Pop Filter Hot Pick: Quantum Theatre stages Ainadamar inside East Liberty Presbyterian Church
For the next two weeks, the Social Hall inside East Liberty Presbyterian Church
will become the set for the stirring chamber opera Ainadamar
, composed in 2006 by Grammy and MacArthur Award winning Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov.
Within the church's historic interiors, the extraordinary life and prolific work of renowned Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca (1898--1936), his muse the famed Catalan actress Margarita Xirgu (1888--1969), and the eve of the Spanish Revolution will converge in Quantum Theatre's
newest production, which runs Oct. 19th through November 3rd.
Are you ready to be transported by hypnotic sounds of flamenco music, the pounding of horse hooves, the firing guns of the Falangists, and the impassioned cries for freedom?
Chimes of freedom
The production's compelling and charged context is the life of legendary Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, who died tragically at the hands of Franco’s fascists, during the outbreak of the Spanish Revolution in 1936. Though his body was never found, Granada’s Fountain of Tears (“ainadamar" in Arabic) is considered to be the site of Lorca's murder, which occurred when the poet was only 38 years old.
Forming the story that's weaved within the chamber opera is Lorca’s life as a young driven artist, the dawn of the Spanish Civil War, the poet's close relationship with Margarita Xirgu (the great Catalan tragedian who became his muse), and a flamenco-based score called the Deep Song.
Theater-goers will be drawn in as Margarita (Katy Williams) steps onstage in the 1960s to share her powerful memories, years after Lorca’s controversial death, to star as Mariana Pineda, the historical figure the writer memorialized in his first play of the same name, penned in 1923-1925.
Portraying Lorca is mezzo Winnica Young, in what is could be viewed as a reference to his homosexuality. Lorca’s emergence as a voice for repressed peoples--celebrated in the opera via Margarita's memories--was in part informed by his own marginalization as a homosexual and a writer during the reign of Franco.
Quantum's latest ambitious undertaking continues the homegrown theatre company's commitment to staging rarely seen productions within compelling and often challenging site specific venues. Never before produced in Pittsburgh, the production of Ainadamar
reflects the vision of Quantum's founder and artistic director Karla Boos, who is passionate about creating relationships between the experience of theater and the experience of spaces/places.
"This work has never been done in a church before, nor has it been done in this site-specific way. Our first choice all along was the Social Hall in East Liberty Presbyterian Church. The room really features in the the way we designed the piece. To us, it felt Spanish and like a courtyard, because it has two levels, with a balcony, a slate floor, an old fashioned stage on one side, and a monumental staircase on the other end," says Boos, who stresses Quantum's partnership with the building and with the surrounding neighborhood--both logistically and thematically.
"It's a wonderful marriage. East Liberty Presbyterian Church is full of music, and is a community hub and a hub for art, especially in terms and social justice action. This opera talks about this great figure Lorca who was persecuted and martyred for his beliefs. He was assassinated for being an artist, a homosexual and an intellectual."
Recipient of a Grammy Award in 2006 for best classical contemporary composition and best opera recording, Ainadamar
features a haunting score, flamenco and Arabic motifs and a libretto by acclaimed theatrical composer, David Henry Hwang--known for his work on M. Butterfly
Boos, who is stage director for the project, says that there have not been many productions of Ainadamar
since the work nabbed a Grammy in 2006.
"There is every reason for me to have been attracted to it, but I first heard it sitting alone in the dark on my couch. I decided to do it because it is such amazing powerful music," explains Boos, who says that it did not matter that she does not have a good grasp of the Spanish language.
The production marks Boos' third collaboration with music director Andres Cladera, whose own background brought much synergy to the work. Cladera hails from Montevideo, in southern Uruguay, which is located very close to the home of the Argentinian composer, and which even figures in the opera. Co-director of the Pittsburgh-based Microscopic Opera, Cladera currently lives in Denver.
"I adore working with Andres. He is a super rigorous musician, but also a very out of the box thinker and creator. This opera combines exciting classical music and flamenco with Arabic motifs," says Boos. "This project reunites many people who worked with us on Maria de Buenos Aires
, and was an opportunity for people I love to work together again."
The gifted cast includes mezzo Raquel Winnica Young and dancer Carolina Loyola-Garcia, along with sopranos Katy Williams, Leah Edmondson Dyer, Erica Olden, and Lara Cottrill, contralto Daphne Alderson, and an orchestra directed by Cladera.
Sung in Spanish with English surtitles, the multisensory opera also features video design by Joe Seamans, sound design by Ryan McMasters and costume design by Richard Parsakian.
Go beyond the stage
Go behind the scenes with Quantum to explore the themes and historical context of Ainadamar
, meet the cast and director and enjoy neighborhood-based social events at one of several special community events
held throughout the duration of the production.
Events include Community Night, an invited rehearsal for East Liberty residents and groups on October 16; a post show discussion with the director and cast on October 21; Ladies Night on October 23 (a women’s-only viewing with a pre-show gathering); and Grapenuts Night (date TBD), which includes a special pre-show wine-tasting.
"This is a space where spirituality, art and music and community gathering. The church has has been extremely wonderful to work worth, and they were extremely thoughtful in saying yes," says Boos. "We are a veteran of my many projects in the neighborhood and we are so happy to be a part of it."
View a behind the scenes video of Ainadamar rehearsals
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