Osvaldo Golijov
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Ainadamar (2003): Reviews
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From: Time Out New York (David Shengold)

Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar, an expanded treatment of his 2003 fantasia about actor Margarita Xirgu, the self-exiled muse of Federico García Lorca, emerged at Santa Fe Opera last summer in the version heard on this new CD. Named for the "Fountain of Tears" near which Franco's Falangist soldiers murdered the great poet in 1936, the opera was shepherded by Peter Sellars and based on a David Henry Hwang libretto translated into Spanish by the composer. On paper, it threatened to be one of those contemporary projects in which trendily noble intentions, cultural pedigree and marketability stand in for quality and achievement.

Happily, Ainadamar has proved outstanding, both in the theater and on this splendid disc. Hwang's episodic text (and indeed the opera itself) is nonrealistic, poetic and deliberately repetitive. The events of Ainadamar reside largely in an orchestra augmented by guitar, clapping and ominous sampled radio speeches. Mesmerizing threnody-like passages alternate with energizing Latin-flavored riffs; the Atlanta brass and percussion really let loose under Robert Spano.

Closely miked, Dawn Upshaw flourishes in her still-girlish upper-middle voice, and manages a convincing rendition of deep-lying cante jondo inflections, as well as suggestions of simmering temperament. Kelley O'Connor, singing superbly in a duskily fresh, androgynous contralto, makes a moving Lorca. Soprano Jessica Rivera soars warmly as Margarita's student, Nuria. All told, Golijov's opera stands high among this decade's more persuasive and moving new musical-theater works.

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