Ainadamar is an Arabic word meaning “fountain of tears” and is a natural spring located in the hills above the city of Granada, the site where the poet and playwright Federico García Lorca was executed in 1936. Ainadamar tells the story of the playwright’s life and death through the eyes of his lover and muse, actress Margarita Xirgu.
When the Spanish Civil War began, Xirgu was on tour in South America and she spent the rest of her life there in voluntary exile. Told in three images of flashbacks by Xirgu, the opera utilizes flamenco-accented orchestra sounds as Xirgu, who had a close working relationship with Lorca, reflects on her meetings with Lorca and his final execution for his progressive political ideals. The opera revisits themes from his most famous play, Mariana Pineda, premiered in 1927, a historic drama about a 19th-century Spanish folk heroine who was executed, similarly, for her political ideals. Margarita Xirgu played the title character in this play. The opera begins in the 1960s, with an 81-year-old Xirgu about to go onstage for what will be her last performance of Mariana Pineda.
First Image: Mariana
Uruguay, April 1969: Preparing for a performance, a group of young actresses sing the opening balada of Lorca’s play, Mariana Pineda. Margarita Xirgu looks back forty years to the premiere of Mariana Pineda, as she tries to convey the brilliance of this young author to her student, Nuria. She has a flashback of her meeting with Lorca in a bar in Madrid where he describes his play to her for the first time. It was inspired by a statue of Mariana Pineda that he saw as a child in Granada. Mariana was martyred for sewing a revolutionary flag and refusing to reveal the identity of the revolutionary leaders, including her lover, who deserted her as she then struggled to die with dignity. Margarita compares the eerie foreshadowing of the fate of Mariana and Federico’s subsequent execution. Ramón Ruiz Alonso, the Falangist who executed Lorca, interrupts the flashback. Over the state radio we hear the Falangists extinguish the beginnings of the revolution.
Second image: Federico
The actresses sing the balada from Mariana Pineda again. Margarita is taken back to the summer of 1936, the last time she saw Lorca. The Spanish Civil War has begun and the revolutionaries are in danger. Margarita begs Lorca to come with her theater company to Cuba, but he refuses and stays in Granada to write new plays and poetry.
The news of Lorca’s murder is an early warning to the world. Margarita imagines Ruiz Alonso arresting Lorca and leading him, a bullfighter, and teacher to Ainadmar, the fountain of tears, and making them confess their sins and then shooting them all.
Third Image: Margarita
The play starts one more time as Margarita is dying and the actresses sing the balada once again. She tells Nuria that an actor only lives for a moment but that the voice of the people will never die. The Spanish fascist head of state and military ruler, Francisco Franco, has never permitted Margarita Xirgu, the image of freedom, to come back to Spain, but Margarita has kept the plays of Lorca alive in Latin America while they were forbidden in Spain.
Lorca’s spirit enters the room to comfort Margarita and they walk toward delirium. Margarita dies as her courage and humanity are passed on to Nuria and the young actresses as they walk onto stage. Margarita sings the final lines to Mariana Pineda “I am the fountain from which you drink." The performance can now begin.