CREDITS: cover art, model, sketches of VENTANA, ARRESTO and CONFESION, clothes sketches, and research by Anya Klepikov; Light sketches of PRELUDIO and HABANA by Ji-Youn Chang and Daniel Vatsky; MEURTE image and CANTAR sketch by Anya Klepikov and Daniel Vatsky; video editing and projection sample by Daniel Vatsky; choreography by Sara Erde; “MUERTE A CABALLO” Projection Image taken from Carlos Saura’s film FLAMENCO; text by Mike Donahue and Anya Klepikov


Article in Opera America Magazine

Set & Costume Designer Anya Klepikov’s Portfolio

Projection Designer Daniel Vatsky’s Portfolio

From the darkness, from the silence, the watery sounds of Ainadamar, the fountain of tears, are conjured by an assembling circle of flamenco singers and dancers, transporting us to a world of trumpets, of Granada, of Moors, Jews, Christians and Gypsies all living together. As the voices, stories, images, people, illusions, fantasies, memories, the flamenco circle itself, all fade in and out of focus, we will share Margarita's re-living of the events leading first to Lorca's execution – and then to her own death (and onward). 

Winner, Inaugural Opera America Director-Designer Showcase Award

In Osvaldo Golijov’s AINADAMAR, the lives of three people - the poet Federico García Lorca, his friend, the actress Margarita Xirgu, and the heroine of one of his plays, Mariana Pineda - are woven together as Margarita struggles to accept fate, release herself from guilt, and ensure that the dream of freedom lives on in her students. 

In our production, a company of opera and flamenco singers, flamenco dancers, and musicians, all come together - and as a community, they tell us the story with simplicity, spontaneity, and magic.

THE TEAM: Mike Donahue (director); Sara Erde (choreographer); Anya Klepikov (set & costume designer, co-producer); Daniel Vatsky (projection designer); Ji-Youn Chang (lighting designer); Roberta Pereira (producer)

Space, Clothes & Research:

(videos & more info below)


Lorca lived in Andalucia, the south of Spain and the cradle of flamenco.  Both Lorca and his literary work were steeped in the flamenco sensibility -- he was even an amateur flamenco musicologist.  In AINADAMAR, Golijov often borrows rhythmic and melodic elements from flamenco.  He even brings a flamenco singer into the classical ensemble and flamenco percussion instruments into the orchestra.  We are building the piece as a danced opera in which story emerges from the integration of music and movement - and in doing so, we are drawing on the model of the flamenco cuadro. 

When the Spanish Gypsies get together for any sort of occasion, they sit in a circle, creating an empty space in the middle.  Maybe there’s a guitarist, but everyone uses their hands to clap (palmas), creating a rhythm base on top of which people take turns singing or dancing a stanza.  There is an improvisatory dialogue between the dancer, singer and guitarist, and the whole event is a communal act of creation. This flamenco circle is called a cuadro.

    For a sample of how choreographer Sara Erde will integrate flamenco dance, please watch the first video above. 


In our production, a diverse group of classical and flamenco singers, dancers and instrumentalists create the story in an empty space.  They only have chairs to sit on, which can be reconfigured to create different spaces.  For example, as the propaganda messages of the Radio Falange blare over the end of CANTAR, and the projected silhouettes of warplanes swirl overhead, the chairs of the cuadro are blasted into the sky as the dancers take them one by one and throw them up into the air.  The chairs freeze mid-air, suspended in space and time – and with the help of the dancers and niñas, who create a human chain of bodies that become water, they form the fountain of Ainadamar – the fountain of tears where Lorca awaits execution.

We extend the stage over the orchestra pit with platforms called “wall smashers” (so-called because they allow the circle of chairs to penetrate the proscenium arch, making the audience a part of the flamenco cuadro).  There is a distressed arch structure at the back, inspired by images of ruins from the Spanish Civil War.  The arches can be climbed by dancers and singers, and with the help of light can be transformed into different spaces: sometimes it’s a theatre house, sometimes a bull ring where the bloody spectacle of civil war takes place.  There is also a veil in front of the structure that we can project onto, allowing the structure to selectively or completely disappear.  In one moment, we project live feed of the flamenco singer onto the entirety of the structure.  In doing so, we emphasize through close-up the pained grimace and contortions of the flamenco singer’s mouth as he calls for Lorca’s arrest. 

The costumes are motley: the dancers are in simple contemporary clothing, but they add pieces to become different things – like the flamenco horses, or the Black Angel of Habana.  There are also 8 Niñas, little girls which belong to the surreal world of Lorca’s play within the opera, and they function like a Greek chorus.  Like the dancers, they also take on different roles: one moment they are the flying statues of Mariana Pineda, another moment they are the Rosales women trying to shield Lorca from arrest by the officer of the Fascist falange.  Meanwhile, when Margarita plays the role of Mariana Pineda in Lorca’s play of the same title, she is dressed in the clothes that Salvador Dalí originally designed for her when she starred in the play’s premiere.  When Margarita later passes into death, the company symbolically undresses her, removing the clothes of Mariana Pineda.  Finally, we also have musicians come onstage as part of the greater flamenco cuadro working together to create the story: there is a duet of two Spanish guitars, and in the beginning we have the trumpet players come up from the orchestra pit to play on the wall smashers. 

At the end of the opera, after everything that has happened – after the failed revolution, the destruction of civil war, the murder of the poet – when Golijov writes a moment for the orchestra to react and get furious – we bring the entire orchestra into the flamenco cuadro by raising them up to stage level for LIBERTAD. 


In addition to the singers, dancers and musicians, we are also integrating projections into the cuadro.  For us, the projections function not as set piece, but as another live voice telling the story, both grounding the opera in historical reality and visually expressing the imagination and magic of the piece.  We’re working with archival images, motion graphics, and live video feeds taken directly from the stage.

For example, as war approaches, Margarita tries in vain to convince Lorca to escape with her to Cuba – and for a brief moment there’s a dream of escape, with the dancing Black Angel of Habana, lights shining through ceiling fans, and projected palm trees flirtatiously swaying their hips.  Lorca quickly realizes, however, that he cannot leave his beloved country in time of war.  (Nor did he imagine that things would ever get so bad).  And as he sings QUIERO CANTAR, the projection surface fills with propaganda posters from the Spanish Civil War.  These images of war later return, albeit through the eyes of children, as the voices of the dead await execution in CONFESIÓN.

For a sample of the projections, please watch the second video above.


To create the execution of the poet Federico García Lorca (INTERLUDIO), Golijov sampled a 1930s gunshot.  Golijov talks about how the rhythm of the piece starts randomly, just as violence begins – and then gradually, a sort of order emerges as the one shot that kills Lorca in 1936 becomes the thousands of shots that kill thousands of people during the Spanish Civil War.  And over this the voice of a flamenco singer laments Lorca’s death. 

In our production, as the first shots of the Interludio go off,  Ji-Youn will take out the lights -- as if they’re being shot out, plunging us into darkness.  We then remain in dark for the entirety of the INTERLUDIO – there’s no staging, nothing to see, we just sit alone in the dark theatre with the power of the music.  As the last shot echoes, the lights slowly come back up to reveal Lorca, now alone on an empty stage, facing away from us.  As the echo of the last shot gives way to silence, his body crumples to the floor – and then rolls off, through a trap, out of sight, as if his body has just been kicked into a ditch.


    In August 2008 we started work on a produciton of Osvaldo Golijov &

David Henry Hwang’s AINADAMAR.  In October, we submitted a detailed production concept and initial design to Opera America’s Opera Fund.  In November, we were awarded the Inaugural Director-Designer Showcase Award by a panel that included Peter Dean Beck, designer; John Duykers, singer/teacher; Christopher Mattaliano, stage director/general director of Portland Opera; Diane Paulus, stage director; and Darren K. Woods, general director of Fort Worth Opera.

    Our work was featured in the winter ‘09 issue of Opera America Magazine, we were given $1,000 to continue development, and we presented our work at the 2009 Opera America Conference in Houston.  41 teams applied and only 4 were selected.  The award was in part funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.


VIDEO: Choreography Sample for BAR AL ABOR and Discussion with Choreographer Sara Erde

VIDEO: Projection Samples for HABANA / CANTAR / Falange / CONFESIÓN