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Review: Scottish Opera’s Ainadamar

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Scottish Opera’s Ainadamar is a fountain of cascading memories, effortlessly transporting its audience through time. Journeying from Mariana Pineda’s act of liberalist rebellion in 1830, to Lorca’s execution in the Spanish Civil War, to the 1969 death of his muse Xirgu, Ainadamar presents a multitude of tragic images. The opera, sung entirely in Spanish, explores the politics of art, the power of the written and spoken word, and the legacy of a country of vivid cultural beauty in times of unrest. Ainadamar, by Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov, is a veritable triumph of music and flamenco dance. 

In Ainadamar, Golijov seamlessly blends musical genres and creates an opera grounded in history with opulent modern touches. The talented cast have luxuriously passionate voices that do justice to Golijov’s artistic vision. Acting as a recurring motif throughout the opera, the plaintive ballad of Mariana is mesmerising. Furthermore, the sensual flamenco music and the light-hearted rumba create a varied mix of historic musical modes that complement the beautiful eeriness of the ballad. The clever use of electronic sounds of gunshots and trickling fountain water remind the audience the production was first staged in 2003. 

Margarita Xirgu (Lauren Fagan) is the opera’s protagonist and dictates the non-linear timeline. Xirgu remembers her relationship with Federico García Lorca (Lauren Fagan), the famous playwright and poet. Lorca, an idealistic gay man, remains in Spain at the start of the Civil War, insisting he has an artistic responsibility to stay. This decision ultimately costs him his life. Just like his hero, Mariana Pineda, Lorca becomes a revolutionary symbol of resistance. After Lorca’s execution, a grieving Xirgu continues to perform the role of Mariana in Lorca’s play. As she approaches the end of her life, she tells her story to her student, Nuria (Julieth Lozano). 

Suspended stones, delicate star-like lights, and a levitating light bulb create a mesmerising final scene for Xirgu’s death. Although Lorca and Mariana Pineda are the more renowned martyred heroes, Xirgu is undeniably the heroine of Ainadamar. In this opera, Xirgu’s memories are the glue which holds the production together, and her voice, literally and metaphorically, is the unifying beauty that memorialises heroic martyrdom and the power of theatre. 

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Visually, the show is stunning. Flamenco dancers dazzle with their deliciously sensual movements and Xirgu’s decadent red dress captivates the audience as it whirls across the stage. The fountain, a circular electronic screen made of falling slivers of light, is another strikingly beautiful addition to the set. Ainadamar, in Arabic, means ‘fountain of tears’ and refers to the site of Lorca’s execution. The haunting image of the fountain is echoed through the entirety of the performance through this creative instrumentation of stage design.

I cannot recommend Ainadamar enough. The opera, although tragic, is ultimately a tale of resilience. Xirgu’s tenacious dedication to preserving Lorca’s legacy is a testament to the power of her love. Sensuality, tragedy, and beauty intertwine to create an unforgettable viewing experience. Es magnifica. 

Festival Theatre, November 8th-12th, 7:30 

Images photographed by James Glossop, provided to The Student via Press Release