the chorus in greek drama


I continue reading Steiner’s Antigone in the mornings. The section I started this morning is about the chorus in it.

As I have read Greek drama over the years I have always found the chorus a bit of an anomaly. I know that it is important to the drama. That it precedes historically the solitary speaking part of Thespis who I was taught was the first person to step away from the chorus and speak an individual part.

Steiner talks about musical settings of Antigone by Mendelssohn, Honneger, Saint-Säens, and Carl Orff.

He talks about how when Monteverdi and others “invented” opera they did so with an eye on classicism. They were conscious of restoring the chorus.

All this talk of musical settings got me to thinking. I had never connected my long years of loving and performing choral music with the idea of the Greek chorus. Pretty obtuse, eh?

So that’s my insight for this morning. When a modern choir sings it is often connected to the way the Greek chorus functioned in Greek drama: commenting, elucidating, mocking, whatever. Suddenly I see the whole thing differently.


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