Opera is not a format with which I am very familiar. In fact, before last week I had never seen one. So I cannot comment on Ainadamar with any sense of authority. All I can share with you is that I went to the opera and I loved it.
Ainadamar is a tribute to the life of assassinated Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca. Actress Margarita Xirgu looks back from 1969 to the Spanish Civil War when her friend and co-worker was murdered. Why couldn’t she save him?
Written first in 2003 by Osvaldo Golijov, Ainadamar is opera meets passion play, an enthralling story of love and death and war. Notably, Lorca is to be played by a woman.
For the NZ Festival performance, Jessica Rivera took on the role of Xirgu and absolutely wowed in the position. She was supported by a cast of equally talented soloists (Kelley O’Connor, Jesus Montoya, Leanne Keneally and James Clayton) and the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Beyond Rivera the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus really caught my eye. There was something quite stunning about a stage of women, dressed in black singing passionately about how “Mariana would not speak, so she had to die’ while crossing their arms across their throats.
For some reason I imagined Opera would be a bit snooze inducing, perhaps even tame, but Ainadamar was not a case of this. The music was intense and pace strong. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra ripping along as the vocalists pushed through the drama.
Now that I have seen an opera I can only urge others to go out and experience it for yourselves. Perhaps other operas would not be as riveting. Ainadamar admittedly being centred around quite an exciting topic. Yet, it wasn’t just the story that excited me. It was the combination of soloists, dramatic movement and a full orchestra getting together to tell a story. It really was a special experience.