W St­ef­fens

BBC Music Magazine - - Opera -

Two Cells in Sevilla (Don Quixote is Hun­gry);

Five Songs on Hölder­lin*

Sonja Bruzauskas (mezzo-so­prano), Todd R Miller (tenor), Ben­jamin Le­clair (bari­tone), Oc­tavio Moreno (bass), *Tali Morgulis (pi­ano); Mem­bers of the Green­briar Con­sor­tium/david Kirk

Navona Records NV 6174 50:27 mins

Two Cells in Sevilla, or Don Quixote is hun­gry, Op. 106 is a cu­ri­ously imag­i­na­tive cham­ber opera cre­ated by com­poser Wal­ter St­ef­fens

(b1934) and li­bret­tist Marec Béla St­ef­fens. The fa­ther and son team pre­miered the work in ★ous­ton, Texas, back in 2016, and this is the first record­ing.

The story cen­tres around two in­mates, a monk and a no­ble­man, and how they each cap­ture the at­ten­tion of the cook (Sonja Bruzauskas) to fill their empty stom­achs. St­ef­fens se­nior knows the genre well, hav­ing writ­ten sev­eral op­eras, and his scor­ing makes ef­fec­tive use of wood­wind, un­usu­ally fea­tur­ing a sax­o­phone along with oboe/cor anglais, clar­inet, cello and pi­ano. The li­bretto be­comes bizarrely meta, as the monk is re­vealed to be the in­ven­tor of fic­tional wom­an­iser Don Juan – among other inside nods to the genre – and the nar­ra­tive be­comes fussy and un­nec­es­sar­ily com­plex for a 35-minute work.

The opera is cou­pled with Five Songs on Hölder­lin, Op. 95, also per­formed by Sonja Bruzauskas. Set­ting texts by Friederich ★ölder­lin, the mini-cy­cle is writ­ten within the tra­di­tional Lieder id­iom, with 20th cen­tury mod­ernist in­flu­ences. While ‘Son­nenun­ter­gang’ and ‘Die Linien des Lebens sind ver­schieden’ are frag­mented, the other pieces me­an­der and the dis­parate style is not wholly suc­cess­ful. Claire Jack­son PER­FOR­MANCE RECORD­ING

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