Tragùdia | The song of Oedipus



Language is that which we intend to say
(Italo Calvino)

In an age of rubble there is no other choice but to work on what is left, to blow on the cinders to revive the fire.
What is left of tragedy: words without sound.
What is left of the polis: a society of strangers.
What is left of the rite: an extinguished dramaturgy.
What is left of a myth: a dull little tale.
What is left of a hero: an out-of-focus character.
The song of Oedipus is built on rubble.

As Antiphanes writes in his comedy, Poiesis:

Tragedy is a fortunate art, because the spectators already know the plot before it is told by the poet, it is enough to simply remind them. As soon as the name “Oedipus” is spoken, the rest is already known – the father Laius, the mother Jocasta, the daughters, the sons, what he has suffered, what he is guilty of.

Nowadays, how is one to rebuild that collective knowledge which exempted the tragic poet from having to turn myth into prose and legitimized his immediate evoking of visions within the public?
How to accomplish the tragic, nowadays?
What language is it, that which through Sophocles, we wish to tell the spectator?
And what tongue is it in?
Sophocles’ Greek was deliberately elevated and musical, a language which tears us from the plane of reality and places us on a level of transcendence.
How to deliver the perfect dramatization of the perfect myth to the public in a language that is not hostile and conceptual, but rather musical, instinctual and sensual?
Italian seems to lower the tragic to a dramatic occurrence.
We have therefore chosen Grecanic, the language that still currently resounds in a remote corner of what was once Magna Grecia, a strip of land which climbs up from the sea to the Aspromonte, peering at Mount Etna over the horizon.
Auditory vestiges of an ancient Greek nowadays spoken by a few individuals born of a generation that was ashamed of Homer’s language and stopped teaching it to their children, in order to hope in a better future in a society where the language of poets has been usurped by that of television.
An extremely ancient idiom sullied by languages fallen from above and by subaltern dialects spontaneously sprouted in the sublime field sown by the Greek such as Calabrian and Apulian.
The tragedy of Oedipus is set in the flickering candle-lit remains of a city that is arid, sterile, decomposing.
And yet Sophocles leads the spectator towards an inner light which will manifest in Colonus, in the sacred grove where Oedipus will be literally absorbed by the gods.
The perfect tragedy of which Aristotle makes constant use as an ideal model over the course of his rhetorical treatise.
The Freudian tragedy by definition.
The very archetype of all tragedy.

Let us start over from Artaud’s cruel visions:

It is idiotic to reprimand the masses for not having a sense for the sublime, when the sublime is confused with one of its formal manifestations, especially since they are always expired manifestations. And if for instance the contemporary crowd does not understand Oedipus Rex anymore, I would dare to say that it is the fault of Oedipus Rex, and not the crowd’s.

How to teach Oedipus to the contemporary crowd in its primeval purpose as a pharmakos?
A scapegoat expelled from his own city which had hailed him as a king.
How to make Sophocles accessible to everybody?
How to process the grieving over the loss of the polis and the sacred?
How to free Oedipus from his guilt?
Oedipus, the fortunate savior of the polis who solves a children’s riddle.
Oedipus, the incestuous and the parricide.
Oedipus, who has the supreme courage of wanting to know himself.
Oedipus, who rejects gods and seers.
Oedipus, who descends to the rotten roots of his family tree, recognizes himself
and blinds his own eyes.
Not to punish himself but to acquire prophetic sight.
Deprived of outer sight Oedipus finally sees his path without losing his human fragility.
He wanders in the darkness in search of light.
He walks without a guide towards the grove so dear to the Eumenides and in a bright flash he joins the gods, thus attaining, like Krishna, liberation from this material world.


By | Alessandro Serra
Freely inspired by the works of Sophocles and other sources for the telling of myth.

translation into Grecanic language | Salvino Nucera

With | Alessandro Burzotta, Salvatore Drago, Francesca Gabucci, Sara Giannelli, Jared McNeill, Chiara Michelini, Felice Montervino

Direction, scenes, lights, sounds, costumes | Alessandro Serra

Voices and songs | Bruno de Franceschi

Collaboration on stage movements | Chiara Michelini

Collaboration to the lights | Stefano Bardelli

Collaboration to the sounds | Gup Alcaro

collaboration to the costumes | Serena Trevisi Marceddu

Sound technician | Alessandro Orrù

Technical direction | Giorgia Mascia

Stage direction | Luca Berettoni

Set construction | Daniele Lepori, Serena Trevisi Marceddu, Loïc Francois Hamelin

Production | Sardegna Teatro, Teatro Bellini, Emilia Romagna Teatro ERT / Teatro Nazionale , Fondazione Teatro Due Parma

In collaboration with | Compagnia Teatropersona,  Fondazione I Teatri Reggio Emilia