‘What a sad day it was in Granada. The stones began to cry.’
Ainadamar, Arabic for ‘Fountain of Tears’, is the ancient well near Granada where the Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca – labelled by the Falangist militia as a ‘homosexual socialist’ – was brutally executed in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War.
Golijov’s twice-Grammy-winning opera reimagines Lorca’s life through a flashback of memories by his muse and collaborator, the actress Margarita Xirgu, now in her final moments in 1969 Uruguay, as she seeks to pass her generation’s hopes and passion on to her student, Nuria.
Ainadamar promises a spine-tingling spectacle from the Olivier-winning star choreographer Deborah Colker (Rio 2016 Olympics Ceremony; Cirque du Soleil) in her much-anticipated operatic debut in the director’s seat.
The result is a dazzling kaleidoscope of music, dance, and theatre where flamenco meets opera through traditional Spanish singing and sumptuous operatic numbers, all interspersed with rhythmic, sonic, and poetic outbursts. Ainadamar invites you to experience opera like never before.
Sung in Spanish, with surtitles in English.
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What a sad day it was in Granada; the stones began to cry…
Ainadamar is an Arabic word meaning ‘fountain of tears’. It is one of the names of a natural spring located in the hills above the Andalusian city of Granada in southern Spain. This is where the poet and playwright Federico García Lorca was murdered in 1936.
Margarita Xirgu, a leading Spanish actress and Lorca’s friend and artistic collaborator, spent her career portraying Mariana Pineda in Lorca’s titular play. Pineda was a 19th-century political martyr executed for sewing a revolutionary flag against the absolutist Spanish regime with the embroidered slogan ‘Equality, Freedom and Law’. The play Mariana Pineda was Lorca’s first theatrical success and a love letter to a woman who pursues her convictions to their ultimate consequences and evoked the colour and poetry of Andalusia and especially Lorca’s own Granada. Lorca asked Xirgu to take the role of Pineda at the play’s premiere in June 1927, at the Teatre Goya in Barcelona with scenery and costumes designed by Lorca’s close friend, the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí.
Xirgu fled Spain at the beginning of the Civil War, but Lorca refused to leave with her. His liberal beliefs and open homosexuality subsequently led to his death at the hands of the fascist Falange group, founded by the son of former dictator General Primo de Rivera.
Xirgu dedicated the rest of her life to playing Mariana Pineda and to keeping Lorca’s words and legacy alive.
Ainadamar is told through Margarita Xirgu’s memories in a series of flashbacks, as the past invades the present.
As the opera begins, Margarita prepares once again to go on stage as Mariana Pineda while a group of young actors sing the opening ballad. She remembers the brilliance of Lorca to her young student Nuria, recalling her meeting with Lorca in a Madrid bar when he describes the play to her for the first time. Lorca idolised Pineda, whose statue could be seen from his bedroom at the family home in Granada. The flashback is interrupted by the fascist Falangist Ramon Ruiz Alonso, broadcasting over the state radio that his party will stamp out any stirrings of revolution.
The Spanish Civil War has begun. Margarita pleads with Lorca to join her theatre company in Cuba, but he refuses and remains in Granada. Margarita blames herself for Lorca’s fate, since she could not convince her idealistic young friend to abandon Spain. In Margarita’s memories, she sings of her dream of finding freedom in Cuba, but Lorca insists that he must witness and write about his country’s suffering on the barricades.
Margarita Xirgu is dying. In the present, she insists on performing Pineda’s story once more – she tells Nuria that an actor lives only for a moment, but the idea of freedom will never die. A vision of Lorca interrupts her. He thanks Margarita for immortalising his spirit on the stage, in the hearts of her students, and for the world.