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12.10.05

Thyeste in Brussels

Jan van Vlijmen, Thyeste, Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels, 2005Jan van Vlijmen's opera Thyeste received its world premiere on September 27, at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, one year unfortunately after the composer's death. Performances continued through October 10. The story, of course, is inherently operatic, about the two brothers whose jealous competition for power curses the House of Atreus in Mycenae forever. Atreus kills the sons of his brother, Thyestes, and serves them to him as dinner after he has welcomed his brother back home. After already seducing Atreus's wife, Thyestes impregnates his own daughter (perhaps the worst damn advice those crazy drug-addled Greek oracles ever produced, and they did not have a good track record). Their son, Aegisthus, is raised by Atreus as his own son, but as foretold he is the one who ultimately kills Atreus. This is one screwed-up family. Incest, seduction, infanticide, cannibalism: I think I hear an opera in there somewhere. Martine D. Mergeay was there to review the premiere (La lumière de «Thyeste», September 29) for La Libre Belgique (my translation):

Each act of the libretto [by Hugo Claus] has enough dramatic power to take your breath away: through plain and chiseled language, the action follows an unstoppable development, whose stages are commented on by the chorus. A chorus who, at the end of the terrifying sacrifice, "thinks of families who tear each other apart, of martyred people, of mutilated nature, all crying out in vain to the silent gods," which leaves the play without a catharsis and the listener without recourse. It is the music and the staging that manage to allow a little light to slip in.
By all accounts, it is a successful opera. Caroline Alexander also had a review (Thyeste ou l’absence des Dieux, October 10) for Webthea, and Serge Martin gave a preview of the opera (La cruauté revendiquée, September 22) for Le Soir.

6 comments:

fredösphere said...

"Incest, seduction, infanticide, cannibalism: I think I hear an opera in there somewhere." Yea, verily -- and if you throw in 400 F-words, you will have caught up with Jerry Springer.

Ariadne said...

Good one! Maybe that's what Adams/Sellars forgot to include ...

Charles T. Downey said...

Is that "Jerry Springer," the opera?

Yes, there is such a thing.

Henry Holland said...

Ooohhh, I'd love to hear this opera, especially after the tedium of Doctor Atomic. I'll have to check my underground tape sources to see if a recording exists.

Charles T. Downey said...

Henry,
Underground tapes of live performances are illegal, and you should definitely let us know if such a recording exists.

Ariadne said...

Definitely!