Opera Scotland

Greek

Music

Mark-Anthony Turnage (born Corringham, Essex, 10 June 1960)

Text

The composer and Jonathan Moore.

Source

Play (1980) by Steven Berkoff, itself derived from classical Greek Oedipus myth.

 

Premières

First performance: Munich (Carl-Orff Saal), 17 June 1988.

First UK performance: Edinburgh (Leith Theatre), 25 August 1988.

First performance in Scotland: As above.

Scottish Opera première: Edinburgh (Festival Theatre), 5 August 2017..

 

Background

The first opera by Turnage was commissioned for Munich following the composer's period studying with Henze. It was a co-production with the Edinburgh Festival, where it received its British premiere almost immediately. It was an instant success and was put on in London by ENO in 1990. The source material was Steven Berkoff's script which translated the Oedipus myth to the east end of London. The play itself was also highly successful, though it was less well-known in Scotland. Musically it is acerbic, but highly effective. The vocal writing is largely declamatory, and the most prominent instrumentation is for woodwind and percussion. Between the writing of the play and the opera the Thatcher government was in power, and the authors' dislike of that is reflected in much of the operatic text. Turnage went on to compose several music theatre pieces before composing two full-scale operas - The Silver Tassie, after O'Casey, for ENO in 2000, then Anna Nicole for Covent Garden in 2011.

 

Characters

Eddy (baritone)

Dad, Café Manager & Chief of Police (baritone)

Wife, Doreen, Waitress 1, Sphinx 2 (mezzo-soprano)

Mum, Waitress 2, Sphinx 1 (soprano)

 

Plot Summary

Eddy lives in the East End with Mum and Dad, and is bored stiff by the tedium. When Dad reminisces about being told by a fortune-teller years before that Eddy would kill his father and marry his mother, Eddy needs no more encouragement, and leaves home. He is involved in a riot and is beaten up by the police, before having an argument with the manager of a café. Having murdered this man, Eddy stays there and marries his widow. A decade passes during which the café business has prospered, before Mum and Dad arrive. They talk of the Sphinx that is ravaging the countryside and bringing plague. Eddy kills the creature (two women as it turns out). On his return, he is told that Mum and Dad are not his real parents, but that they found him. The circumstances make it clear to Eddy's wife that she and her first husband were Eddy's parents - they had lost their own baby in the same place. Eventually Eddy is persuaded by the other three that he does not need to feel guilty, far less blind himself. He is convinced that love conquers all.

The Cast

Dad
 CafĂ© Manager; Chief of Police
Eddy
 
Mum
 Waitress 2; Sphinx 1
Wife
 Doreen; Waitress 1; Sphinx 2

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