Blood-drenched monster myth brought to opera stage

The grim Greek myth of the Minotaur, half-beast and half-human, has been brought to life in a new, blood-drenched opera by leading British composer Harrison Birtwistle. ( Reuters )

The 73-year-old, dubbed the "high priest of contemporary British music" by the Daily Telegraph, has worked on the piece for three years, and composed it specifically for the Royal Opera House where it had its world premiere this week.

A group of Innocents is sacrificed to the beast in his lair as a crowd around the bull ring bays for blood. One is raped, and vulture-like, screaming Keres tear the hearts from the victims.

"I think it's a very dark piece," Birtwistle told Reuters before the curtains went up on the eagerly anticipated work.

Critics agreed, describing the piece as "barbaric" and "strange." Several reminded readers that, as expected with Birtwistle, the powerful and primitive score offered few hum-along arias to take away after the show.

"The Sound of Music it ain't," wrote The Times's Richard Morrison.

Birtwistle had renowned British bass John Tomlinson in mind for the part of the Minotaur, and his performance from behind a semi-transparent bull's mask evokes the audience's sympathy rather than revulsion in the new interpretation of the myth.

Librettist and poet David Harsent came up with the idea of giving the Minotaur the power of language through dreams, allowing it to express the loneliness and depravity of an existence trapped in the labyrinth and an animal's body.

The only other time the Minotaur speaks, rather than grunts and roars, is near the end as life ebbs away. "Now I can speak, now I am almost human; now is the right time to die."

Birtwistle likened the man-beast duality to Jekyll and Hyde.

"He (Harsent) had to divide the character into two. He could not be expressed in the same person," he said. "Our received information about the Minotaur is as an animal, but in his dreams he becomes coherent and questions his whole existence."

Harsent wanted to challenge the assumption that the human Minotaur was preferable to the animal in light of the suffering caused by conflicts the world over.

"When he identifies the human side of himself he is not certain he's found something worthy and virtuous," he said.

"I think there are other ways of looking at this - you might well have it the wrong way around. Look at the man, not the beast. I think the myth stays relevant and stays modern."

He also casts Ariadne as a woman prepared to do anything to escape Crete and Theseus as someone scheming to get rid of her even before he agrees to her plan.

"I don't believe in heroes," Harsent said. "There might be moments of heroism but I don't really believe in heroes."

To complicate the relationship between the three main characters, Harsent insists that the white bull which couples with Ariadne's mother, spawning the Minotaur, is Poseidon.

Because Poseidon may have been Theseus's father, the twist means Theseus and the Minotaur are probably half-brothers, just as Ariadne is the beast's half-sister.

Critical reaction has been largely positive, with the Guardian newspaper giving "The Minotaur" its top five star rating.

The Royal Opera House has cut its prices for the opera, and they range from 5- 65 pounds ($10-130) rather than the usual 7- 165 pounds. The opera runs to May 3.

Subscribe to Trend in Google News! Subscribe
Seventeen U.S. missionaries and family kidnapped in Haiti
Seventeen U.S. missionaries and family kidnapped in Haiti
1 deputy killed, 2 injured in "ambush shooting" in U.S. Texas
1 deputy killed, 2 injured in "ambush shooting" in U.S. Texas
U.S. lawmaker blames Boeing leaders for culture that led to crashes
U.S. lawmaker blames Boeing leaders for culture that led to crashes
Loading Bars
Latest
Azerbaijan allocates funds for construction of Fuzuli Memorial Complex
Master plans of Zangilan, Gubadly, Kalbajar and Lachin being developed - Azerbaijani president
Azerbaijani economy grows by about 5%, non-oil economy by 20% over 9 months - President Aliyev
Large settlement will be created based on "smart village" concept in village of Dovletyarly - Azerbaijani president
We significantly brought closer day of IDPs return to their homelands - President Aliyev
Projects under implementation in Fuzuli show our determination and potential - Azerbaijani president
We will restore Fuzuli city, settlements of Fuzuli district - President Aliyev
Every person who visits Fuzuli becomes witness of Armenian vandalism and no one can deny this, says Azerbaijani president
This glorious victory will forever remain in history of Azerbaijan - President Ilham Aliyev
After liberation of Fuzuli acts of desertion increased among Armenian army - President Aliyev
After Fuzuli was liberated it created more opportunities to move towards Shusha - President Aliyev
President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva views conditions created at Fuzuli International Airport
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens
Azerbaijan confirms 1,896 more COVID-19 cases, 764 recoveries
Azerbaijani president, first lady meet with members of Fuzuli district's general public
Azerbaijani president, first lady view conditions created in Fuzuli Central City Park, plant trees there
President Aliyev lays foundation for Digital Substation Management Center in Fuzuli
President Ilham Aliyev lays foundation stone for Fuzuli Memorial Complex, city of Fuzuli
Liberation of Fuzuli during war was very important - President Ilham Aliyev
October 17 will forever have special place in history - President Ilham Aliyev
President Aliyev lays foundation stones for Fuzuli-Aghdam highway and new “smart village” in Fuzuli
President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva visit Fuzuli district
Ukrainian MPs visit Ganja where cilivians died as result of missile attacks by Armenia (PHOTOS)
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for October 17
BSEC SG to visit Georgia today
Over 600 COVID-19 patients in Kazakhstan in critical condition
Energy Community highlights leading energy projects implemented in Georgia
First concert of Azerbaijan's trio under leadership Isfar Sarabsky takes place as part of European tour (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Buy/sell operations at Iran Mercantile Exchange soar
Graduation ceremony of Azerbaijani servicemen participating in courses held in Turkey
Heavy rains lash India's Kerala, red alert sounded in 5 districts
Share of households with internet access increases in Georgia
Seventeen U.S. missionaries and family kidnapped in Haiti
Iranian private investments in Tajikistan expected to grow
1,900 new COVID-19 cases reported in Kazakhstan
IRICA unveils data on exports of Iran to Belarus
Azerbaijan national team takes second place at Grand Slam judo tournament
8 killed, over 20 injured in traffic accident in Peru
1 deputy killed, 2 injured in "ambush shooting" in U.S. Texas
Israel's active COVID-19 cases below 20,000
At least 6 dead, 1 missing after ship sinks in Brazil
Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry shares publication in connection with anniversary of Armenia's missile attack on Ganja
Information about firing of Azerbaijani army in direction of Arazdeyen does not reflect truth - Ministry of Defense
Sudan protest calls for military coup as political crisis deepens
Chronicles of Victory: President Ilham Aliyev addresses the nation on October 17, 2020 (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Chronicles of Victory: October 17, 2020
District Election Commissions to sum up protocols of municipal polls in Georgia
A working meeting of the delegations of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan takes place
Russian authorities say 18 dead in suspected alcohol poisoning in Yekaterinburg
UN chief welcomes unilateral cease-fire in CAR
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price continues to rise
Work on increasing wages, pensions and benefits begins - Ministry of Finance of Azerbaijan
Official talks reasons for increase in gas prices in Azerbaijan
Post-conflict reconstruction projects launched by President Ilham Aliyev is unprecedented - Aide to President (VIDEO)
Azerbaijani IDEA signs agreement with All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation (PHOTO)
Saudi Arabia's PIF launches offshore platform tourism project
NATO Special Representative for Caucasus to visit Azerbaijan
Iran's Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on October 17
Iran reaches grow in exports to Kyrgyzstan
World gas prices grow by 20-30 times compared to last year - SOCAR
Latvia to gift Georgia 83,070 doses of Pfizer jab
Earthquake hits southern Iran
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens
Azerbaijan confirms 1,681 more COVID-19 cases, 675 recoveries
South Caucasus countries need to coordinate to open communications - Pakistani diplomat
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signs decree on raising social payments
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for October 16
Uzbekistan to privatize public park in Tashkent
Muslims all together sympathetic with Azerbaijan - Palestinian ambassador
Iran's exports to Kazakhstan up
SOCAR Georgia Gas opens tender on pickup trucks through operating lease
Turkish president and German chancellor holding talks in Istanbul
Novak does not rule out recurrence of energy crisis in Europe, urges its prevention
Azerbaijani official talks victims of Armenian attacks on Tartar during Second Karabakh War
Centuries needed to revive nature of Azerbaijan's Karabakh - minister
Azerbaijan raises electricity and gas prices
Restoration work in Azerbaijan’s liberated territories show positive trend – Kyrgyz ambassador
Over past 25-30 years, no country independently conducted such large-scale reconstruction in post-conflict period - aide to Azerbaijani president
Armenia must take serious and positive steps to open communications - Azerbaijani president's assistant (Exclusive)
Azerbaijan looks to sign document on demining liberated territories with France
Azerbaijan's Air Defense Units carrying out combat firing exercises (VIDEO)
Azerbaijan's Karabakh to be famous for its "smart cities" and agricultural products - Turkish ambassador
Iran boosts exports to Russia
Russia registers over 1,000 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours first since pandemic starts
Kazakh energy minister names reasons for shutdown of Pavlodar refinery
Iran sees increase in trade turnover with EAEU member states
Representatives of diplomatic corps view restoration work in liberated territories of Azerbaijan (PHOTO)
First plane with UN humanitarian aid for Afghanistan arrives in Uzbekistan
Iran records increase in load/unload operations in Amirabad port
Georgia and US to discuss co-op in Black Sea
Fuzuli Airport Granted International Status and Assigned IATA Code
Uzbekistan to fund startups in various sectors
U.S. lawmaker blames Boeing leaders for culture that led to crashes
Turkmenistan to purchase agricultural machinery from foreign manufacturers
Iran Energy Exchange shares data on sales of Iran’s Jam Petrochemical Company
Azerbaijan names gymnasts to perform at World Championships in Japan
During former occupation of Sugovushan, Armenia deprived vast lands of water - aide to Azerbaijani president (PHOTO)
Volume of loaded and unloaded cargo in Iran’s Noshahr Port down
Georgia shares data on COVID-19 cases for October 16
Kazakhstan boosts trade with Turkmenistan over 8M2021
All news