The Tanglewood Music Center's world premiere, double bill opera production of Robert Zuidam's Rage d'Amours and Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar represents an historic milestone for Tanglewood and the Tanglewood Music Center. When the BSO made its decision to commission an operatic double bill from two composers who have been associated with the TMC, BSO Artistic Administrator Anthony Fogg and TMC Director Ellen Highstein were in instant agreement as to the choice of composers. Both Osvaldo Golijov and Robert Zuidam are alumni of the Tanglewood Music Center; each has become an important presence on the international music scene; and each has shown a special gift for writing vocal music. The convergence of subject matter and thematic content in the two operas of this double bill represents an extraordinary and unanticipated coincidence. Though discussions about the project were initiated with both composers several years ago, they never discussed the project with each other until quite late in the creative process, and neither had any idea that their individual interests would ultimately lead them in similar directions for their choice of the story line. Though Zuidam had his subject matter in mind from the start, Golijov found his only after an extended period of time and thought, and through discussion with his librettist, David Henry Hwang. As it turns out, Zuidam's Rage d'Amours and Golijov's Ainadamar are both set in Spain (though 400 years apart), and specifically in Granada. Both deal with historical figures from that area. Both are specifically colored by the languages, music and culture of the region. Each opera focuses on a central female character ( Juana la Loca in Rage d'Amours , Margarita Xirgu in Ainadamar ) who is in each case passionately devoted to the central male figure (Philip the Handsome in Rage d'Amours , the poet and dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca in Ainadamar ) , and even beyond that, each of the central female characters is portrayed in multiple incarnations as their stories move back and forth through time and memory. In both operas, there is an ensemble of subsidiary figures who, Greek chorus-like, serve either to comment upon or facilitate the action ( the Monks in Rage d'Amours , the Granada Girls in Ainadamar ). Had Zuidam and Golijov been asked to aim for similarly themed works, the result could not have been more propitious.
The strong cultural and artistic bond between the two stories is reflected also in Lorca's own belief that the expulsion of Jews and Arabs from Spain, beginning with the fall of Granada and the end of Moorish occupation in 1492, was the greatest tragedy in Spanish history. It was Juana la Loca's parents, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabelle, whose initiation of the Spanish Inquisition forced the expulsion of Jews and Arabs at that time. These few lines, chosen by Osvaldo Golijov from Lorca's 1918 poem Elegia a Doña Juan la Loca, are relevant here:
Granada era tu lecho de muerte, Doña Juana,
Granada was your deathbed, Doña Juana,
The idea of commissioning an opera for the Tanglewood Music Center dates back to the early years of the Music Center, which was founded in 1940 by then BSO music director Serge Koussevitzky. In 1942, Koussevitzky instituted an opera program at the TMC (then known as the Berkshire Music Center) under the leadership of Boris Goldovsky. For the next twenty years, Goldovsky supervised numerous TMC productions in the Theatre, among them Leonard Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti , Lukas Foss's Griffelkin , Tchaikofsky's Eugene Onegin , and Rossini's Le Comte Ory , as well as the American premieres of Mozart's Idomeneo and La clemenza di Tito . But there has been only one opera ever commissioned specifically for the Music Center: Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes , which was commissioned from Britten by Koussevitzky, and which received its American premiere at Tanglewood, wartime circumstances necessitated a postponement; thus the first British performance, at Sadler's Wells Opera on June 7, 1945, became the world premiere.)
Though Erich Leinsdorf led concert-opera performances with the BSO of Wagner's Lohengrin , Beethoven's Leonore (the original version of Fidelio ), and Verdi's Othello , as well as semi-staged TMC performance's of Ravel's L'Enfant et les sortilèges and Berg's Wozzeck , the original TMC opera program came to a halt during his years as BSO music director. From that time opera maintained a sporadic presence at Tanglewood through such initiatives as the Music Center's "Theatre Project" performances in the West Barn, and through a number of BSO concert performances under Seiji Ozawa (Mozart's Cosi fan tutte and Schauspieldirektor , and Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin ). Then, in 1980, with Puccini's Tosca, Seiji Ozawa initiated an extended series of semi-staged BSO opera performances in the Shed that not only continued throughout his tenure as music director (including Tanglewood semi-stagings of Boris Godunov, Fidelio, Béatrice et Bénedict, Pique Dame , and Idomeneo , among others), but which ultimately set the stage for the impetus toward a new opera program at the Tanglewood Music Center. The turning point came with the TMC's Ozawa-led, fully-staged 1996 production of Peter Grimes , which marked the 50th anniversary of that opera's American premiere at Tanglewood. Since then there have been fully-staged TMC productions of Poulenc's Les Mamelles de Tirésias (1997), Puccini's Gianni Schicchi (1999), Verdi's Falstaff (2000), and a double bill of Ravel's L'Enfant et les sortilèges and L'Heure espagnole (2001). With this year's BSO-commissioned TMC double bill of Robert Zuidam's Rage d'Amours and Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar , the Tanglewood Music Center fulfills a threefold mission as it acknowledges the proud heritage of opera at Tanglewood; as it builds upon its continuing commitment to new music and the commissioning of new music; and as it squarely faces the challenge of the future.
© Tanglewood Music Center