UW News

October 16, 2014

‘Antigona’ retells Greek tragedy through flamenco dance, music

College of Arts & Sciences Communications

Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca in Antigona.

Soledad Barrio and the Noche Flamenca company in “Antigona.”Courtesy of Noche Flamenca.

Consider this a spoiler if you’re planning to see the Soledad Barrio & Noche Flamenca production “Antigona,” a world premiere presented as part of the UW World Series, October 23 to 25: Several characters die by the end of the night. The production is based on a Greek tragedy, after all.

“Antigona” is a retelling — through flamenco music and dance — of the play “Antigone” by Sophocles. It is the story of Oedipus’s daughter, who buries her brother in defiance of a royal decree, choosing to follow the unwritten laws of the gods rather than the laws of mere mortals. She pays the ultimate price, as do several of those closest to her. The play’s emotional and political intensity attracted Soledad Barrio & Noche Flamenca artistic director Martín Santangelo, who saw connections with the political turmoil in his native Spain.

  • Soledad Barrio & Noche Flamenca’s ‘Antigona,’ presented by the UW World Series
    Oct. 23- 25, Meany Hall
    Tickets are $47 to $52, available at www.tickets.artsuw.org

“I’m very interested in telling stories with flamenco,” says Santangelo. “It is a rough, direct, visceral art form. I think, well used, it can explain Antigone.” For this production, Soledad Barrio & Noche Flamenca collaborated with acclaimed theater director Lee Breuer, who has considerable experience with modern adaptations of Greek tragedies. His importance to the production is profound, says Santangelo. “He makes connections that you miss, you don’t see, and those connections can be simple or complex, but they are the bombs, they are exploding revelations — human revelations.”

Breuer and members of Soledad Barrio & Noche Flamenca are spending two weeks on the UW campus prior to the UW World Series performances through a unique residency. With “Antigona” premiering at Meany Hall, the company is still immersed in developing the work; the World Series is providing facilities and staff to support the creative process.

“It’s the realization of a goal that the UW World Series could move from being merely a presenter of the performing arts to becoming an active supporter of the creative process of artists, a place where artists can develop new work,” says Michelle Witt, artistic director of the series and executive director of Meany Hall.

During the residency the artists are also reaching out to the community through a series of special events developed by the World Series. These include a guitar performance in Odegaard Library, flamenco classes for Dance Program students, discussion sessions with Lee Breuer and with the show’s lighting designer for School of Drama students, pre-performance lectures by a UW professor of classics, post-performance discussions and a rehearsal/lecture open to the general public.

Soledad Barrio in the Noche Flamenca production of "Antigona," presented by the UW World Series.

Soledad Barrio in the Noche Flamenca production of “Antigona,” presented by the UW World Series.Courtesy of Noche Flamenca

“When you have a work that has such strong connections to literature, theater, music and dance, the possibilities for working with departments are readily apparent,” says Witt. “UW World Series is reaching out to students, but also involving faculty and leveraging their expertise.”

That has meant inviting Ruby Blondell, UW professor of classics, to participate. Blondell’s intimate knowledge of “Antigone” includes writing a translation of the Greek tragedy with commentary. “We definitely wanted a classicist to speak about the story of ‘Antigone’ — the importance of the story and its relevance today, to give a bit of context to our audiences,” says Witt. “She’s going to be giving the pre-performance lectures every night.”

Blondell is thrilled to be involved. “I’m always interested in intersections between Greek myth and other cultures, and ways in which contemporary artists use ancient culture for their own purposes,” she says. “I am also very excited to be connected with a Lee Breuer project. I am a longtime fan of his ‘Gospel at Colonus,’ which is perhaps the best ‘translation’ of an ancient tragedy into a modern cultural idiom that I have seen.”

In her pre-performance talks (scheduled for 6:45 to 7:30 on performance nights), Blondell will explain the gender dynamics that drive Sophocles’ tragedy, while emphasizing ways in which the play’s meaning can change when it is viewed through a contemporary lens. “Like many other disturbing figures from Greek tragedy, Antigone offers us ways of thinking about our own problems — problems that are peculiar to the time and place in which we live,” says Blondell.