Erin Leigh Koolman: My name is Erin Leigh Koolman and I am playing the role of Federico García Lorca.
Kathiana Dargenson: My name is Kathiana Dargenson and I'll be playing the role of Margarita Xirgu.
Aaron Cain: And you just found out today you're playing together!
Erin Leigh Koolman and Kathiana Dargenson: Yes! [laughter]
Aaron Cain: So this, of course, is in the opera Ainadamar.
Erin Leigh Koolman and Kathiana Dargenson: Mm-Hmm.
Aaron Cain: By Golijov. Erin, tell me about Federico García Lorca.
Erin Leigh Koolman: My exposure to him started in my undergraduate, which was actually at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and I had read Blood Wedding in a class there—one of his plays—and I was just overcome with the concept of duende, that overwhelming passion that just sort of transcends technique and just bursts into this sort of artistry that connects with life, and…when I first heard about Ainadamar and the role of Lorca, I was overcome with joy to find out that it was a mezzo role. Really excited for that. And I immediately started researching before I even auditioned for it. So I have his poems, and I started reading biographies, and the more I read about him, the more I just really connected with him. And I think of everything that I would like the audience to take away from this particular opera, is that he was just someone who wanted to live his life as happily and fully as he could and write poetry that he felt connected to the core of our humanity, and whose life was cut really short, way too soon. Yeah, it's just an absolute honor to be able to step into his shoes.
Aaron Cain: Well, let's talk about the shoes that you are inhabiting, Kathiana, the great Catalan actress…
Kathiana Dargenson: Yeah.
Aaron Cain: …and the muse of García Lorca: Margarita Xirgu.
Kathiana Dargenson: I was first introduced to Xirgu when they put the operas on display for us to start to ponder which roles you wanted. So, I looked into the character of Margarita after I got it, and…I just found her to be somebody who was just, like, overwhelmed with grief because of having such pure adoration for Lorca, and so I think that there’s a very dynamic character at play when we talk about Margarita. So, I'm really appreciative of this role. And I'm also appreciative of the relationship between Margarita and Lorca. How passionate it was, and how profound it was, and how deeply it affected her in every stage of her life. Just that idea of constantly building community, constantly uplifting somebody else, constantly being in collaboration. I think that's the most beautiful thing about her person, and then also about this process in general.
Erin Leigh Koolman: It's a very human story, even though we are talking about Margarita and Lorca as these otherworldly characters. At the end of the day, it is a friend grieving the untimely, unjust death of another friend.
Kathiana Dargenson: Mm-Hmm.
Erin Leigh Koolman: And I think a lot of people, unfortunately, especially with COVID and all kinds of tragedies, will find ways to relate to that.
Aaron Cain: Okay, my last question: He's coming here.
Erin Leigh Koolman and Kathiana Dargenson: Oh! Yes! He is! [laughter]
Aaron Cain: The composer, Osvaldo Golijov, is going to be in attendance when you perform this.
Kathiana Dargenson: Right.
Aaron Cain: On opening night.
Erin Leigh Koolman: Yep!
Kathiana Dargenson: Mm-Hmm.
Aaron Cain: How do you feel about that?
Kathiana Dargenson: Hoo-we. [laughs]
Erin Leigh Koolman: I…you know..I have been saying that I'm equal parts excited and terrified, but I really don't think I'm scared. I think we've been really well prepared and I think as artists, too, like this cast is just one of the most cohesive working casts I've ever been a part of. Everyone is so welcoming, so prepared, and it's so easy for us to be vulnerable with each other. So I'm just ready. I'm really just ready to perform this for this person who's given us this gift of experiencing these people and their story.
Kathiana Dargenson: I think I'm just ready to listen. And to just soak it all in. And I'm so grateful that they even went to the lengths of inviting him, because a lot of performers can't say that they've sat in the room with the composer whose works they're performing, and I hope that that changes. I think there are too many people alive who are producing masterpieces that need to be set on stages like IU’s. So, I hope that they would use this as some sort of catalyst for change in that area. And I know that we're premiering another work here this semester, so I'm equally excited for that. But, yeah, more than anything I'm just looking forward to it.
Aaron Cain: Well, Kathiana Dargenson, Erin Leigh Koolman. Toi toi toi, and thanks for speaking with me today.
Erin Leigh Koolman and Kathiana Dargenson: Thank you so much for having us.
Aaron Cain: Ainadamar by Osvaldo Golijov starts this weekend at the Musical Arts Center, and I've been speaking with mezzo Erin Leigh Koolman and soprano Kathiana Dargenson, who perform Federico García Lorca and Margarita Xirgu, respectively, in Friday's performance. More information at operaballet.indiana.edu. For WFIU Arts, I'm Aaron Cain.