We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Thursday, September 26, 2019


Cast of Oedipus: Sex with Mum Was Blinding

We were intrigued by the title of the show at Brooklyn Academy of Music and were interested in experiencing an "immersive opera". In no way can we consider this post-modern techno-theatre piece with questionable "music" as an opera; it would take some stretch of imagination to call it "immersive". 

At one point the audience was urged to read aLOUD 4 different sections from the printed material in the program--simultaneously. At another point audience members, previously instructed to turn off their cell phones, were asked to look at their faces on the same cell phones. At another point they were asked to answer questions out loud about their feelings toward their parents. Perhaps this might be considered immersive, but we were not immersed, in the sense that good theater engages us--and very good theater provides a shared experience.

No doubt in Ancient Greece, theater performed that function for a community and the chorus would provide commentary on actions and events that were taking place before the audience. By doing this the chorus would create a deeper and more meaningful connection between the characters and the audience.

At last night's performance three players wore interesting looking helmet-masks but shed no light on the "drama", of which there wasn't much. On stage left, a doctor, presumably a psychiatrist taking notes, asked probing questions of a woman in white-face about her identity. We couldn't help thinking that a great opportunity was lost, an opportunity for a deep examination of guilt for acts for which an individual is not responsible.

On stage right a conductor, also in a clown's white-face, conducted music that was not played, or played as a recording. The overall effect was confusing and there seemed to be no justification for casting a woman as Oedipus, especially when she was stripped to a bare-breasted state.

There were a few video operators working with smoke and mirrors, the results of which were projected onto a large screen, clouding the images of what we took to be consumerism. At other times the cameras were directed at parts of the performers anatomy. We saw feet. We saw tonsils. We saw nostrils. All in highly enlarged images.

Voices were amplified and it was difficult to keep from giggling when a kiss between Oedipus and ?Jocasta resulted in a clash of head-mics. It was difficult to make sense out of anything seen/heard onstage. Was this a deconstruction of the Oedipus myth? Was it an examination of our images of ourself? Was it a dialogue about guilt and responsibility?

Any of those topics would be discussed better in an essay. Perhaps the creative team tried to tackle too much in 100 minutes which seemed to endure for at least 200, taxing our endurance.

We invited a native born Greek friend to accompany us, a friend who has witnessed a re-creation of the original tragedy in Athens. We had a discussion after the piece about Greek tragedy and its power to unite a community and reinforce social mores. We also discussed  the many ways in which this work failed to shed light on the theme.

The work was conceived, written, and directed by the prize-winning Elli Papapakonstandinou.  Original "music" was by Tilemachos Moussas and Julia Kent--also prize winners. As a matter of fact, everyone associated with the production has won prizes of various kinds. If that sort of thing interests you, or if you are inspired to witness for yourself, we refer you to the website
https://www.bam.org/oedipus. The limited run ends on 9/29.

As for ourself, we are unable to find nourishment in post-modern art. Technology doesn't seem to add anything. We go to theater to be entertained and or stimulated. Being shocked by the latest novelty leaves us annoyed and disappointed.

© meche kroop

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