Ainadamar (The Fountain of Tears) is a fusion of dance, visual technology, voices and orchestra, knitted together in bold, beautiful, installation-style art. The opening, a monochrome projection of a bull, is instantly intriguing and the intermittent visual representations cast to the shimmering circular curtain continue throughout the opera, lending depth and coherence not afforded by the libretto (David Henry Hwang). The curtain is easily penetrated and moved aside, suggesting power and vulnerability at one and the same time.
The chainmail bullring conceals scene changes and reveals the action with the cast free to move between the interior and the exterior. This metaphor translates to traditional Andalucia and its gypsy customs of Flamenco and bullfighting, which Lorca endeavoured to protect, from the newer order and wider world encircling it during the Spanish Civil War.
The dancers are wonderful. My personal favourite is Julia Fernandez, while Juan Pedro Delgado is a dramatic piece of flesh: powerful.
Brazilian choreographer and theatre maker, Deborah Colker, enhances this opera enormously, along with visual and aural notables, Jon Bausor, Cameron Crosby and Paul Keogan. It is, to be honest, their combined genius that captivates. The weeping stones; the shawls and fans; the upturned tables and stakes chaotically arranged – an emblem of a war-torn country – this glorious staging is perfectly utilised by the Voices as they stumble and clamber over the destruction of war, heart-broken. Their poet, Frederico Garcia Lorca is cruelly murdered, alongside thousands of others in the Spanish Civil War; the creation of a light-projected, weeping fountain, where Lorca was executed, is stunningly beautiful. The traditional Flamenco guitar and cascade of tears is moving and tender.
Lorca said: “Theatre needs the characters appearing on stage to wear a suit of poetry at the same time as they reveal their bones, their blood.” His bent towards tragedy is manifested in both the naked strength and anguish of Lauren Fagan’s (playing Margarita Xirgu) performance while Lorca’s poetry is visceral in the staging.
The score itself is sombre and mournful with little respite. Running at 80 minutes, Osvaldo Golijov’s gloating can seem endless. It is rescued and glorified by the visual content.
Scottish Opera, in collaboration with Opera Ventures and co-producers Detroit Opera, The Metropolitan Opera and Welsh National Opera must be applauded in their vision and tenacity in bringing together a wonderful international team of creatives to give us something delicious to behold. Let us hope that financial constraints in the current climate do not damage more exciting collaborations.
The orchestra, faultlessly conducted by Stuart Stratford, supports the beautiful singers seamlessly. Lorca (played by Samantha Hankey) was written for a female voice. Hankey is a fine actor with a fine voice, but dare I suggest that the vocal aspect of storytelling may have benefitted from a diversity of tone between the two leads, which a male voice would have rendered?
When Fagan sings alongside Hankey or Columbian soprano, Julieth Lozano (Nuria), there is less diversity in vocal tone than there would be if partnered with at least one male voice. Does the clever use of the feminine add to the layers of suggestion, with Lorca being openly gay, or is it a device which flattens the overall depth of musical diversity? The jury is out on that one. Regardless, these performers give their all and are world-class as they adhere to Golijov’s vision for a celebration of the female, as befits Lorca’s legacy.
The audience loved this last-night performance in Edinburgh. Applause was rapturous and the cast and musicians welcomed the appreciation on behalf of some wonderful behind-the-scenes creativity. Live performances of this quality are not achieved without planning, hard work and collaboration. The blend of voice, music, dance and outstanding staging make Golijov’s rarely performed Ainadamar a Scottish Opera success.
Reviewer: Kathleen Mansfield
Reviewed: 12th November 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★