Adapted from Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov, Peter Eötvös' 1998 opera Tri sestry is a modernist interpretation of the 1901 drama, set to a libretto by Eötvös and Claus H. Henneberg. This opera has been performed to critical praise in Lyon, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, and Vienna, among other opera capitals, and it is now firmly established in major European houses, despite its absence from stages in the United States, where avant-garde music has had far less support. Beyond the usual difficulties of securing a place in the repertoire, Tri sestry presents challenges that show that Eötvös' work is as uncompromising as it ever was. The scenes of the original four-act play have been re-arranged into three "sequences" associated with the characters Irina, Andrei, and Mascha, so this basic alteration of the story may be off-putting to some Chekhov purists. Also somewhat controversial is Eötvös' use of an all-male cast, assigning the sisters' parts to three countertenors, a gender swap that is sure to raise eyebrows. Perhaps even more disorienting, though, is the music itself, which is quite angular, harsh, and dense, with scarcely a lyrical moment to relieve its tension and conversational vocals that seem to waver uncertainly between declamatory speech and Sprechgesang. To make reception even more problematic, this recording is marred by the audience's sounds and other background noises that suggest a pristine studio recording is overdue. However, Tri sestry's staying power could be argued from its two commercial recordings, made nearly twenty years apart: the 1999 premiere on Deutsche Grammophon by Kent Nagano, who commissioned Tri sestry, and this live 2018 performance by the Frankfurter Opern- und Museumsorchester, conducted by Dennis Russell Davies and Nikolai Petersen. Because the Nagano recording is out of print and hard to find, this Oehms Classics release of Tri sestry is the only game in town and recommended for adventurous listeners and diehard Eötvös fans.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2