[category, uc davis events]
Greek Drama: A Musical Theater
Wed. Jan. 20 @4pm
912 Sproul Hall
My manifesto: music was ESSENTIAL to the meaning and effect of ancient Athenian drama, and it is equally important in contemporary productions.There are many references in the scripts to the musical dimension, in addition to the choral songs. In Sophocles’ Elektra, for example: in her opening words Elektra describes herself singing “like a nightingale bereft of her young” (107); when the chorus approaches singing, she responds to them in song (121-250); when Orestes’ (false) death is announced she bursts into song (823-870), and she does so again when Orestes reveals himself to her (1232-1287). Yet I have never seen a production of this often-staged play in which Electra actually sang, and the shows suffered from that omission. When Elektra laments so long in spoken words any actress but the best can run the risk of seeming a tedious whiner.
Anyone who knows modern opera and musical theater knows what a profound difference music makes to the drama—raising the characters and situations and issues to a whole different level, arousing emotions in the audience stronger than those evoked by spoken words alone. And music is one element which we can believe unites the modern and ancient world: the nature of the music may be different, but if the aim is the same—to make clear the feelings, the issues, to create an emotional medium which can unite ancient and modern audiences—the results can be remarkable. But what kinds of music should be used in contemporary productions of Greek drama? In my presentation I will outline the theoretical issues and then for discussion provide examples of music (and dance) in my stagings of Greek drama over the last twenty years.