Review: Ainadamar

Simon Hale is moved by this Welsh National Opera production at Birmingham Hippodrome.

Images of bullfighting and sorrowful women, together with poetry and political slogans, ripple in animated projections against a curtain of translucent strands. Within this circular space, dancers and singers in blood red 1930s dresses and others in white underwear on pedestals cry freedom while being bombed and hunted in tunnels underground in a way that feels strikingly contemporary.

This is the Fountain of Tears – or Ainadamar in Arabic – that director Deborah Colker, who was involved with Rio 2016 Olympics and works with Cirque du Soleil, has envisaged in Welsh National Opera’s thrilling new touring production of Osvaldo Golijov’s opera, performed for one night at Birmingham Hippodrome. It echoes a fountain near Granada where one of Spain’s greatest poets and playwrights, Federico Garcia Lorca, was murdered along with many others by the Falange militia in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War.

The story of Lorca’s life and execution is told by one of his muses, Margarita Xirgu to her protégé Nuria and re-enacted by her troupe with the use of operatic singing, flamenco dancing and on-stage guitars and electronic effects.

Jaquelina Livieri displays all the agony and anguish of a dying Xirgu in her soulful singing and acting as she strives to perform the role of Mariana Pineda in Lorca’s first successful play of the same name for one last time. Consumed with regret at failing to persuade Lorca to escape with her to Uruguay, she has devoted her life to playing the 19th century Spanish revolutionary Pineda who was executed for refusing to speak.

Hanna Hipp plays Lorca as a high alto in a trouser role convincingly as the young innocent who has nothing to confess but his love of freedom and poetry, after being trapped in a sultry dance by two men as a homosexual socialist.

Sung in Spanish, the 80-minute one act opera, which also includes fine supporting performances from Julieth Lozano Rolong as Nuria and Alfredo Tejada as hardened Falangist Ruiz Alonso, races along seamlessly. The passion and ongoing violence are driven by a dynamic foot-tapping inducing rhythm in the dancing and the Grammy award-winning Golijov score, performed with aplomb by the WNO Orchestra conducted by Mathew Kofi Waldren.

Absorbing and vibrant throughout, the opera’s moving ending is enough to induce tears like the water droplets that fall in sadness from the fountain.

Welsh National Opera’s Aidanamar is a co-production with Scottish Opera, Opera Ventures, The Metropolitan Opera and Detroit Opera and is supported by the Colwinston Charitable Trust and WNO Donors.

WNO continues its run at Birmingham Hippodrome this week with Verdi’s La Traviata from Thursday November 9th until Saturday November 11th. For tickets and more information, click on Birmingham Hippodrome.