin, said Leslie Lyon, a spokeswoman for the University of Texas’s College of Fine Arts.

He became the first Mexican composer to have his work performed in the United States when the San Diego Opera produced “Rappaccini’s Daughter” in 1994. Catan was also known for his 1996 opera “Florence in the Amazon,” which included elements of magical realism. He had also composed symphonies, choral works, a ballet and a film score.

A native of Mexico City, Catan was of Jewish and Russian descent. He received a doctorate from Princeton in composition and studied philosophy at Britain’s University of Sussex.