Golijov: Ainadamar

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COMPOSERS: Golijov
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Golijov
WORKS: Ainadamar
PERFORMER: Dawn Upshaw, Kelley O’Connor, Jessica Rivera, Jesús Montoya, Eduardo Chama, Sean Mayer, Robb Asklof, Atlanta Chorus & SO/Robert Spano
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6165
The Fountain of Tears, as the title translates, is where Federico Garcia Lorca was shot by Spanish Nationalists. David Henry Hwang’s libretto has his death imagined by the actress Margarita Xirgu, who in turn had created Lorca’s role of Mariana Pineda, the 19th-century activist killed for withholding the names of revolutionaries. Its flashbacks, layers and cross-references make a fitting match for Osvaldo Golijov’s vivid use of the same devices in music.

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In many ways Ainadamar is less an opera than a Passion: the scenes are short, centering on a martyrdom and ending with the passing on of a spirit; and while the music is wholeheartedly emotional and sometimes vigorous, it tends to meditation more than action. It reaches out to flamenco, and Latin American sources and their Baroque origins, while taking nourishment from Middle Eastern roots.

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Ainadamar has enjoyed success on stage but here proves a real ‘opera of the imagination’. It is dazzlingly presented: guitars and percussion, Jesús Montoya’s flamenco improvisations and Kelley O’Connor’s startling low mezzo as the poet, Dawn Upshaw’s brilliance and tonal generosity as Xirgu, all rest on glowing orchestral colours and cunning production. Robert Maycock