Sophocles’ Antigone is the Greek tragedy that has enjoyed the greatest number of musical adaptations. Of the myriad modern musicalized versions of Antigone, three stand out, I propose, as the most representative in terms of not only the rationale of adaptation, but the scopes in which both the intangible concepts and the tangible works of art traverse from one geographical region to another in versatile forms.
The first one is Frederic Rzewski’s Antigone-Legend (1982), a setting for voice and piano of a long poem by Brecht based on his adaptation of Hölderlin’s translation of Sophocles’ Antigone. Staying loyal to Brecht’s original “highly realistic folk-legend” (Diaries, December 16, 1947) treatment that implies the Nazi debacle, this piece also alludes to the international political tumult under the then current Cold War mentality.
The second one, Jorge Liderman’s Antigona Furiosa (1992) which toured the Munich Biennial Festival, is an adaptation of Griselda Gambaro’s play of the same title. Gambaro’s 1986 play of social protest, commenting on Argentina’s Dirty War, stresses the role gender played in constructing and later resisting the neo-fascistic nationalism. The opera highlights the themes of the play, and makes good use of its characterization technique to create parallel scheme in music.
The third one, Chinese Hebei Bangzi piece Thebes (2002), is based on both Sophocles’ Antigone and Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes. As an indigenized xiqu adaptation of the classics,Thebes as a Chinese governmental production toured several international festivals with English and Spanish subtitles. In 2008 it was chosen as one of the performances to showcase Chinese opera in Beijing Olympics.
Taking Benedict Anderson’s concept of “imagined communities” and Arjun Appadurai’s theory of “disjuncture in the global cultural economy” as points of departure, I will closely examine three of the five “scapes” in the global cultural flow that Appadurai proposes: ethnoscape, mediascape, and ideoscape; and argue that since the ancient Greek trope as a mode of mediascape, either in the form of myth or tragedy, could be reworked under a variety of ethnoscapes and ideoscapes within a new realm of mediascape—musicalized theatre, the touring forms, both tangible and intangible, reveal in different layers their creators’ attempt to facilitate conjuncture between ethnoscapes, mediascapes, and ideoscapes, but these attempts in turn demonstrate the profound disjunctural quality of global cultural flow.