Ainadamar: Breaking the Spanish Silence

Some 80 years ago Spain was being torn to shreds from within. The Spanish Civil war, of 1936, saw the deaths of many, including Federico Garcia Lorca, probably the most important playwright since the Golden Age’s Calderon de la Barca. Lorca was shot by the Falange, along with thousands of others, and thrown into an unmarked grave in Granada. For years Spaniards have keep silent about these crimes (on both sides). It is only in the 21st century, a generation after Franco died, that the silence has been broken.

Novels about the “disappeared”, demands for the exhumation of bodies, and actual public discussion about the Franco era, started to emerge over the last 12 years. Curiously, the composer of Ainadamar, which is about Lorca’s execution, told from the perspective of his friend/colleague, Margarita Xingu, hails from another country in which dissidents were disappeared and children given away. Osvaldo Golijov does not choose to compose or write about Argentina, but about Spain, and specifically about Lorca. He personalizes this tragedy by focusing on Lorca, but this is the story of many, and it’s about time that the world hears it.

Ainadamar, in the Opera Philadelphia production (originally mounted in Granada, Spain), is a tightly woven musical, dance and theatrical experience. The set and the projected video and stills greatly enhance and complement the score. Most of the cast comes from Spain, and the passion and spirit shines through. This is of cultural and historical significance—this generation of singers and dancers were not under Franco’s rule—yet they are able to participate in a retelling of Lorca’s execution as if they were present. Their bodies and voices resonate with Lorca and their countrymen’s memories.

Vocal highlights of this performance are María Hinojosa Montenegro, who sang Margarita Xingu, and Alfredo Tejada, the flamenco singer. Ms. Hinojosa voice has a rich and beautiful timbre, and her singing is clear and strong throughout. (Of note, the Spanish singers were amplified, something that is not quite acceptable in American opera houses). In addition, Ms. Hinojosa is especially adept at coloring her voice to reflect the necessary emotion. The cante jondo by Afredo Tejada is spectacular and really brings a raw Andalusian/ gypsy feel to the piece. A stunning scene is the death – in which the gunshots contribute to the rhythm of a dance of zapateado. Spanish music, popular and classical, has always been about rhythm, about dance. Underlying the lyricism of this opera, the rhythm of Andalusia pulsates in the dancers’ feet and in the percussion in the orchestra.

Golijov depicts an imaginary Granada, an Ainadamar, through tone, while the production team uses old newspaper articles, photos of Lorca and friends, and videos of nature to set the backdrop of the drama. The physical scene and the music are not the Granada one visits in Spain, where the blend of Byzantium and mozarabe meet, in centuries old romantic architecture, inhabited by both royal and ordinary ghosts and 21st century folks, but Golijov’s interpretation. Nevertheless, it works. There is a tension from the opening number, in which 5 female dancers in pink/purple dresses dance in front of the stones that are soon covered with water—symbolizing the fountain of tears. This same montage is repeated at the end of the opera, marking the end of this journey through Margarita Xingu’s memory and that of many unidentified Spaniards and their descendants. The silence has been broken.

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Minas – Timeless Brazilian-American Music, Timeless Artistry

On February 2, 2014, I had the pleasure of interviewing husband and wife duo, Orlando Haddad and Patricia King, leaders of the Brazilian-American group, Minas. They are celebrating 30 years of musical composition and performing. One of their goals is to create music that is ¨timeless”. Some of their upcoming events include: February 8, World Cafe Live at Wilmington, DE, a tribute to Sergio Mendes; Feb. 14 at the Sofitel in Philadelphia, and Feb. 15 at the Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse in Newtown Square, PA.

Since 1984, Minas has been a pioneer in the Brazilian music presence in Philadelphia, in addition to presenting their own fusion of Brazilian and American sounds to enthusiastic audiences. Orlando, in the group ¨PhilaSamba¨, introduced Brazilian percussion, ‘batucada’ to Philly, and some of those original members went on to form Alô Brasil. Following Alô Brasil, members went on to start Philly Bloco and Unidos da Filadelfia. Minas has performed in schools in the area–about 500,000 students have been touched by their music. Orlando also reached older students, teaching at the University of the Arts and Temple University.

The story of Minas sounds like it was destiny, “estava escrito”, just meant to be. Patricia and Orlando met as students at the North Carolina School of the Arts. Curiously, young Patricia, from south central Pennsylvania, had developed an interest in and love of Brazilian music before she arrived at the conservatory. Orlando, thousands of miles away in Rio de Janeiro, had been playing music in English with his band since he was 12 years old, and was initially influenced by the Beatles. Due to a lack of resources at his conservatory in Brazil, Orlando decided to transfer if he was ever going to fulfill his musical dream. And the rest is history! Of course these two would eventually meet–Patricia’s strong curiosity about Brazilian music prompted her to seek out Orlando, as soon as soon as she knew he was studying at the school, and hear Brazilian music live. Through this connection, Orlando rediscovered the music of his country.

Orlando-Patricia-on-piano.blur

After graduation, Orlando and Patricia went to Brazil. While there, they jammed, studied and performed with Brazilian musicians, including Dores Monteiro, Leny Andrade and Romero Lubambo. Some of the music and artists that have influenced Patricia over the years include, Keith Jarrett, Flora Purim, Tania Maria, Milton Banana and other piano trios, cool jazz, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. A child pianist and composer, Patricia studied voice and performed in church solos and musicals. Orlando was influenced by the Beatles, piano trios, bossa nova and MPB–Música Popular Brasileira–Gilberto Gil, Djavan, Milton Nascimento, Caetano Veloso, etc., and classical music. He explains how he and his brother would watch the TV show,”O Fino da Bossa” hosted by singer Elis Regina. Although he had this background, until he met Patricia, Orlando was not playing much Brazilian music.

When I asked about their favorite songs that they themselves had composed, Patricia praised Orlando’s Temporal, Ash Wednesday March, Primavera and Verde. Orlando admires Patricia’s Only the Moon and the Stars, Dream of Brazil, Bossa and Wait. Orlando asserts that he is overwhelmingly inspired by nature.

Girl from Ipanema in the Snow:

Over the years their music has evolved to be more complex and universal. The spirit is the same, but obviously after 30 years of collaborating, composing and performing, both have matured and polished their process and technique. Moreover, both have branched out to compose music in other styles. Orlando has been working on 20th century contemporary art music, while Patricia has been busy writing an operetta, called La Giara.

Minas, timeless, has stood the test of time for 30 years in Philadelphia. For the future, they hope to bring their music to listeners beyond the Philadelphia area. A long way from Rio de Janeiro, Orlando adds, ¨My goal has always been to tour the world with music.’

On PBS:
Minas, On Canvas, WHHY/PBS

For more information about MINAS and upcoming events, please visit their website: www.minasmusic.com

To listen to MINAS, visit their Pandora Station: Minas Radio