Outcast at the Gate

By Joel Feigin

The Center for Contemporary Opera Development Series

Symphony Space
2537 Broadway, New York, NY

June 14, 2019, 7:30pm
Tickets available here.

Cast

Aaron Theno, Oedipus
Kristina Bachrach, Antigone
Anna Laurenzo, Ismene
David Gordon, Stranger
Eric McKeever, Theseus

Creative Team

Sara Jobin, Conductor
Sara Erde, Director
Brent Funderburk, Collaborative Pianist and Coach
Tracey Woolley, Production Stage Manager

Introduction and Synopsis

Outcast at the Gate is a drama of redemption: this man has unwittingly killed his father and married his mother–he is “stained to the core of his existence,” and at the same time in some sense innocent. Self-blinded, helpless, a wandering beggar led by his daughter, he will finally be revealed as a prophet, leading his daughters and the king of his new homeland to a miraculous appointment with the waiting Gods.

As the opera begins, the blind old man, former king of Thebes, arrives at Colonus, near Athens, supported by his daughter Antigone. A terrified stranger tells them to leave: they are in the grove sacred to the Eumenides, the “Kindly Ones”, elsewhere known as the horrifying deities of vengeance. But Oedipus declares that he has found his final home, and he prays to the terrifying Furies, thanking them for the “great consummation” he knows is at hand.

The elders of Colonus arrive, searching for the imposter who has defamed the sacred grove. Oedipus is ordered to leave, but after Antigone pleads for her father and Oedipus insists on his innocence, the elders decide to summon the king of Athens, Theseus. Suddenly, Ismene, the remaining daughter of Oedipus, arrives with disastrous news from Thebes: the old man’s younger son has exiled his brother Polynices, who is preparing to invade his homeland. Ismene goes on to report that the oracle has declared that Oedipus has power over the fate of Thebes, and that the Theban leader, Creon, will attempt to seize the old man, but will not allow him to actually enter his homeland. Oedipus curses both his sons and declares that he will never return to Thebes. Creon arrives, fails to persuade Oedipus to return, and finally seizes the old man and his daughters, who are saved by Theseus and his army. Invited to take refuge in the King’s palace, Oedipus chooses to remain in the sacred grove.

The king tells Oedipus that a stranger has asked to speak with him: Polynices, his son, who tries to persuade Oedipus to back him in the impending war. The old man curses him and foretells the horrible future: his two sons will kill each other before the gates of Thebes.

Polynices leaves in despair, and suddenly a violent storm arises, terrifying all but Oedipus, who knows that the Gods are summoning him to die. Unaided, but still blind, Oedipus rises and leads Theseus and his daughters to where he knows he must die. He bids farewell to his daughters, for only Theseus may see his end. Suddenly the voices of the gods call out to Oedipus: “come–you hold us back too long. Now is the time.” The old man disappears, and Theseus is left alone, saluting the gods and the earth in one great prayer.

Antigone and Ismene reappear, mourning Oedipus’s death. When Antigone asks to be sent to Thebes to try to save her brothers, Theseus agrees, the two sisters leave, and the chorus awaits “the appointed end”.

Joel Feigin, Composer

“You’re a hopeless romantic.”
Leonard Bernstein to Joel Feigin at a private composition lesson at Tanglewood in 1981

Joel Feigin’s compositions have been widely praised for their “strong impact, as logical in musical design as they are charged with emotion and drama.” (Opera Magazine). Feigin’s most recent opera, Twelfth Night, based on Shakespeare’s comedy, has been performed in North Carolina, Chicago, and southern California, where it was hailed as a “glittering masterpiece” by critic Dan Kepl. Previously, excerpts had been heard at New York City Opera’s VOX Showcase series and Opera America’s New Works Sampler.

Feigin’s music has been extensively performed throughout Europe, Asia, and America. Mysteries of Eleusis, Feigin’s first opera, commissioned and premiered by Theatre Cornell, was produced again at the Moscow Conservatory while Feigin was there on a Fullbright Fellowship, and later at the Russian-American Operatic Festival. Other commissions include a Fromm Commission for Aviv: Concerto for Piano and Chamber Orchestra, written for Yael Weiss, piano works for Margaret Mills and Leonard Stein, two orchestral works for the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony, and many chamber works. CDs include Transience, a 2-CD set of his works on the North/South Recordings, as well as two major piano works performed by Margaret Mills in Meditations and Overtones on Cambria Master Recordings and by Robert Cassidy on Pathways on MRS Classics. Feigin’s large chamber work, Lament Amid Silence, has been recorded by violist Helen Callus.

Dr. Feigin studied with Nadia Boulanger at Fontainebleau and with Roger Sessions at The Juilliard School. Early in his career, as an Aaron Copland-ASCAP fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, Feigin received the Dimitri Mitropoulos Prize in Composition. An accomplished pianist and accompanist, Feigin studied with Rosina Lhevine, and worked at the Metropolitan Opera in New York with Nico Castel.

The Joel Feigin Collection at the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center opened in 2011. A student of Zen Buddhism, Feigin is Professor Emeritus of Composition at the University of California, Santa Barbara.