Osvaldo Golijov
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Ainadamar (2003): Reviews
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From: Los Angeles Times (Mark Swed)

Three years ago, Osvaldo Golijov's scorching setting of St. Mark's Gospel, "La Pasión Según San Marcos," made him a new-music star, but only now has he written another large-scale score. On Sunday night, the Tanglewood Music Center (the teaching wing of the Boston Symphony's summer home in the Berkshires) premiered "Ainadamar," Golijov's first opera...

More specifically, "Ainadamar" revolves around the actress Margarita Xirgu and Lorca's play "Mariana Pineda," about the early 19th century Granadan heroine who conspired to overthrow Spain's tyrannical King Fernando VII. The opera begins with Xirgu, who had created the role of Pineda, looking back on her life, wishing she could have saved Lorca: Had he accepted an invitation to tour South America with her, he would not have been captured. A younger Margarita appears in flashback scenes with Lorca, while the older Margarita looks on, observes and interacts (the same device used in Bright Sheng's opera "Madame Mao," which had its premiere two weeks earlier in Santa Fe, N.M.).

Lorca, who is portrayed by a mezzo-soprano (an allusion to Lorca's bisexuality, perhaps?), comes back from the dead, and the three women sing an ecstatic, Straussian trio...

...The score is more subdued and less varied than "Marco," influenced more by Spanish music, particularly flamenco, than South American. It is full of stunning things. The vocal writing is passionate, and Upshaw, as the older Margarita, sang the role rivetingly. The student cast was excellent, particularly mezzo Kelley O'Connor as Lorca.

Although balances between stage and pit need further work, Golijov's orchestral writing is often special. The rhythmic groove in the bass, the dancing distant trumpet lines and the intensely expressive wind solos were just a few of the things that carried this gratified listener along. Robert Spano conducted with graceful enthusiasm, and the student orchestra played with considerable refinement, if not quite enough abandon.

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