BY BETH WOJCIECHOWSKI
Associate Arts and Culture Editor
In a new spin on the classic work, the university’s Lyric Theatre Opera Company performed a radical reimagining of “The Odyssey,” an Ancient Greek poem attributed to Homer, told in Penelope’s point of view.
After touring many cities in southern Europe, the opera company had their final performance of “Penelope And The Geese” on June 21 in Corfu, Greece, at the Corfu Museum of Asian Art. Despite being based on literature from Ancient Greece, the messages of the opera are especially relevant to today’s political climate, according to Cheri Magid, librettist of the opera.
“Penelope And The Geese” is a feminist retelling of the Penelope story from “The Odyssey” that features an all-female company. The Penelope story centers on Penelope’s life during her husband Odysseus’s long absence during the Trojan War and how many chieftains of the nearby islands become her suitors.
“‘Penelope And The Geese’ puts female desire and agency center stage,” Magid said. “It challenges prevailing norms and asks us to question what’s been handed down to us from antiquity and from classical music. In a time where women’s rights are under fire, it joins a worldwide chorus of dissent — in our case, through art.”
This is not the first time the university has put on one of Magid’s works. In February, the Resident Ensemble Players (REP) welcomed “A Poem and a Mistake,” a play written by Magid.
“Penelope And The Geese” was workshopped in Bayard Sharp Hall in 2019 before eventually being performed at Thompson Theatre, home of the REP, this past May.
The production has been a long time coming. Originally workshopped in 2019, it was scheduled to premiere in Mexico City in May 2020, but was canceled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It has since been performed at a workshop in Syracuse, NY in June of 2022 as well as being performed at the university this past May. The decision to perform the opera in Greece was due to the university’s school of music’s desire to amplify their voices on the international stage post-pandemic.
In subsequent performances, the subject matter of the opera has become more and more relevant to both those involved with the show and those viewing the show due to changes within the United States — specifically that of women’s right to choose.
“The day we did the first performance for this summer’s tour was the day Roe v. Wade was overturned and the feeling in the room was so palpable,” Magid said. “ It felt like the nature of the opera had fundamentally changed. The energy that we were now interacting with had changed and the topic of women’s agency suddenly felt way more urgent and current.”
The score blends modern music and classical music, in a way that helps to convey the traditions of “The Odyssey” while modernizing the classic story for today’s audience.
“The score makes the story timeless and universal through the exploration of different traditions near and far and use of different instruments from then and now,” composer Milica Paranosic said. “We aimed to make it accessible to wide audiences, regardless of their prior exposure to opera and to create a work that informs, but also asks questions.”
Post-pandemic, the university’s School of Music has strived to make their voices heard on the global stage.
The Lyric Theatre Opera Company considers this summer’s tour of Greece a testament to the connections and commitments the university shares with the people of Greece. Through music, it becomes easier to understand one another not for their differences, but rather for their similarities.
“Coming out of the pandemic and into a new roaring ‘20s, audiences are looking for both entertainment and social analysis,” said Mairin Srygley, a university Vocal Performance and Opera master’s student, who played the titular role. “This one delivers.”