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  • Alistair Braidwood

Spanish Ayes: A Review of Scottish Opera's Ainadamar...

It was the perfect evening to be transported from the dreich streets of Glasgow to a simmering Spain, even if it was back to a time where Civil War defined a people and the country. Osvaldo Golijov's one-act opera Ainadamar was not one I was familiar with, but in safe in the hands of Scottish Opera I knew the night would be special. What followed was quite incredible.

Ainadamar concentrates on the lives of the poet and playwright Federico García Lorca and esteemed actress Margarita Xirgu. The opera unfolds through flashbacks to key moments in Lorca and Margarita's relationship bringing the past to bear on the present. But this was as much about the telling as the story itself. The curtain raised to reveal what looked like a deceptively simple stage setting, with a circular see-through curtain doubling as a film screen, encircling a single performer on stage. From thereon the stage and set become the central part of proceedings, with every more inventive ways of enhancing the story and those telling it (you really have to see it for yourself to understand how clever it is - but I'll simply say, when it comes to Ainadamar, you really need to see it).

At its heart are questions about the importance of art as protest in the face of oppression. Facing persecution in Franco's Spain, Lorca refuses to join Margarita in exile in Latin America despite her best efforts. He stays to comment on the horrors of war and the atrocities committed under Franco. Along the way we see the barricades being built and manned (another example of the inventive staging) and hear the cry for Lorca's head from Falangist officer. There are also propaganda slogans projected onto the stage which increase the political sensibilities of the piece.

It seems unfair to single out individuals as everyone involved is at the top of their game, but the presence and voice of Alfredo Tejada as one of Franco's officers, 'Ruiz Alonso', will stay with me for a long time, and the two leads - Lauren Fagan as 'Margarita' and Samantha Hankey as 'Lorca' - convey all the emotions. You are on their side throughout, and there is genuine concern as events unfold, alongside a gathering sense of foreboding. What I perhaps haven't expressed is how powerful and passionate it all is. The flamenco dancing, the Spanish guitar, the ballads - everything coming together to heighten the senses - and while all the performers were wonderful, there was also the lighting, the choreography, the costumes (if someone at Scottish Opera wants to run me up a double-breasted suit, I wouldn't say no!) the music, and more.

Ainadamar is a collaboration between Scottish Opera and Opera Ventures and co-producers Detroit Opera, The Metropolitan Opera and Welsh National Opera, and if this is the result then I hope there is more to come. A compelling and intensified fusion of song, dance, music, film, and more, the audience were spellbound from start to finish. When live theatre is this good there are few, if any, experiences that can match it. Simply breathtaking.

Here are a few images from Ainadamar (credit: James Glossop)


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