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20/21 Eötvös: Three Sisters / Nagano, Eötvös, Opéra De Lyon

Release Date: 01/11/2000 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 459694   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Peter Eötvös
Performer:  Ivan MatiakhOleg RiabetsAlbert SchagidullinMarc Duguay,   ... 
Conductor:  Peter EötvösKent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 2 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This set features an audio listening guide recorded in English, French and German by Peter Eötvös.
Peter Eötvös is a force to be reckoned with in the new music world. His acclaimed 'Three Sisters,' an operatic adaptation of Anton Chekhov's play, won the Caecilia Award in Belgium. The 1998 world premiere at the Lyon Opera, co-conducted by Kent Nagano, received ecstatic reviews.
The plot is laid out in overlapping perspectives, a narrative style popularized by such filmmakers as Akira Kurosawa and Jim Jarmusch. In a further, very hip shift of perspective, 'Three Sisters' has an all-male cast, using countertenors for female roles, adding a dimension of gender identity and sexual orientation to the plot, which
Read more is already thick with intersecting love triangles. The beautifully evocative sonic textures combine elements of Stockhausen and Astor Piazzolla, using the accordion as a kind of continuo.
This live recording of the premiere is fantastic. The recording carefully blends singers and two orchestras with a perfect balance of hall sound, avoiding the sterility of close-micing. The result is a live performance sound that doesn't sacrifice clarity.
International Record Review (3/00, pp.129-139) - "...by opting for an all-male cast, Eötvös reconfigures the gender politics of the original text....[his] hypnotic music, dreamily coloured and often harmonically static, contradicts Chekhov's relentlessly realistic setting..."
Opera News (5/00, pp.72-73) - "...Three Sisters is a triumph - brilliantly conceived, masterfully realized and recorded live at the 1998 world premiere in a tour-de-force performance by the Orchestre de l'Opera de Lyon and [the ensemble of singers] under the direction of Kent Nagano...

Full Review from Classics Today:
Since its world premiere at the Opéra de Lyon, France, in March 1998, Peter Eötvös' Three Sisters has received instant recognition, with several new productions scheduled in Germany, Holland and Hungary for the season 1999/2000, and more to come later. No wonder Deutsche Grammophon decided to publish this astonishing lyrical masterpiece in its "20/21" collection. Former co-conductor, along with Pierre Boulez, of the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris, the Hungarian Peter Eötvös is hardly a newcomer on the contemporary scene; but the tremendous dramatic and musical impact of Three Sisters has taken everyone by surprise. Part of the success may be explained by the story, based on Anton Chekov's eponymous play. Peter Eötvös and his librettist Claus H. Henneberg have considerably changed the original: the action is concentrated in a single section instead of four acts. But the true originality of the libretto (sung in Russian) is that the story is presented three times in as many sections, adopting each time the point of view of a different character: first Irina, then Andrei, and finally Macha. This re-composition, or de-construction, of the original plot allows Eötvös to dig deeper into the characters' souls, expectations and inner life, while the return of the same scenes, shown slightly differently each time, translates with amazing force the painful passing by of time in a world of deceived ambitions, where life flees and nothing ever really changes.

To match musically this universe of solitary souls, the Hungarian composer displays a stunning array of sonorities, from the lonely opening accordion melody, to intensely dramatic, spectacular clusters, through rarefied sound-clouds of the utmost refinement. Two orchestras respond to each other, one made of 16 soloists in the pit, the other, in full formation, set backstage. In this world premiere, all the feminine characters are sung by countertenors! This is by no means a choice imposed by the composer (other productions opt for sopranos instead); but the alchemy between ambiguous vocal timbres and the expressionist use of instruments contributes to create a haunting, hallucinated atmosphere of mystery, and ultimate fascination. The music itself pays tribute to Berg (painful melancholy mixed with "popular" material), Ligeti (ferocious irony surrounding Dr. Chebutykin), perhaps even early Bartók (mysterious suspended harmony), but retains its fundamental originality all along.

Conducted by Kent Nagano (soloists ensemble) and the composer himself (backstage orchestra), the Orchestre de l'Opéra de Lyon plays with superb concentration and exemplary commitment, while the vocal distribution appears absolutely flawless. If Albert Schagidullin (Andrei) and Dietrich Henschel (Baron Turzenbach) are particularly impressive in their characterizations, all of the singers participate equally in the success of the production. Though not exempt from stage noises, the live recording provided by Radio-France's engineers has presence, dynamism and clarity. As a fill-up, Peter Eötvös reads a well-done 8-minute listening guide (with music excerpts) in English, German and French. Who said opera is dead?

--Luca Sabbatini
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Works on This Recording

Three Sisters by Peter Eötvös
Performer:  Ivan Matiakh (Tenor), Oleg Riabets (Countertenor), Albert Schagidullin (Baritone),
Marc Duguay (Tenor), Gary Boyce (Countertenor), Nikita Storojev (Bass),
Jan Alofs (Bass), Wojciech Drabowicz (Tenor), Dietrich Henschel (Baritone),
Denis Sedov (Bass), Peter Hall (Tenor), Vyacheslav Kagan-Palei (Countertenor),
Alain Aubin (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Peter Eötvös,  Kent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1996-1997 
Date of Recording: 03/13/1998 
Venue:  Opera House, Lyon, France 
Length: 121 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Language: Russian 

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