March 17, 2006


I’d recently wondered if Tippett’s operas were an influence on Turnage’s ‘Greek’. At least, I could hear an influence there. Greek is an opera about 1980’s Britain from the point of view of a working class family, (poverty , ignorance, rioting), there is a greek chorus which has a similar feel to a construction in Tippett’s ‘King Priam.’

In King Priam, the chorus is following the story with us, but is not personally affected by the outcome. A similar thing is occurs in Britten’s ‘the Rape of Lucretia,’ where the chorus consists of a male and a female. The male knows the outcome of the story but the female does not. In any case they are telling a story but are not affected by its outcome. (I do not consider the inclusion of a ridiculous Christian revelation affecting the chorus at the end of Lucretia plausible).

In Greek, the chorus which is influenced in the same way by a greek chorus, is part of the story. They are affected by the events in the opera, but what influence do they have?

I struggled with Greek till I was aware of the Tippett connection, somehow it did not seem serious enough. I saw Turnage speak about his music a few years ago and since then I carried a prejudice against him for his eclecticism. But Greek is shocking, deep and important.

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