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At its keenly-awaited New York première a noted critic wrote: 'Ainadamar ('Fountain of Tears', 2003, by Osvaldo Golijov, libretto by David Henry Hwang) isn't really an opera at all; it's a poetic cantata that will probably have its richest life in the concert hall, where nobody minds when nothing happens, or when a spasm of violence segues into a meditative tableau. On stage, these eventless lengths felt awkward, and producer Peter Sellars crammed them full of fussy stage business. (Even the unflappable soprano Dawn Upshaw seemed to be struggling with the job of lobbing her lamentations over the waves of orchestration from a supine position.) In concert, the eyes could rest and let the ears savor the cerulean and magenta hues of Golijov's score.'

Listen -- Golijov: 'Desde mi ventana' from Ainadamar (track 4, 0:00-1:02)
© 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd

This duo's excerpt from Aindamar -- 'Desde mi ventana' ('From my Window') -- is fashioned for violin and piano by 48-year-old Los Angeles pianist, composer and arranger Stephen Prutsmann and here one cannot help but be struck by its several references to Bloch's Nigun.

Both works adopt a ruminative-lyrical mood though Golijov's piece shares none of the impassioned angst of the Bloch.

The libretto tells of Spanish poet, musician and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) murdered at the start of the Spanish Civil War; the spot where he was killed was an ancient well named Ainadamar, the 'Fountain of Tears'.

'Mack the Knife' (originally 'Die Moritat von Mackie Messer'), is a song by Kurt Weill (with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht) written for the music drama The Threepenny Opera ('Die Dreigroschenope'), and premièred in Berlin (1928).

American idol pop mogul Simon Cowell chose it as the best song ever written. 'Mack the Knife' was introduced to the US hit parade by Louis Armstrong in 1954 but most famously it earned Bobby Darin a Grammy Award for Record of the Year (1959). Ella Fitzgerald added her interpretation with a best-selling live Berlin recording in 1960 and Frank Sinatra did it as a duo with Dean Martin.

Sohn and Loeb cannot hope to reach the audience of such 'popular' forerunners but, not to worry, this heady arrangement by Stefan Frenkel (1902-1979) captures the satirical, biting mood of the piece to perfection.

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Copyright © 7 May 2008 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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