Osvaldo Golijov
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Ainadamar (2003): Reviews
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From: The New York Times (Bernard Holland)

Haunted by the Deaths of Martyrs, a Century Apart

SANTA FE, N.M., July 31 -- It is not every day that a character in a play invents the destiny of its author. But in the case of the revolutionary martyr Mariana Pineda and Federico García Lorca, who memorialized her in a historical drama a century later, a heroine seems to have arisen from the page, stepped down from the stage and said, "You will die as I did."

"Ainadamar," Osvaldo Golijov's brief opera at the Santa Fe Opera Saturday evening, remembers the deaths of these two people but confesses its fascination with death in general. Pineda was garroted in 1831 by counterrevolutionaries not unlike the fascists who shot García Lorca in 1936. In the opera, their stories are told by way of Uruguay, where the playwright's erstwhile leading lady Margarita Xirgu is long exiled and approaching death in 1969. The dead and dying appear in layers, one layer bleeding into the other.

Like his fellow Argentinean Astor Piazzolla, Mr. Golijov does not harness popular music; he liberates it. The energy is freed from a simple dance band function and allowed to wander into modulating keys and new meters. This is "low art" arranged in sophisticated sentences. Mr. Golijov takes his brass fanfares from the bullring and his sentimental moods off any old record or sheet music he can find. He is not afraid to get his hands dirty... Energy runs like an underground stream beneath this piece.

"Ainadamar" refers to Granada's Fountain of Tears, where García Lorca was killed. Peter Sellars directs it as a ceremony of mourning, with women in black acting out mourners ritual choreography. Mr. Sellars casts a keen eye on the look of violent death: re-enacting twitching last moments or slumping firing squad victims whose shootings are backed up and repeated as in a tape loop.

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