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Mark-Anthony Turnage (*1960)

The ancient myth of King Oedipus is given modern-day treatment in the form of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s GREEK. The season launches at the Deutsche Oper Berlin with an open-air production of grotesque and tragicomic musical theatre staged on the parking deck by Pinar Karabulut, one of the most talked-about directors of the younger generation.

Greek
Greek © Eike Walkenhorst

Back in 1988 Hans Werner Henze commissioned an unknown 28-year-old to stage a hitherto unperformed work for the 1st Munich Biennale. Mark-Anthony Turnage had attracted attention primarily for his quirky and powerful musical language. Turnage’s instrumental pieces were eclectic to say the least, with the composer drawing for his inspiration on auteurs as diverse as Miles Davis, Janáček and Stravinsky.

For his operatic debut Turnage opted for a text by the controversial writer and director Steven Berkoff. Berkoff had been part of the “angry young man” movement of playwrights in the 1960s, published works on the class struggle across English society and seen the loud, coarse and often foul language of his plays depicting social tensions brought to the stages of London’s fringe theatre landscape.

GREEK, an adaptation of the Oedipus myth, remains one of his best-known plays. In GREEK the Oedipus character appears in the form of Eddy, a young, working-class man in the East End of London struggling to make his way in a deeply divided society. In a country marked by racism, violence and mass unemployment Eddy sets out to find himself, to free himself from the shackles of his environment and to challenge what appears to be his inevitable destiny. After killing his own father and marrying his mother, the original Oedipus has no alternative but to accept the fate foretold by the gods and own up to his guilt. Berkoff’s Eddy, on the other hand, is singularly unimpressed by fate, myths and morals, celebrating himself as “motherfucker” who revels in free sexual love with his wife and mother. The young Mark-Anthony Turnage saw this socially critical and anti-bourgeois version of the Oedipus tale as the perfect material for his own unconventional take on opera and used Berkoff’s no-holds-barred language – a blend of pathos-tinged refinement and rough Cockney slang – as the springboard for an equally powerful and stylistically varied score that combines elements of jazz, hip hop and even football anthems.

Once again, the Deutsche Oper Berlin switches performance spaces to present GREEK. The parking deck of the Deutsche Oper has already established itself as a venue with excellent acoustics. Following our productions of ORESTES (2014) and THE RHINEGOLD ON THE PARKING DECK (2020), the rude architecture of the inner yard is once again set to provide the backdrop for an open-air opera show in the summer of 2022.
Additional information
An opera in two actsLibretto by Mark-Anthony Turnage and Jonathan Moore after Steven Berkoff’s 1980 verse tragedy of the same name based on “Oedipus Rex” by SophoclesWorld premiere: 17th June 1988, Munich (as part of 1st Munich Biennale for New Musical Theatre)Premiere at Deutsche Oper Berlin: 27th August 2021 (on the parking deck)

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