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Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Bakkhai Performed - Thomas Bartscherer and Dylan Mattingly in Conversation

Online Discussion
7:30 pm CET

Imagine Plato attending the first performance of Euripides’ Bakkhai. He would have been in his early twenties, living in Athens, and given what we know about the audiences of Attic drama, it’s likely he would have been in attendance. What was that experience like for Plato? About this, of course, we can only speculate, but it’s reasonable to assume that his experience of performed dramas at the Theater of Dionysus inform the speculations about tragedy that Socrates makes in the Republic. The Bakkhai was written for performance at a specific place and time, but in the two and a half millennia since, it has inspired countless new performances and adaptations. The Bakkhai lives today both as a written text, as constituted and translated by scholars and poets, and as the source or spur for new incarnations. While we can only speculate about Plato’s own experiences in the theater, the ongoing reception of ancient drama by contemporary artists presents us with new opportunities to take Plato's example and to endeavor to be thoughtful auditors and spectators of drama in performance.

This event will present for discussion a few of these new incarnations, considering briefly several theatrical adaptations, and focusing particularly on a musical setting of the seven choruses of Euripides’ Bakkhai, scored for four voices and a musical ensemble, with lyrics in Ancient Greek, written in 2014 by composer and Bard alumnus Dylan Mattingly. Our aim is to consider both how performance may illuminate aspects of the original play, and also how subsequent artists are inspired by, and transform, what has been handed down to them. The event will include listening to excerpts from the Bakkhai choruses which—though attenuated by digital transmission—may still convey, as Mattingly puts it, not a recreation of the sound, but a reimagining of the feel of the music of Euripides.

Moderated by Bard faculty Thomas Bartscherer.

Contact information:  communications@berlin.bard.edu

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