Term 3 Meetings - Singing Greek Myths

Here’s our meetings plan for the term

28 July Why Greek Myths? Back to   Monteverdi, who’s back to Homer. Return of Ulysses 1639 4 August Handel, who made more operas   from myths than anyone. Hercules 1745 11 August Berlioz - really grand opera   takes on Virgil’s Aeneid. Les Troyens 1863 18 August Mozart returns to the Troy saga. Idomeneo 1781 25 August, Those Orpheus operas! What can Monteverdi 1607 & 1 Sept, we learn by comparing them to Gluck 1762   across centuries? & Offenbach (below) 8 Sept. Richard Strauss. Elektra 1909 15 Sept. Strauss again. Ariadne auf Naxos 1916 22 Sept. Term final, full opera, off-site.  Orphée aux enfers 1858                       Offenbach’s  parody of Gluck.

Greek (and Roman) myths and opera

Opera began in - and never left - Greek myths

Opera started as an attempt to recreate Greek Drama. All of the characters in early Operas are taken directly from Greek and Roman mythology, and many have the same plots as Ancient Greek Tragedies, although the underlying reasons for portraying the stories was different. Singing, dancing, instrumentals, and even some spoken text are the main characteristics of Opera. These features also were prominent in Ancient Greek Dramas, although Operas had much more spectacle than any Ancient Greek would have approved of. The times had changed, but the people still wanted to hear stories of how their ancestors lived and interacted with the world around them, and so the ancient stories were brought back. This time around the stories did not hold religious significance, but still taught the masses about their history and the world around them.  More from musesrealm.net. There are hundreds of operas based on Greek myths. Wikipedia lists 143 pages on operas based on Greco-Roman mythology.  Orpheus alone inspired about 70, from Peri in 1600 to Robertson in 2015. ROH offers some of the stories of their recent seasons.

Why these myths?

In this term we’ll explore what Charlotte Valori describes as “the relationship between the cradle of culture and its most dazzling offspring.” The interesting thing is that the intellectuals of one tiny militarised city-state (16th-century CE Florence) reached across eternity to channel the intellectuals of another tiny militarised city-state (5th-century BCE Athens) in order to find an art that they hoped could speak for all humanity – yet each of them was only interested in playing for, and about, themselves. The “universality” is projected onto the work by us: always in a contemporary, subjective way….Opera today looks to the ancient world for some its most aggressively, powerfully modern works…they have everything to do with making a contemporary audience confront their own behaviour and perceptions without the barriers (or comforts) of modern cultural norms. Read Valori’s full and fascinating essay .

Where are we going?

Many of these operas are about the Trojan War. “The tales of this time have provided fertile grounds for creators of opera, from Monteverdi (Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, 1640) to Berlioz (Les Troyens, 1863), to Richard Strauss (Die Ägyptische Helena, 1928), to Martin David Levy (Mourning Becomes Electra, 1967). The era is evocative, reflecting the confusion of a post-traumatic historical moment.” (The Met on its Idomeneo production)