Catán is known best for his lyrical romantic style and especially his operas, the most recent of which, Il Postino, premiered with great success at Los Angeles Opera in September 2010, starring Plácido Domingo. His second opera Florencia en el Amazonas was frequently performed and garnered great acclaim when it premiered at Houston Grand Opera in 1996.
Catán was spending the semester teaching at the University of Texas Butler School of Music. The LA Times says Catán was commissioned by the school to create an operatic version of the Frank Capra movie "Meet John Doe."
It was an operatic adaptation of the Italian film "Il Postino" that earned Catán the bulk of his recognition in the United States. But the composer, who received a PhD from Princeton University, was humble about his accomplishments.
"When I am aware that my work is well known, I am genuinely surprised," Catan said during this interview with EscapeLatino in Cincinnati, Ohio. "But I am delighted."
Catán had a unique musical style that was very freeform, according to symphonic and operatic conductor Dr. Brian Asher Alhadeff.
"He doesn't follow a structure that, say, Mozart had to follow in classical music," Alhadeff said last year during this guest lecture at Cypress College. "If there's repetition, it's very random where it happens."