Libretto by David Henry Hwang
Direction & Choreography by Deborah Colker
Conducted by Stuart Stratford
Deborah Colker for Scottish Opera has rightened a dichotomy: for nearly two decades, Osvaldo Golijov was the emergence of a postmodernist complexity within the classical world – and his ability to merge Latin American music with the potentials of European Operatic, dramatics and theatrics was never fully capitalised, until this Scottish and UK premiere staging from Scottish Opera. Ainadamar serves as a prophet of its own success – an operatic waiting opportunity to flourish, revolutionise and reinvigorate the foundations of Scottish Opera with one of their most successful contemporary productions.
Condensed into an appropriate eighty-minute production is a myriad of events, primarily of the death of Federico Garcia Lorca, told through flashbacks by the actress Margarita Xirgu, star of Mariana Pineda. Recounting the murder of Lorca to her student, Nuria, Margarita relives the final days of Lorca’s life and the savagery of the Spanish Civil War as the story morphs into a contemporary passion piece, reflecting the past, whilst fixating on the legacy of Lorca’s artistic martyrdom.
There is an undisputed celebration of the feminine, or at the least a subversion of the heavily masculine, as the principal leads are bestowed to Lauren Fagan, Julieth Lozano, and Samantha Hankey. Male voices are principally affiliated with the National Guard, embodying a perverse intrusion of brutish oppression; Alfredo Tejada’s Falangist officer petrifies into the theatre, elongated, and annunciates without stress – as hauntingly beautiful as it is corrosive in character and historical backdrop.
Though technically a three-hand lead, the principal primmas of Fagan’s Margarita and Hankey’s Lorca are accompanied by the energetic and pleasant accompaniment of Lozano’s Nuria, whose momentum drives the narrative and entices Margarita’s narrative to move forward. The gravitas of arias ringing throughout, communicating an almost poetic nature located within Hwang’s libretto, Fagan capturing the anguish and complexity of Margarita’s friendship with Lorza; Hankey invigorating the tenants of Lorza’s surreal nature of spoken word and grasp of artistic merit – leading to a tangible sense of loss at Lorza’s execution, re-shaped akin to a crucifixion in Colker’s staging to further the agony and betrayal Lorca endured – kept just beyond a veil of smoke and flame by the production’s magnificent design.
A barrier between worlds: fact and fiction, life and death, past and present, Jon Bausor’s circular curtain which frames the production houses an outpouring of grief, passion, and blood which reflects David Henry Hwang’s virtuoso libretto remarkably. Crimson streams of thread cascade circularly in a sinister negative of Bausor’s opaque primary stage curtain of the sub-titular ‘Fountain of Tears’ outside of Granada, where Lorca is thought to have been murdered.
Tal Rosner’s visual dimension proves, without question, that Ainadamar deserves to be witnessed live in the theatre. The rippling curtain often toyed with by the grief-stricken Margarita, serves as a vast canvas for Rosner’s abstract imagery, and Paul Keogan’s atmospheric and morose lighting. It serves not only to enhance the visual nature but provide adequate coverage for tight scene changes. Each element of projection and sharp protrusion of staging elevates the score’s effectiveness.
Golijov’s effervescent composition is the only force able to permeate through the barrier with a stillness, carrying the momentum of the flamenco-infused music with a harrowing ghost-like quality which never intrudes upon the vocals or storytelling mechanics. It decisively shifts from an extension of Antonio Najarro’s Flamenco styles to a more electronic punctuation under the deft, and steady command of Stuart Stratford and the Scottish Opera Orchestra.
And it is perfectly understandable that given Colker’s choreography background, the staging and direction of Ainadamar make cohesive sense throughout – soaking in the vibrancy of colour, catapulting it to the back of the stage – Aitor Hernandez’s solo pieces bookending the production a sublime piece of movement; commanding and vigorous.
Despite preconceptions, the substance of a truly magnificent, and authentic Opera extends beyond the confined limitations of vocals. Definitive Opera is an experience, a flooding burst of melodrama and grandeur – not in expense, but emotional storytelling. Ainadamar is about more than one component: music, libretto, or movement. This thunderous piece of performance shatters the chains of Opera’s misdemeanour emminence and amalgamates the postmodern complexity of Hwang’s libretto with a smoky infusion of electronica and flamenco; to see Golijov’s work performed on a Scottish stage, to such a distinctive quality is truly something to behold: maravillosa, a new paradigm of Opera.
A Thunderous Piece of Performance
Scottish Opera: Ainadamar runs at the Festival Theatre until November 12th.
Tickets for which may be obtained here.
Photo Credit – James Glossop