Welsh National Opera has performed several operas that are set in Spain, including our current production Ainadamar. This Spanish spectacle fuses opera and flamenco in an 80-minute whirlwind retelling of Federico García Lorca’s life, as told by his close friend and muse Margarita Xirgu. Born in the Spanish city of Granada, Lorca was a poet, playwright and activist who was murdered by the Falangist militia during the Spanish civil war for being a ‘homosexual socialist’. Margarita devoted her life to performing Lorca’s work, specifically Mariana Pineda in which she took on the title role.
Ainadamar is the first time WNO have performed in the language, but it’s not the first time we’ve brought Spanish flair to the stage. From Granada to Seville, let’s revisit our favourite operas set in sunny Spain.
When ‘opera’ and ‘Spain’ are mentioned, it’s hard for one’s first thought not to be the Toreador aria, Votre toast, je peuxvous le rendre, from Carmen. Set in Seville, Bizet’s opera tells the story of the carefree and spirited Carmen who enchants the soldier, Don José. When he sacrifices his old life for her, she is unprepared for the events that will evolve. She eventually turns her attention to another, Escamillo, and Don José’s jealousy erupts in a thrilling finale.
While we’re talking about Seville, let’s revisit Rossini’s comic opera The Barber of Seville, which is set around a traditional Spanish plaza. Count Almaviva has fallen in love with Dr Bartolo’s ward Rosina, but her guardian has other ideas and wants to keep her for himself. Almaviva enlists the help of local barber, Figaro, to outwit his plan, and through a series of comical events and deception Figaro takes on the role of matchmaker.
Matchmaker Figaro’s own tale is told in The Marriage of Figarowhen Mozart picks up where Rossini left off. Still in Seville, at Count Almaviva’s castle, it’s supposed to be the happiest day of Figaro and Susanna’s lives. However, the Count is determined to have Susanna for himself. Figaro tries to outwit his master for the honour of his bride, but the young Cherubino confuses matters even more.
Seville is obviously a hotbed for lust and scandal as the charismatic Don Giovanni, who has been seducing his way around Europe, ends up in the Spanish city. When one of his conquests ends in murder, he goes on the run, pursued by disgruntled ex-lovers, fiancées and a force from beyond the grave. But when he refuses to show remorse, his past catches up with him and leads to his ultimate demise.
If we’ve given you a craving for some Spanish flair, then catch Ainadamaron tour while you still can; it’s already wowed audiences in Cardiff and Llandudno and will be visiting Bristol, Plymouth, Birmingham, Milton Keynes and Southampton.