Greek is not only a reworking of the famed Greek tragedy, but also an adaptation of a 1979 play by Steven Berkoff. By setting Sophocles’ work in contemporary London, Berkoff offered a pointed commentary on the state of Britain in the late 1970s. For his part, Turnage has stated that his political sensibilities, which paralleled Berkoff’s, informed his interest in adapting this work for the operatic stage.
Few concepts from modern psychology have entered the cultural and popular imagination to the extent of Sigmund Freud’s Oedipus Complex. At once a source of revulsion and titillation, the theory that young boys desire their mothers and hate their fathers is named for the ancient myth of Oedipus, who unwittingly fulfills an oracle’s prophecy that he will marry his mother and kill his father and, when he learns the truth, puts out his own eyes in despair. Yet the opera Greek, based on the play of the same name by Steven Berkoff, finds the courage—and the audacity—to turn the legend on its head: the modern-day Oedipus (Eddy) defiantly lives his passion rather than retreating in shame. Is it wrong? Or…could Eddy actually be right?