Miami Music Festival Presents Exciting Evening of Modern Opera

Maggie Kinabrew and Alejandra Martinez in Osvaldo Golijov's AinadamarPhoto, Angelica Perez

We came for the intrigue of Nico Muhly’s Dark Sisters, but were on our feet for the mesmerizing performance of Ainadamar. The Miami Music Festival, under the leadership of Artistic Director, Michael Rossi, presented a fabulous evening of new opera. The excitement was palpable from the first downbeat, conducted by Francesco Milioto. Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar began the evening, with a libretto by American playwright, David Henry Hwang. In the production, Margarita Xirgu tells the story of her lover’s demise, playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, in a series of flashbacks.

Soprano, Alejandra Martinez, commanded the stage as Margarita Xirgu in a role she has made her own. Martinez captivated the audience with Xirgu’s sultry melismas, and showed the immense power of her voice in the opera’s final scenes. Mezzo-soprano Kristyna Gočová cut a boyish Frederico Garcia Lorca and soprano Maggie Kinabrew dazzled with Gočová and Martinez in the trios.

Not a moment was wasted in this production of Ainadamar. Director, Jennifer Williams seamless transitions and fluid imagery beautifully paired with the sonic world of a musical composition combining electronic sounds and orchestra. Williams’ staging celebrated the fractal nature of the score, matching every angle with visceral meaning. Set Designer Alyiece Moretto provided a delicate backdrop that supported the violent and stunning projections of designer, Steven Covey.

Nico Muhly’s Dark Sisters, an opera with a libretto by Stephen Karam, took the audience inside the inner workings of a Mormon fundamentalist sect after being raided by child support services. The true success of this production was the ability of the performers to develop these complex characters. Muhly’s score gives extensive, and sometimes exhaustive allotment to each individual character, a challenge to be sure for any young singer.

Sophie Thompson sang beautifully as Eliza, giving dimension to the wife of the Prophet, determined to prevent her daughter, Lucinda, from suffering the same fate as her own. Jose Vazquez communicated a strong and domineering presence as the Prophet, a role which later transitioned into the character of Larry King, as the wives are interviewed after the loss of the children. Vazquez somber voice and pristine delivery of text held us firmly in this fundamentalist world. Charlotte Jackson as wife, Zina, showed vocal athleticism and grace.

Williams deliberate staging gave space for the drama, and each character was allowed to develop before our eyes as the score allowed. Subtle gestures and movements were magnified in the openness of the production. The blue and pink hues of the women’s dresses, designed by Patricia Hibbert, stood out amongst the white chairs and neutral tones of the set.

Miami Music Festival has triumphed in its production of these ambitious operas. We want more. 

Next up in the Miami Music Festival, Mozart’s The Magic Flute June 27th and 30th, at Temple Emanu-El, 1701 Washington Ave in Miami Beach and the Marriage of Figaro, June 28th and 29th at Miami Beach High School.

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