Composer Mark-Anthony Turnage (“Anna Nicole”) and librettist Steven Berkoff’s “Greek” (1988), the Oedipus story, updated and relocated to late 20th century London—often sung in Cockney dialect, and given a New York City premiere run at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House from December 5 to 8, thanks to Opera Ventures and the Scottish Opera—is an opera of many parts, atonal, punk, lyric opera, music theater, and assault drama. The second night, on December 6, is considered here.
We know the story of Oedipus, pre-ordained to kill his father and marry his mother—Sophocles made a tragic play of it in ancient Greece; Sigmund Freud named a complex for him, and its mirror twin, for Electra; and Igor Stravinsky and Jean Cocteau told the tale in a Latin-language oratorio. In Turnage and Berkoff’s earthy work, he’s brash Eddy (commanding lyric baritone Alex Otterburn), who gets into a brawl with a foul-mouthed café owner (bass Andrew Shore), kills him and, comforting his sultry and grieving wife (soprano Allison Cook), marries her and fathers her child. Like Oedipus, Eddy thinks he’s escaped the curse because he’s moved away from his mother Dinah (soprano Susan Bullock) and father Ted (Shore), who know otherwise, and offer a jolly music hall number about it. A devastating plague descends on Margaret Thatcher-era England—as it certainly did—and Eddy, looking for its cause, seeks out the mysterious lesbian feminist punk sphinxes, answers their riddle about the ages of man, and beheads them, but the plague won’t go away. After Ted and Dinah hesitantly tell him that they’re not his birth parents, and he realizes that he’s fulfilled the prophecy after all, Otterburn’s Eddy sings a virtuoso lament and Peter Grimes-style mad scene, now reverie, now bluster. The others try to support him, but his fate is, nevertheless, to put out his eyes, to make himself literally as blind as he’s been, figuratively, all along.
Versatile Cook, Bullock, and Shore took several parts, from café staff to cocktail party set to black leather-clad riot squad, who beat Eddy senseless.
Stuart Stratford conducted the cast and members of the Orchestra of Scottish Opera. Joe Hill-Gibbins directed, and designs were by Johannes Schütz (stark sets, often drenched in blood, squeezed out of a ketchup bottle ), Alex Lorde (evocative costumes), Matthew Richardson and David Manion (lighting), and Dick Straker (video).
for information about the remainder of the season at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music).