Osvaldo Golijov
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Ainadamar (2003): Reviews
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From: Boston Herald (T.J. Medrek)

Those of us at the Tanglewood Theatre on Sunday evening for the world premiere of Osvaldo Golijov's first opera, "Ainadamar," witnessed a rare and special thing: the debut of a new opera that works. It works mainly because Golijov can't seem to write music that isn't full of life, passion and drama. And what is opera but those very things?

He was helped enormously by David Henry Hwang's concise, theatrical libretto written in English but performed in the composer's Spanish translation. It tells the story of the execution of Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca (mezzo Kelly O'Connor) as recalled by the actress Margarita Xirgu (soprano Dawn Upshaw) during a performance of Lorca's play "Mariana Pineda".

Still, an opera's text, no matter how skillfully written, is a skeleton. The music is the flesh and blood. And the 75-minute "Ainadamar" (or "Fountain of Tears") is filled with some of Golijov's best. Born and raised in Argentina and now living in Newton (how did we get so lucky?), the 42-year-old Golijov is known for drawing on an eclectic assortment of international and cultural sources. Indeed, Golijov's music is world music. It's no surprise that "Ainadamar" draws on the Latin American music that is, in part, Golijov's birthright. But the Western European operatic tradition is a huge source of inspiration as well. Thus we're regaled with exquisitely melodic arias, duets and trios that opera composers from Mozart to Strauss would have understood and perhaps envied. Golijov even followed the Mozart-Strauss tradition in writing the role of the young Federico for female voice, a mezzo, a move that Golijov's music and a sensational performance by O'Connor proved absolutely right.

In Margarita, Golijov created a dream role for Upshaw, one that not only plays to her familiar strengths but also draws new ones from her. Who knew, for example, that Upshaw's lower notes could sound so full and expressive Soprano Amanda Forsythe completed the trio of principals with a charming performance as the young Margarita. And the Tanglewood Music Center Vocal Fellows excelled in supporting roles. Conductor Robert Spano led the TMC Orchestra, augmented by the likes of guitars and electronics, in a vibrant account of the score. Director Chay Yew and his design team made perfect visual sense of this play-within-an-opera.

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