Army of Lovers; Piano 4 Hands
Derek Lee Ragin, Thomas Segen, Alexander Robin Baker; Mark Springer, Pietro Bonfilio (piano)
Exit EXIT 018 58:26 mins
One-act chamber opera Army of Lovers is inspired by the Sacred Band of Thebes: 150 pairs of male lovers who were the elite fighters in the Theban Army, immortalised by Plutarch. The half-hour work is scored for piano – played here by the composer – countertenor (Derek Lee Ragin), tenor (Thomas Segen) and baritone (Alexander Robin Baker). It imagines what happens when an individual soldier dies and the pairs system is compromised. The voices are used imaginatively to create textural variety, such as the improvisatory-like section towards the end that evokes ‘the voices of 300 men’. The opera was first performed in Italy at the Castello di Potentino and recorded in that castle’s chapel. Unfortunately, the performance is let down by the quality of the recording. The piano part in particular is hampered by an unflattering acoustic.
Piano 4 Hands, a six-movement work in which Springer is joined at the piano by Pietro Bonfilio, fares slightly better. There are echoes of Glass throughout, particularly in the repetitive, undulating secondo part of the first and third movements. Moments of the percussive fifth movement recall the piano four-hands version of Rite of Spring, while the final movement struggles to find its identity.