Wales Millennium Centre

The WNO are spoiling us.

ONLY in June we were treated to the delightful and inventive production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, and now comes Ainadamar by Osvaldo Golijov.

This relatively new opera (it was first staged in 2003 and a revised version followed in 2005) concerns the Spanish poet and playwright Lorca, who was killed by fascists in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War.

He met his end outside Granada close to the Great Spring, which is also know as the Fountian of Tears (Ainadmar), hence the name of the opera.

The story is recounted through the recollections of the actress Margarita Xirgu, a friend of Lorca who escaped to Cuba during the Civil War but who had been unable to persuade him to flee with her.

She keeps Lorca’s memory alive, performing the eponymous role in his Mariana Pineda, (Mariana’s opposition to King Ferdinand VII had led to her being executed in Granada in 1831) and relaying her memories to her pupil Nuria.

Margarita, Nuria and Lorca are at the heart of the opera, forming a tightly knit trio.

The story is intense and moving, and the passionate performances are mesmerising.

Jacquelina Livieri as Margarita makes for a compelling centre, around which Hanna Hipp as Lorca and Julieth Lozano Rolong as Nuria circulate.

The simple but effective staging plays a vital part in the emotional impact of the piece, aided by dramatic lighting and the use of projected images and words.

Much of the action takes place within a circular space defined by a suspended beaded curtain, which can be seen through (but also parted) and projected onto.

Moveable wooden stages and fragments of wood, which can be suspended and appear to float in mid-explosion, make for a remarkably dramatic setting. The incorporation of flamenco dancing adds another layer of atmosphere.

The creative team headed by director Deborah Colker are a force to be reckoned with.

Despite a running time of one hour and 20 minutes, this production makes a huge impact.

It is dramatic, moving, visually-arresting, thought-provoking and totally absorbing. Its story speaks to still current concerns about authoritarian regimes and the suppression of freedoms, and the importance and power of art. Even though I knew only a little about Lorca before, this opera still touched me. Its core message is about keeping his memory alive, and it succeeds triumphantly.

Further performances at Wales Millennium Centre September 17 and 26 and then touring until November 22.

Shaun Tougher