New Zealand Premiere
75 mins, no interval
An Opera in Three Images
David Henry Hwang
Federico García Lorca
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Golijov's opera Ainadamar was premiered in 2003 many wondered if it was
actually an opera at all, given that it revolves around reminiscences
surrounding the death in Spain in 1936 of Federico Garcia Lorca and
appeared essentially plotless.
Since then the opera has been revised and shortened but the central question remained.
What this production showed in graphic terms is that it doesn't matter
what you call it - opera, oratorio, musical theatre - it is a
wonderfully direct communication, full of atmosphere, temperature hot
and cold, passion and precision that, with its brevity, has a cohesion
missing from many of the meandering operas of Philip Glass.
The music is a heady mix of Spanish, Sephardic and Latin American
influences, at times smoldering with dramatic excitement, at others
reflective in a lushly sultry fashion, and the emotions that flicker
constantly are enhanced by the absolutely brilliant audio/visual work
of Tim Gruchy.
His panels at the rear on which the visuals are displayed draw the
audience into the emotional drama right from the very outset, and they
are used to brilliant effect right through the opera, with both the
startling use of real gunshots and stark visuals of the bullet holes
the dramatic highlight. But they reinforce all the atmosphere shifts -
without Gruchy's efforts, would it all work as well?
The singing by experienced Aindamar performers was superbly gripping.
Jessica Rivera, as Lorca's artistic collaborator and central narrator
in the opera, and Kelley O'Connor as Lorca (yes, it is a trouser role)
were both so good it would be hard to imagine anyone else in either
One had to suspend disbelief a little for Leanne Kenneally as the pupil
Nuria, although she sang wonderfully well - and the trio featuring the
three singers towards the end was heartstopping.
The men were superb, and the ladies of the New Zealand Opera Chorus
almost stole the show; very important to the action, they displayed a
rich Latin quality to their singing that was astonishing. The
orchestra, with the all- important guitar and percussion parts, was
completely at one with the conductor Harth-Bedoya. The audience left
stunned by the impact of this earthy, rich, moving "opera" for our time.
Why was there no second performance - for schoolkids, say?