Two Cells In Sevilla, or: Don Quixote Is Hungry

World premiere recording


Two cells overlook a square in Seville. One is a cloister cell, the other, part of a debtors’ prison. The monk Brother Gabriel and the nobleman Don Miguel lament their fate as inmates – and their empty stomachs. The cook in charge of the two institutions does not feed them well. Indeed she does not care about men who cannot buy her presents or take her out to dance. For an errant knight she would cook the most delightful dishes.


Don Miguel is the first to realise what needs to be done in order to get decent food. He writes a story about a knight who rescues his great-grandfather’s armour from rust and mildew and sallies forth to seek adventures. Don Miguel makes the servant act a giant. Subdued by the knight, the giant has to present himself to the cook – whom the knight calls Dulcinea.


Brother Gabriel has to react, otherwise all the food will go to Don Miguel. He holds that all noblemen are unfaithful, and starts writing about a particularly voluptuous exemplar who does not hesitate to kill the father of the object of his desire. The fascinated cook demands that the lecher be punished. She loves a little shudder in her romance. Gabriel complies by creating a scene where the statue of the murdered father comes to life and takes the libertine to hell.


Now it is not an easy task for the cook to decide between the nobleman and the monk. To whom shall she devote her attention? The choice is made even more difficult by the servant who delivers a love letter from England, signed by a certain Sir John Falstaff.


Miguel de Cervantes had fought against the Turks as a member of the Spanish Marine Infantry, the oldest marine corps in the world. Later he was imprisoned in Seville for alleged embezzlement, which gave him time to write.


Gabriel Téllez was the real name of that monk who chose the pen name of Tirso de Molina. His superiors in the order did not appreciate his writings, had him transferred to Seville for disciplinary reasons, even threatened him with the inquisition.


If you ever wondered how and why the characters of Don Quixote and Don Juan were created, this opera gives you the answer!


As far as I know, this is the first opera ever for which a son wrote a libretto for his father. (In Korngold’s The Dead City it was the other way round.)


- Marec Béla Steffens




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