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To look into Cristóbal Halffter’s music is always to peer into his life as well. This becomes clear enough when one considers his opera Don Quijote. Halffter chose material by an author who, like himself, always worked in the area of conflict between artistic freedom and political tyranny. Yet in their art both these figures committed themselves exclusively to humanity. With his Don Quijote Cervantes became a Spanish national hero; Halffter, through his artistic autonomy under Franco’s dictatorship, grew into a moral authority, a role model for a new Spain committed to humanist values. Halffter’s opera is based on the essential scenes of his literary source but, not least in its fictitious conversations between Cervantes and his knightly hero, develops into a grandiose discussion on the political meaning of mythic dreaming. Halffter cloaks this utopian subject matter in a powerful musical language that runs the gamut of almost all the emotions, from the ethereal amorous whispers of Dulcinea and Aldonza, to the brutal passion of the fanatic crowd which believes that it has destroyed the works of the West’s greatest spirits by fire.
Halffter’s opera denies neither its spiritual roots in the ’60s, nor his ambition to write Grand Opera for a large audience once again (Deutschlandradio)
A stunning 100 minutes – Halffter’s one-actor Don Quijote has lost none of its whitehot expressive power even…on Kiel’s smaller opera stage. The first-night audience unanimously demonstrated how impressed it was by this highly complex masterpiece (Kieler Nachrichten)
The Madrid première six years ago at the Teatro Real – one of director Herbert Wernicke’s most suggestive late works – provoked fears that this overpowering example might stand in the way of other approaches. The German première in Kiel has not only scotched that idea, but brought the work into sharper focus: eloquent proof of what smaller and medium-sized houses can achieve – to the positive shame of several other theatres (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)