Part of a set of excerpts from ten major works by Nigel Kellaway (1994 - 2004), assembled and edited by Kellaway and his long-time associate, video artist Peter Oldham.
The oPera Project has a very different starting point for each new work it makes. It might be a socio-political concern. It might be a particular text and/or attendant philosophy. Common to all works is how the performance of music impacts on theatrical articulacy, and how well all aspects of the material serve as a vehicle for the collaborating artists. Sometimes a particular musical text (generally non-operatic) triggers a new work. In this case the work is a rarely performed cantata by Louis-Nicolas Clérambault (1710). The subject matter? The murderous and infanticidal Medea, and Clérambault has a very interesting “take” on the myth.
Ovid’s story of Medea is a revenge myth. It’s true relevance lies in the myriad ways in which Western culture has chosen to interpret the story and applied it to contemporary events and consciousness.
There is no “one” Medea. Ovid’s mythical Jason, on an absurd quest, slaughters the citizens and rulers of Colchis and takes as his trophy their princess, the beautiful Medea. Oddly enough, they appear to fall in love. They settle and have kids on another foreign shore and confront all the usual immigration red tape. Jason’s solution to their troubles is rather clumsy – he marries the King’s daughter. His partner, Medea, is “a tad put out”.
The late 20th century East German playwright, Heiner Müller, describes the story of Jason as the earliest representation of colonisation in Greek legend:
The end signifies the threshold where myth turns into history: Jason is eventually slain by his boat … European history began with colonisation … That the vehicle of colonisation strikes the coloniser dead anticipates the end of it. That’s the threat of the end we are facing, the ‘end of growth’.
Louis-Nicolas Clérambault’s early 18th century cantata reads the story as a psychologically complex “revenge tragedy”. Interestingly, and perhaps cogniscent of contemporary moral squeamishness, he finishes his work short of Medea’s savage infanticide.
Is the purpose of myths merely to create iconic certainties? Further research reminded us that “mud-slinging” has always been a reliable mainstay of the theatre, and few writers in the 20th century canon have plumbed the depths of middle-aged dysfunction as sensationally as Edward Albee, in his subconscious treatment of Medea’s and Jason’s wrestling match.
What are we to present? Ovid? Euripides? Heiner Muller? Clérambault? Albee? They are all profound readings of this myth.
And so...The oPera Project’s Another Night : Medea – endeavouring to discuss the “relatively” recent positioning of theatre as a psycho-analytical forum, and to consider how myths have been quite differently interpreted in the artistic canon of earlier centuries – all pertaining to where we locate art in our collective self-awareness.
Other performances from Nigel Kellaway's Works 1994-2004:
This Most Wicked Body (17'50'')
The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior (4'30'')
The Berlioz: Our Vampires Ourselves (14'55'')
The Terror of Tosca (22'15'')
Little George (17'20'')
El Inocente (7'10'')
Entertaining Paradise (16')
The Audience and other Psychopaths (18'40'')
More from Kellaway / The oPera Project Inc - DVD & Streaming:
Nigel Kellaway in Sleepers wake! wachet auf!
The Rameau Project