'Gospel at Colonus' Mixes Greek Drama, Scriptures

By Kanny, Mark | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 24, 2011 | Go to article overview
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'Gospel at Colonus' Mixes Greek Drama, Scriptures


Kanny, Mark, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Ancient Greek drama is more honored than performed. The tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides are famously difficult to stage, despite the power of their stories and impact of their poetry.

Sometimes, a fresh approach can be helpful with a genre more than 2,500 years old, as the Greek tragedies are.

"Doing it as gospel does strike a chord in an American genre that overlaps in many ways with Greek theater," says Opera Theater Pittsburgh's artistic director Jonathan Eaton.

Opera Theater Pittsburgh will present "The Gospel at Colonus" Friday to Sunday at the August Wilson Center, Downtown.

In addition to the 75 voices of the Mt. Ararat Music Ministry, performing forces will include 65 students from the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School, Downtown, and an instrumental quintet of bass, guitar, two keyboards and drums.

"The Gospel at Colonus" was created in 1985 by Lee Breuer and composer Bob Telson, as an adaptation of Sophocles' play "Oedipus at Colonus." The original production was broadcast on PBS' "Great Performances" series and is available on DVD.

"It is a combination of one of the world's great dramas and modern American gospel tradition," Eaton says. "Gospel can fit so many of the structures of ancient Greek drama, such as the chorus sections amplifying the drama. The call-and-response of gospel services are very dramatic experiences, full of music. The combination struck me as a very good idea and I was intrigued by it."

"Oedipus at Colonus" is the middle play of Sophocles' trilogy that begins in "Oedipus Rex" with a man killing his father and marrying his mother and having children with her.

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