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Tri Sestri (Drei Schwestern)

Péter Eötvös

With Tri Sestri, the Wiener Staatsoper has incorporated yet another important and internationally successful contemporary work in its repertoire. This full-length opera on a grand scale by Peter Eötvös was first performed in Lyon in 1998. Though the composer based the work on Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, he does not present a linear storyline, revealing the plot in three sequences, or to be more precise, telling the story three times from different perspectives. Consequently, many of the episodes are repeated – but without any superfluity.​

PROLOGUE

The three sisters lament the loss of their father, being left behind, and the sufferings involved. For them, everything has become a memory.

SEQUENCE 1: IRINA

Irina despairs of her existence in the province, her life seems to be passing meaninglessly. Once, she hoped to move to Moscow and find the man of her dreams. Her older sister Olga tries to persuade Irina to marry Lieutenant Tuzenbakh, although Irina does not love him. Masha observes the unloved stepmother Natasha, as she goes by with a burning candle. Several officers, who have extinguished a fire in the town, enter the sisters’ parlour, among them Tuzenbach and Solyony, who are rivals for Irina’s love. While Lieutenant-Colonel Vershinin converses animatedly with the married Masha, the Doctor breaks an old glass clock. Tuzenbach admits his love to Irina, but she is hesitant, deliberately avoiding giving him hope or rejecting him. The conversation between the two is finally interrupted by the Doctor and Solyony. Solyony in turn declares his love for Irina, and threatens to kill his rival Tuzenbakh. When Solyony notices that Natasha has joined them, he leaves. Natasha wants Irina to give up her room to Bobik, the small son of Natasha and Andrei. A little later, Natasha leaves the house to meet her lover, Protopopov. The soldiers take their leave of the three sisters – for ever, as the regiment is being transferred from the town to Poland. Irina decides to marry Tuzenbach and leave the town with him, but Solyony kills him in a duel.

SECOND 2: ANDREI

The three sisters complain that Andrei is not living up to his responsibilities and has become a spineless tool in the hands of his wife, Natasha, who is trying to seize control of the household. Irina despairs of her existence in the province, her life seems to be passing meaninglessly. Masha observes the unloved stepmother Natasha, as she goes by with a burning candle. Andrei defends Natasha to his sisters, emphasising her nobility of spirit – although this rosy picture of his wife is contradicted by Natasha’s coarse and relentless treatment of the old nurse Anfissa, whom she wants to hound out of the house. Several officers, who have put out a fire in the town, enter the sisters’ parlour. In the course of the following general conversation, the Doctor resignedly admits his medical incompetence, and breaks an old glass clock belonging to the deceased mother of the three sisters. He philosophises on this, suggesting the possibility that he may not have broken the clock at all, and it just looked like it. The Doctor pursues his thought, and asks if existence is not merely illusion. Andrei goes up to him, and confesses that he has lost his former love for Natasha. Painfully aware of his situation, and hoping for a better future, Andrei leaves the house with the Doctor. Natasha looks forward to meeting her lover, Protopopov.

SEQUENCE 3: MASHA

The three sisters celebrate Irina’s name day and drink tea with several officers. Lieutenant-Colonel Vershinin joins them, introduces himself, and talks about his past in Moscow and his recollections of the Prozorov family. The Doctor praises the dead mother of the three sisters. Masha is tired of her husband Kulygin, a little later the married Vershinin and Masha admit their love for each other, a love that Masha later confesses to her sister Olga. Olga objects vehemently to this love, and Masha is resigned. The fact that Vershinin soon leaves for ever, as his regiment is being transferred from the town, plunges Masha into deep sorrow.

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