Frederico Garcia Lorca and Ainadamar

In February 2014, Opera Philadelphia presents Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar at the Academy of Music. The subject of the opera, famed poet and playwright Federico García Lorca, now stands as one of Spain’s greatest icons. But in 1936, he found himself standing in front of the firing squad at Ainadamar (“fountain of tears” in Arabic)—quite literally caught in the middle of the Spanish Civil War. The opera consists of a series of rousing flashbacks, in which Lorca’s muse and lover Margarita Xirgu conjures up his controversial life and defiant death in this stunning production. With a Grammy Award-winning flamenco-and rumba-infused score, Ainadamar delivers a dreamlike passion play complete with everything from bullfighting and bravado to the artist’s struggle for love and free expression.

During his life, Lorca achieved international recognition as a poet, dramatist and theater director, and was an emblematic member of an influential group of poets that arose in Spanish literary circles out of a shared desire to experience and work with avant-garde forms of art and poetry. Before his execution in 1936, Lorca traveled to Buenos Aires in 1933, and gave a famous lecture called Play and Theory of the Duende. In it, he stated duende is

“…A mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosopher has explained…. the duende is a force not a labor, a struggle not a thought. The duende is not in the throat: the duende surges up, inside, from the soles of the feet. Meaning, it’s not a question of skill, but of a style that’s truly alive; meaning, it’s in the veins; meaning, it’s of the most ancient culture of immediate creation.”