- Simon Wright
Opera in three acts by Heitor Villa-Lobos after Federico García Lorca ’s play; Santa Fe, 12 August 1971.
Yerma (soprano) lives in a rural Spanish community where the primary occupation is shepherding. She laments her apparent infertility, for which she receives no sympathy from her husband Juan (tenor), who has no interest in children. Yerma’s despair increases as, all around her, she sees signs of fecundity and child-bearing, particularly in the pregnancy of her friend Maria (mezzo-soprano). Yerma’s disapproving sisters-in-law confine her both mentally and physically, and she secretly pays a nocturnal visit to a Sorceress (contralto), having been briefly tempted to return to the love of her youth, Victor (baritone). Magic failing, Yerma prays for a child at a religious shrine, but is confronted there with the ironic spectacle of a pagan fertility rite. Juan, outraged that Yerma should be out alone, comes to find her, and in a fit of passionate frustration at Juan’s indifference to her need for a child Yerma strangles him, realizing then that her dream of motherhood has now vanished forever. The opera closes with pilgrims singing at the shrine....