Barely 80 minutes long, with a cast of seven, Quantum Theatre's production of Ainadamar is nonetheless huge. Director Karla Boos fills the large hall of East Liberty Presbyterian Church with much video, sound and fury about freedom and the wastefulness of war. Osvaldo Golijov's 2003 opera (libretto by David Henry Hwang) tells of the death of Federico Garcia Lorca, Spain's great poet and playwright, and Ainadamar's Christ figure.
The story begins in 1969 in Uruguay, from the point of view of an aging actress who fled Spain in 1936, but could not persuade her friend/lover Lorca to leave also. Margarita Xirgu tells her students about the turmoil in Spain, and how the Falangists (fascists) murdered Lorca and terrorized the populace. Overriding all is the love she shared with the writer and martyr.
Much of Ainadamar is for real, underlined by the black-and-white newsreel footage. But the reality is expanded with a multimedia production that surrounds the audience. We experience the soft calming blue waters of Ainadamar, the "fountain of tears," which becomes a Calvary-like place of execution. Kicking up the furor are expressionist explosions in red and orange, before resolving into the peacefulness of death.
The full-voiced company is all female, portraying men as well as women. Raquel Winnica Young is the angelic but bold Lorca, with Katy Williams mastering a range of emotions and ages as Margarita. The lithe Carolina Loyola-Garcia is particularly memorable, first as the sinuous flamenco dancer, and as the villainous Ruiz Alonso, who prowls the balconies and fills the hall with menace.
Music director Andres Cladera leads a fine orchestra. Making Ainadamar a must-see is the synergistic design team: Joe Seamans, video, assisted by Jose Munian; Tony Ferrieri, scene; Scott Nelson, lighting; Ryan McMasters, sound; Richard Parsakian, costumes; R.J. Romeo, production director; and Scott Nelson, production manager.
Yes, the opera is in Spanish, but the English translation (projected in subtitles) is easy to follow. And though the words are important, they comprise only a part of Ainadamar. There's much to hear, see and, especially, feel.