Osvaldo Golijov
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Ainadamar (2003): Reviews
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From: Cincinnati Enquirer (Janelle Gelfand)

A stunning new opera by Argentinean composer Osvaldo Golijov and author David Henry Hwang. Powerful, moving and exquisitely crafted...Opening night sold out weeks before its Santa Fe premiere last Saturday, and had the audience on its feet cheering at its conclusion...

"Ainadamar" deals with the violent death there of Spanish author Federico Garcia Lorca, as seen through the eyes of his principal interpreter, actress Margarita Xirgu (pronounced SHIR-gu). Ainadamar, or "fountain of tears," was the place where Fascists executed Lorca at age 32, the first of thousands killed in Granada during the Spanish Civil War.

Just 75 minutes in length, the opera was a mesmerizing intersection of true history, the fantastic imagination of Hwang and the musical genius of Golijov, who is known for weaving Latin melodies and rhythms and Eastern European klezmer music into his scores.

It is an inspired collaboration between four major artists: Golijov, whose "St. Mark Passion" swept up the music world in 2000; Hwang, who won a Tony for "M. Butterfly"; director Peter Sellars, known for works such as John Adams' "Nixon in China" (coming to Cincinnati Opera in 2007); and Gronk, a Los Angeles-based painter and performance artist.

Gronk's set design was nothing short of spectacular – Guernica-like painted murals covering three walls and the stage floor. The opera opened with the sound of water followed by a remarkable counterpoint of Spanish rhythms and toreador fanfares. Not only is Golijov's music an entertaining tapestry of jazzy, earthy rhythms, his gift for melody is extraordinary. His melodies were inspired by the three cultures of Spain: Arab, Jewish and Christian, as well as Gypsy-flamenco elements.

It all unfolded, dreamlike. Dawn Upshaw was completely absorbing as Margarita. Her persona could be radiant or tragically dark, and the depth of her emotion was profound. Lorca, a "pants" role, was richly sung by mezzo Kelley O'Connor, a member of Santa Fe's apprentice program. A chorus of young women, in black dresses, encircled the principal singers in an almost mystical choreography.

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