When it comes to staging and performing Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar — Fountain of Tears, Lexington Philharmonic music director and conductor Scott Terrell shies away from the soft sell.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Lexington to see this piece done," he said. "I really hope people can take advantage of it."
There are multiple reasons for Terrell's enthusiasm regarding the piece, which will be performed Friday and Saturday at the Lexington Opera House. An opera in three "images," it has become in just over a decade one of the most visible works of Argentine-American composer Golijov. With a libretto by David Henry Hwang, the piece was designed as a vision of the great Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca as interpreted by three characters, one of whom is Lorca himself.
But the music plays out as a mirage of styles and dimensions with a score that embraces flamenco tradition and a collaborative alliance that joins orchestra with opera, dance and a dash of technology.
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"This is not the typical proscenium, big set opera with elaborate costumes and all that," Terrell said. "It can be done really simply, but I wouldn't call this version simple. It has moments where we really focus in on characters and moments where we focus on the orchestra and where the flamenco music and the dancers take over. There are so many musical styles that I think the audience will forget it was written only 10 years ago. It feels like it's been around for a long time.
"But it's also an experience piece. There is a recording that's available, but I don't think you get the full effect without it being presented live."
To bring Ainadamar to life, the Philharmonic has brought in plenty of reinforcements, including members of the Kentucky Opera Studio Artist Program, the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre, a stage director from New York (Chuck Hudson), a cast that includes a veteran performer of the piece (flamenco tenor Jesus Montoya, who is featured on the 2006 Deutsche Grammophon recording of Ainadamar), a flamenco dancer (Diana Dinicola from Flamenco Louisville) and even the return of a Lexington native well known to local concert and theatre audiences (pianist and assistant conductor Ryan Shirar).
"From my point of view, this is probably the most daring thing I've done since I've been here on a lot of levels, from the score to the number of collaborative partners to how far we're trying to collaborate and who we're working with," Terrell said.
"But, forgive the expression, I love it when a plan comes together. We were plotting all of this in the abstract for almost two years. Then we started checking the boxes as we get closer. That's part of the fun — to ultimately see the final product."
Completing the collaboration will be a splash of MIDI — otherwise known as Musical Instrument Digital Interface — that will enhance some of Ainadamar's orchestral as well as less obviously musical sounds.
"There is a very large percussion battery because of the Latin music in the piece," Terrell said. "Two guitars play a very predominant role, as well. But there is also a great use of MIDI and computer generated things. Many sounds and rhythms are integrated right into the acoustical playing of the orchestra — the galloping of horses, the sound of water, children's voices symbolizing all these children that had been silenced during the Spanish Revolution."
"All of this is so exciting because the orchestra has come very far. We do considerable music now from composers of today. But you can't simply drop something like this in. You have to have a diet of doing it over years. Because of that, a piece like Ainadamar seems less foreboding to people.
"The other thing is it's always important that, as musicians, we stretch and do things we don't know. I've been enjoying watching a lot of our players just say, 'Wow. What a score. I'm really enjoying getting to learn this.' That's where I hope our audience gets to, as well."