- Terelle Jerricks
By John Farrell
It took until the 21st century for opera to deal with the many horrible acts perpetrated by the murderous fascists (a literal characterization in this case) in 1930s Spain.
One of the most prominent victims of this movement was the great Spanish playwright and poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who was killed by Falangists (Spanish fascist) in 1936. His murderers viewed his poetry as so powerful and were so fearful of Lorca that sought to erase him. Lorca’s body has never been found.
Ainadamar, an opera with music by contemporary Argentinean composer Osvaldo Golijov and written by David Henry Hwang, first premiered at the Tanglewood Festival in 2003 and in a revised format at the Santa Fe Opera in 2005. Long Beach Opera gave the work its West Coast 2012 stage premier on May 21. The performance repeats Saturday, May 26.
The music is beautiful. Accompanied by a full orchestra, the Long Beach Opera regulars performed with more than ordinary passion. If the production leaves a bit to be desired, that may be because the peripatetic company was originally scheduled to stage the production in the empty Long Beach Press-Telegram building. When that fell through, they tried for their second option–the Press Telegram building’s parking lot. But permits could not be secured, forcing the production to move to the Terrace theater, which was, however inspired, a third choice.
Ainadmar (the name is Arabic for “Spring of Tears,” the place near Granada where Lorca was murdered) tells the story from the point of view of Margarita Xirgu, the great Spanish actress who was a friend of Lorca. She fled Spain shortly after his death, never to return. It wasn’t until after the Franco regime ended with the dictator’s death in 1975 that Lorca’s work was allowed to be shown in Spain. Soprano Suzan Hanson, as Xirgu in this production, sings Lorca’s story with a clear and powerful voice. Mezzo soprano, Peabody Southwell, sang the trousers role of the Poet Lorca with just as much feeling and strength. And soprano Ani Maldjian was Nuria, a young student of Xirgu’s, also in fine voice.
The stage setting was a single armchair draped entirely in sheets, from which a chorus rose on both sides in front. Toward the end of the one-act opera video projections by Frieder Weiss, who collaborated once before with the opera’s director, Andreas Mitisek, LBO’s artistic and general director (in last year’s Ahknaten by Phillip Glass) livened things up, as did some acrobatics. But the production felt a little hurried; a little last-minute.
Flamenco singer Jesus Montoya sang the off-stage role of Ruiz Alonzo with real Spanish flavor. The large orchestra, hidden behind the performance area, was conducted with grace. The first recording of the opera won two Grammies and the performance Saturday showed how powerful the score can be.
Despite production problems, this performance was exciting, passionate and revealing. One performance remains for you to experience the work.
Tickets are $29-$150. One performance Saturday, May 26 at 8 p.m. with pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m.
Details: (562) 432-5934, www.longbeahcopera.org
Venue: Terrace Theatre of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center
Location: 300 E. Ocean Blvd, Long Beach