The play, the film.
Antigone, Daughter of Oedipus.
There are so many songs, poems, plays and operas that talk about Antigone… The Story goes like this: during the siege of Thebes, Antigone’s brothers fight on either side of the walls. Eotekles defends, Polyneikis attacks the walls and they stab each other.
Antigone buries the body of Polyneikes against the order of Kreon (her uncle), the king of Thebes. Despite the warning of the seer Tiresias, Kreon condemns his niece to starvation. She commits suicide in her dungeon, after which her lover Haimon (Kreons son) stabs himself. When this news reaches Euridyce, Kreon’s wife, mother of Haimon, and she also takes her own life. Kreon remains behind.
Music-theatre performance by Ensemble Leporello
In 1991, after two months of rehearsal, Ensemble Leporello premiered “Satyrsong Antigone” in co production with national and international partners. The performance stood out because of the surprising mix of song, dance and spoken word.
A Dozen figures (‘satyrs’) gathers on and around a wooden, man-powered merry-go-round. Just like in a carnival, the disc is put on a slight rake so that the actors can make the thing revolve by moving their body. Accompanied by two percussionists and a soundtrack they whisper, sing and recite texts that all relate to the Antigone myth in one way or another. Sometimes meticulous, other times messy as skateboarders on a ramp, the players perform a ritual in which the protagonists from Sophokles’ tragedy function as a reason for speech and song. During the ceremony, some of the chorus members might get rid of their hats and gloves to take up the role of one of the heroes in a key scene but as soon as such a tableau is suggested the satyr-hero dives back into the jumble of the chorus.
Percussion, voice, a merry-go-round, props, gloves and hats.
Luc Brewaeys, the composer that works closely with the ensemble, provided this hodgepodge of players with a score for voice, percussion and soundtrack that is sometimes raw, sometimes ingenious. Dirk Opstaele, librettist and director, rephrased a couple of drafts and redrafts of “Antigone” into a libretto that acts as a script for the project. The main chorus is Sofokles’ first stasimon – the ode to mankind. The translation is by “Hölderin”, more like Sofokles than Sofokles himself. ‘Deinos’ – which means terrific, frightful, powerful – is retranslated into ‘Ungeheuer’ – monstrous.
Other than a chair (the throne), a stick (the weapon with which Antigone’s brothers kill each other), a veil (Kreons wife’s), a glove (Antigones Lover’s), is the wooden disc the most important prop. This little six-meter-diameter set reminds one of the bottom of an amphitheatre: the flat earth that floats between Tartaros and Olympos in the Ancient cosmos. In the hands of the actors, the disc is a toy that subtly turns the tragedy of the human condition into gravity and centrifugal forces.
The film by Jacques Servaes.
The libretto-script was re-written into a film script by Konrad Maquestieau and Jacques Servaes. The piece was shortened and some scenes – that only work in a theatre context – were changed or replaced. The disc is put in a black, abyss-like hall and the satyrs fling their expressions into the emptiness, except when they talk to the camera directly to explain what is going on.
|concept, direction & decor||Dirk Opstaele|
|text||Dirk Opstaele (after Sofocles, Hölderlin & Anouilh)|
|percussion||Marcel Andriessen & Wim Konink|
|actors||Afra Waldhör, Craig Weston, Gordon Wilson & Neil Cadger, A. Charman, Marc Dehoux & Pierrot Mol|
|singers||Philippe Curtis (tenor), Rebecca De Pont Davies (mezzo), Charles Van Tasse (baritone) & Judith Vindevogel (soprano)|
|musical direction||Koen Kessels & Jan Rispens|
|repetitors||Koen Kessels, Charles Van Tassel & Judith Vindevogel|
|executive producer, business management & distribution||Lukas Pairon|
|implementation decor||De Muur|
|coproduction||Leporello, WALPURGIS, L'Hippodrome (Douai, FR), Holland Festival (Amsterdam, NL), Limelight (Kortrijk, B) & Brighton Festival (Brighton, GB)|
Dirk Opstaele (after Sofocles, Hölderlin & Anouilh)
Marcel Andriessen & Wim Konink
Afra Waldhör, Craig Weston, Gordon Wilson & Neil Cadger, A. Charman, Marc Dehoux & Pierrot Mol
Philippe Curtis (tenor), Rebecca De Pont Davies (mezzo), Charles Van Tasse (baritone) & Judith Vindevogel (soprano)
Koen Kessels & Jan Rispens
Koen Kessels, Charles Van Tassel & Judith Vindevogel
Leporello, WALPURGIS, L'Hippodrome (Douai, FR), Holland Festival (Amsterdam, NL), Limelight (Kortrijk, B) & Brighton Festival (Brighton, GB)
Review (in Dutch)
‘Each performer in Belgium’s Leporello Ensemble is an acrobat, dancer, actor and singer. More startling, they all do all of it well. Their Antigone (three nights at the Riverside in Hammersmith from Thursday) is a very bright spot in London Opera Festival’s otherwise dodgy string of avant-garde illuminations. The electronic score by Luc Brewaeys incorporates two live percussionists as well as the voices onstage. Drums – machine-gun rattle and Afro pounding – are the dramatic nerves. The long, slow electronic sounds are an ambient psychological landscape. The German-French-English (etc) text: sung, fragmented, murmured in semi-chaos, or brought sharply forward in syllabic choral solos, reduces the savage Greek story to essences that sweep the stage as through a highly-charged collective mind. There is nothing unprecedented here except the beautiful craftsmanship, the perfect blend of means, and the excitement. The stage contains only a well-made revolve of smooth planks, spun frighteningly fast by hand. The leaps, lifts and feats of daring involved in getting on and off it create their own music of fluctuating interdependence and strife, a dance of flying human particles now bonding, now laying everything waste. Director-librettist is Dirk Opstaele.’
Meredith Oakes, Independent (UK)