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  • Writer's pictureRosie Sharman-Ward


🎭 Ainadamar

📍 The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 2TR

🗓 Tuesday 31st October 2023



Raw, intense and sublime with soaring voices underpinned by a throbbing flamenco heartbeat, the Welsh National Opera brings us the story of Frederico Garcia Lorca. It is as fiery and fierce as Spanish sun but the melancholy spirit of Ainadamar, the Fountain of Tears, flows through its entirety. An absolute triumph!

Written by Argentinian Composer Oswaldo Golijov, the score gathers influences from Spain, Andalusia, Latin America and the Arab world as threads for a fabric, in preparation to swirl the patterns through the production. A compelling blend formed by weaving rhythms, orchestra and looped electronic sounds, entwining them around the glorious singing voices.

Told throughout as the memories of Lorca’s muse, actress Margarita Xirgu (Jaquelina Livieri, what a voice!) reminiscing with her student Nuria (Julieth Lozano Rolong) as she prepares to perform Lorca’s play, Mariana Pineda, the opera is a poignant hymn to Lorca and others who perished at the hands of the fascist movement during the Spanish Civil War for their beliefs and sexuality. A powerful retelling of a dark era in Spain’s history redolent with the heat of old Spain.

The libretto written by David Henry Hwang is told in three “images” echoing the format used by Lorca in the play Mariana Pineda. Hwang mingles Lorca’s words with his own. The first image sees a Bull projected onto the circular, flowing, reeded curtain that cradles the entire production, hoofbeats thunder through the auditorium as the bull gallops around the circle. The hoof beats merge into a brutal flamenco Bullfighter Dance. The dancer is joined by the WNO chorus dancing and singing a lament for Mariana Pineda and the story begins.

The second image sees the focus on Lorca himself and his meeting of minds with famous actress Margarita Xirgu in a bar. He tells of how the statue of Mariana Pineda, a woman executed for refusing to reveal the name of her freedom fighter lover, inspires him in the beautiful aria, From My Window. Hanna Hipp in a “trouser role” as Lorca is breathtaking! Xirgu becomes his muse but as Spain becomes dangerous for freethinkers, she flees to Havanna begging Lorca to join her. The more relaxed sensual rhythms of Cuba are overshadowed by a sinister flamenco as he refuses.

The magnificent fan dance in this image was one of my favourite parts of the show. The audience is left in no doubt about the visceral nature of fascist Falangist Spain in 1930s. As Ruiz Alonso (Alfredo Tejada) calls for the capture of “That arrogant man” the singing becomes harsh and chilling. The brutal sound of the gunshots that executed Lorca reverberate into a striking dance beaten out by heels of the dancers whilst the lighting drips red.

The final image shows an ageing Xirgu preparing to perform Lorca’s play one last time. She has made it her life's work to keep his name and beliefs in the public eye and teach her students his story but now weakened by age. Nuria must now continue the work.

Under the inspired direction of Deborah Colker, the staging is modern and ingenius, the use of exciting technology and sets enhancing the traditional dance and amazing music. The fabulous costumes range from ladies in mantillas through contemporary dress to gorgeous flamenco gowns. Dramatic lighting cloaks the stage in sunshine, water or blood. Over and above all of this, the fabulous singing drags every emotion from us sweeping us along through happiness, fear, grief and determination.

The last word goes, as it should, to Frederico Garcia Lorca. His Ballad of the Small Plaza is the final brilliant projection on that wonderful curtain as the story ends with hope for the future.

This wonderful 21st Century opera with an old soul is a privilege to see. The history is fascinating, the production incredible and the music out of this world.

Although Ainadamar has now finished, the Welsh National Opera are still performing until Saturday at Theatre Royal Plymouth, but they are bringing us the classic La traviata instead. Tickets are limited with the best availability for tonights performance (Thursday 2nd November). Head to to check availability and to book tickets.

Rosie Sharman-Ward

All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer.

My ticket for this performance of Ainadamar was gifted by Theatre Royal Plymouth who invited me to watch the show on behalf of Pink Prince Theatre in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the content of my review or the star rating given.


Jacquelina Livieri as Margarita Xirgu; Hanna Hipp as Federico Garcia Lorca; Judith Lozano Rolong as Nuria; Alfredo Tejada as Ruiz Alonso; Annie Reilly as Niña 1; Beca Davis as Niña 2; Jasey Hall as José Tripaldi; Gareth Dafydd Morris as Torero; Alun Rhys-Jenkins as Maestro

Dancers: Josie Sinnadurai; Jesus Olmedo; Natalie Adera; Victor Ramos Veredas; Naemí Luz

Ensemble: Charlotte Badham, Fiona Finsbury, Riva Grant, Claire Hampton, Helen Jarmany, Beth Mabin, Jane Monari, Francesca Saracino, Dominique Skinner, Chiara Vinci, Rosie Weston, Stella Woodman

RUNNING TIME (approx):

1 hours 20 minutes, with no interval

The Theatre Royal Plymouth is the principle home of the performing arts in the South West and is the largest and most attended regional producing theatre in the country. Their mission is to develop and deepen people's engagement with pioneering creativity in Plymouth and the South West, delivering experiences that spark delight, expression and fulfilment. The venue offers three performance spaces of various sizes, the largest being The Lyric which accommodates the big touring productions. The Drum and The Lab are smaller, intimate spaces and often offer pioneering productions and I have personally seen some excellent productions in these spaces.


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