I was lucky enough to go to the UK premiere of this work in Birmingham's Symphony Hall on 10 April 2008. The performers were, with the exception of the CBSO taking over from the Atlanta SO, mainly as on the disc, and the opera was semi-staged. As Golijov's work is actually really "theatre of the mind" it lends itself well to this sort of interpretation and, of course, to listening on CD.
Most people at the premiere were, like myself, pretty ignorant about Golijov and about this opera. I went along so as not to "waste the ticket" and I am so glad I did! This is a splendidly moving and mesmerisingly poetic experience with superlative singing and playing. It got a rapturous response from the audience and, something I have never seen before, after the concert there was a queue of hopeful customers at the Shop, looking to buy the CD. They had sold out, but fortunately Amazon came to the rescue with its superlative "Prime" Service and I was able to enjoy the music I had heard on Thursday night again on the CD at Saturday lunchtime!
The one act opera plays continually for about 80 minutes and is divided up into three "images" - moments of memory in the final hour or so of Frederico Garcia Lorca's most famous follower as she prepares to go out on to the stage to depict a heroine of the Revolution. The events surrounding Lorca's murder at Ainadamar - "The Fountain of Tears" - just outside Granada in 1936 are depicted as a self-sacrificing martyrdom on Lorca's part, and the final "image" of the opera is an apotheosis of Freedom that sweeps all the characters into its triumphant grandeur. The work has started with a ballad about Mariana, the girl killed in 1834 for refusing to name Republican conspirators and about whom Lorca wrote his play. It ends with the same ballad and with the sound of the waters of the fountain. In between we have faboulous singing and playing on a really good recording. The music has elements of Spanish and South American styles (Flamenco, Samba) and there is a battery of fascinating percussion instruments, tuned and untuned, as well as parts for orchestral performers simply clapping in the multi-rhythms of the piece. There is even the element of the best effects of minimalism: that of hypnotic concentration. The music is an eclectic mix of tuneful writing, with alarmingly bitter and even sarcastic moments like the fugue of gun-shots in which Lorca, the Bullfighter and the Schoolteacher are murdered. Very original.
It is very difficult to explain the effect this work has had on me other than to say that it is deeply moving and I simply HAD to get the CD. I really advise you to do so too!
A breathtakingly beautiful opera for Golijov (b.1960), the great-white hope of contemporary classical music. Lush and sensuous, but also meancing at times, this is a unique fusion of baroque and post-minimalism, with hints of the composer's Jewish and latin heritage. Moody, evocative and utterly compelling, this underlines Golijov's place at the fore-front of contemporary composers.
For me, this is a landmark composition. After decades when vocal music has often sounded somewhat angular and declamatory in style, at last we have beautiful singing again. And what singing! You would need to go right back to the Strauss of Rosenkavalier or the Four Last Songs to hear anything comparable. And yet it somehow sounds completely contemporary.
Beyond that, Ainadamar really works well as a piece of drama. And the musical structure is sound too. I was at one of the performances of this opera in London in 2008, and I can honestly say the experience was right up there with the very best of composers of the past. It was extremely moving, and the audience on the night seemed overwhelmed.
To see what I mean about the singing, try track 5 'Desde mi ventana' or track 19, 'Doy mi sangre'.
Buy it. You won't regret it!