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Opera Philadelphia’s Ainadimar vital dance narrative

Ainadimar (Kelly & Massa)

by Lew Whittington for The Dance Journal

Osvaldo Godijov’s opera Anadimar | Fountain of Tears, is an unconventional, visually surreal account of the death of Spanish poet and freedom fighter Federico Garcia Lorca. For one, the character of Lorca is portrayed by a mezzo-soprano in an androgynous characterization that alludes, without a hint of camp, to Lorca’s gay identity and the opera uses dance not just as divertissement, but as integral to telling the story.

Opera Philadelphia conductor Corrado Rovaris first conducted Ainadimar in 2008 collaboration with the Curtis Institute at the Perelman Theater. Rovaris has since piloted the production into a celebrated US-Spanish production that incorporated the famed Compania Antonio Gades dancers, which toured Spain last summer.

Rovaris said when he found out the opera had never been done in Spain, “We decided to do a production in Granada where Garcia Lorca was killed, in the gardens of Alhambra there.  Audiences, Rovaris said, were especially moved by seeing the Gades Company.


Earlier this month, the Gades troupe reunited with Rovaris and the singers in the rehearsal room at the Academy of Music for the reprise run in Philly, which fortunately is the exact size and dimension of the Academy’s stage and the dancers took full advantage of it, in dramatic flamenco-balletic choreography by Stella Arauzo, former Gades principal.

Antonio Gades died in 2004, the next year after a tribute concert to him a foundation was formed with the intent to maintain the company and since then they have been restaging much of his work and touring extensively,” said Antonio Hidalgo, Arauzo’s assistant choreographer on the production and her English translator when traveling in the US.  Unlike the US, when a choreographer dies like Martha Graham the companies keep on. But in Spain, this is the first time that there is a repertoire of a choreographer. Usually there when someone dies, the work usually disappears,” he said.

Hidalgo said that by coincidence, a few days before she was asked to choreograph the opera Arauzo, who lives in Granada, got involved, she happened to buy the complete works Garcia Lorca. “Then a few days later they came to me with this score,”  Arauzo said “and I was already thinking about Lorca. The music was a little shocking to me, because it was so contemporary. So, I thought, how am I going to deal with this choreographically, but then started to realize all the emotions that are dealt with in this opera.” Arauzo said.

“In many operas, the dancers come on and do the fandango, you know, a little dance for two minutes, that’s it. In this, there is dancing and interpreting the characters. There is a different level of participation of the dancers in this opera. Here it is throughout the scenes,“ Hidalgo explains.

“There is a philosophy behind Gades. Gades wanted different personalities on stage. Everybody, which works so well in the opera, everybody looks different, different height, different ages, different bodies,“ he said. The diversity works so perfectly as a populous statement of  the national pride embodied by the dancers.

“ One of the reason why Gades Flamenco is in this production, because all of Gades work was very theatrical and he developed dance-theater with Flamenco.” Hidalgo notes. “Gades had his own personal style to communicate theater, everything with the mark of Antonio Gades, he found a way in between, respecting the flamenco forms, but adding more balletic movement, he found the right way to communicate theater, you know,” Arauzo said.

“And this opera is a perfect match. In certain dance details she said she realized that Gades and Lorca, actually already so together. The world that Gades has known, was in so many ways, based on Lorca‘s poetry. So this was one more step, no? in the evolution of his company,“ Hidalgo observed. The opera will be the company’s only appearance in the US this year before they return to Europe on their regular tour schedule.

Ainadimar “Fountain of Tears” | An Opera in Three Images – Opera Philadelphia, Feb 7-16, Academy of Music- for complete information go to www.OperaPhila.org | or 215-893-3600

- Lewis Whittington

Lewis Whittington is an arts journalist based in Philadelphia. He started writing professionally in the early 90s as a media consultant for an AIDS organizations and then as a theater and dance reviewer for the Philadelphia Gay News. Mr. Whittington has covered dance, theater, opera and classical music for the Philadelphia Inquirer and City Paper.

Mr. Whittington’s arts profiles, features, and stories have appeared in The Advocate, Dance International, Playbill, American Theatre, American Record Guide, The Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, EdgeMedia, and Philadelphia Dance Journal. Mr. Whittington has received two NEA awards for journalistic excellence.

In addition to interviews with choreographers, dancers, and artistic directors from every discipline, he has interviewed such music luminaries from Ned Rorem to Eartha Kitt. He has written extensively on gay culture and politics and is most proud of his interviews with such gay rights pioneers as Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings.

Mr. Whittington has participated on the poetry series Voice in Philadelphia and has written two (unpublished) books of poetry. He is currently finishing Beloved Infidels, a play about the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh. His editorials on GLBTQ activism, marriage equality, gay culture and social issues have appeared in Philadelphia Inquirer, City Paper, and The Advocate.

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