Lysistrata revisited

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jserraglio
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Lysistrata revisited

Post by jserraglio » Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:08 am

Reconnecting excitedly with Aristophanes's Lysistrata which, along with Oscar Wilde's Earnest, is the most perfect satirical comedy I've ever read. Taken whole and entire, the play is reducible to a single simple metaphor, but in a tour de force Aristophanes is able to sustain a mock-epic Homeric analogy for 1,300 lines in a stunning display of verbal artistry.

Belle
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by Belle » Sat Mar 16, 2019 10:39 pm

I don't know this play at all; in fact, scarcely much at all about this era of drama. Do you have a link you could post of a modern production? Which translation are you reading?

John F
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by John F » Sun Mar 17, 2019 12:37 am

Schubert's only opera that is performed and recorded at all often is based on "Lysistrata," the one-acter "Die Verschworenen" also known as "Der häusliche Krieg." I have it on an old Vox recording made in Vienna and actually saw it here, done by the Bronx Opera (no kidding) on a double bill with Holst's "Savitri."

The Bronx Opera is one of the small companies that help to fill the gaps left by the Met and the fall of City Opera. It performed Menotti's "The Consul" in January and will do "The Mikado" in April. It's the creation of conductor Michael Spierman, who is now 76 but still apparently going strong. Bronx Opera used to give some performances in the John Jay College theatre in Manhattan but now they only perform at Lehman College in the Bronx.
John Francis

jserraglio
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by jserraglio » Sun Mar 17, 2019 5:09 am

Ian Johnston's is the translation I am currently reading. It is easy to print out or just read online.

https://lcsl.uic.edu/docs/default-sourc ... 280e32a5_0

A polymath translator, Professor Ian Johnston of Vancouver Island University generously foregoes copyright to make his many fine translations of great books freely available online to anybody who wants them. https://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/#etexts

In Lysistrata Johnston steers a middle course between the salacious and the merely plodding. He also avoids taking too many liberties with a sometimes problematic Greek text while still producing a lively, even stage-worthy version. I have read several translations of this play and find his to be the most sensible.

For such a towering masterpiece, with a vast dynamic range of diction running the gamut from shocking profanity to solemn ritual, I find the play to be approachable and entertaining. The witty parodies of the Iliad alone make it worth the price of admission.

Talk about the three classical unities in drama? Well, Lysistrata has all three of those plus a fourth -- unity of trope. Taken as a whole, the play enacts a single metonym: the human body denuded is a stand-in for the polis, or fragile body politic. The nude in all its vulnerability transmuted from an object of violent lust to an object of worship. Can you get more Greek than that?

As for productions, I saw the play (first heard of the play) as a student. In 1967 at the height of the Vietnam War it was performed by the Ann Arbor Players at the University of Michigan.

There is a critically-acclaimed 2013 movie version, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3145172/ which I have not seen, nor intend to see after viewing the two leering clips that follow:

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9BKdgVqI5I



Myrrhine/Cinesias Scene:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCzmowU7E4U



There are also many student productions posted on YouTube, most of them poorly miked.

My favorite of these amateur productions is this complete one from the UK in 2016, performed by high-schoolers. I found it moving, maybe because the innocence these kids radiate rescues them from the vulgarity adults in the 2013 commercial film version wallow in.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYY88WNC_1Q



Then there is Spike Lee's controversial 2015 film Chi-raq, a satire on murder and mayhem in present-day Chicago which explicitly adapts Lysistrata to our current epidemic of gun violence. I have not seen it but it is on my must-see list. I am a fan of Lee, own several of his earlier films, and even kinda liked BlacKkKlansman (2018).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGTuuj-aTJs


Belle
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by Belle » Mon Mar 18, 2019 1:09 pm

Thanks for that and it was very touching to see the translator's dedication to his son on his homepage!! (There's a very sad story behind that picture, right there. :()

I've also been a fan of Spike Lee's earlier films, but haven't seen any within the last 15-20 years or so. I really enjoyed them back in the late 80s/early 90s when I was doing post-graduate studies and wrote a minor thesis on "Malcolm X" - Lee's film and the 'autobiography' of the black leader.

Re cinema: yesterday we had 4 hours to kill while our car was being serviced. There was the local cinema and I scoured the internet to see what was on; nothing but unmitigated trash. That once-great art form; I grieve its passing. The only half-way decent films these days directed at baby boomers are about doddery people like Judy Dench (and an army of substantially aging actors) who have lost a child, developed dementia or had one last romantic fling. And films like this one!! (Sad, because I ADORE Tom Courtenay!). Avoid films which are "intelligent and moving" and winners at film festivals; in this case, 'much ado about nothing' (except the depredations of age)!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tg5cpiX18TA

It would be great to see the opera JohnF is referring to, and enjoyable to read the play itself.

jserraglio
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by jserraglio » Mon Mar 18, 2019 3:10 pm

Black Panther is a tour de force of filmic art which should have won Best Picture this year. I watched it on the big screen in the movie theater, on an 80" smartboard during my film class and on 3 separate occasions on my 4" iPhone screen. It grabbed me all 5 times in each format, and I hate superhero flicks.

Get Out, which cost Jordan Peele next to nothing to make, is an uncompromising satirical take on racism in America via the horror genre. It scared the shiiit outta me.

The Green Book is a moving and uplifting enactment of how two characters at loggerheads achieve reconciliation. I understood all the Sicilian in this flick, but none of the Italian.

BlacKkKlansman, like Do the Right Thing, sets up a dialectical situation and then blows it up in the viewer's face.

Jordan Peele's Us, a horror flick about doppelgängers and home invasion, opens this Thursday in my town. I will lock the doors of my house against invaders, which I rarely do, and go to the theater to see it.

John F
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by John F » Mon Mar 18, 2019 3:57 pm

Belle wrote: doddery people like Judy Dench
"Doddery"? Have you seen her on the stage? I have, in plays ranging from Shakespeare's "All's Well that Ends Well" to Noel Coward's "Hay Fever," and I assure you that if she seemed doddery in some movie, that was acting.

We are limited by circumstances, including our age, in what we can see for ourselves. I was just in time to see Olivier, Gielgud, Richardson, Ashcroft, Dench, and Worth in roles ranging from the classics to new plays, most recently Glenda Jackson in Albee's "Three Tall Women," at age 80 anything but doddery. While I would like to have seen them in their younger years, I was rewarded, and grateful, to have seen them at all.
John Francis

jserraglio
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by jserraglio » Mon Mar 18, 2019 5:01 pm

Which reminds me, I need to see that iconic 88-year-old actor/director's new movie, The Mule.

Belle
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by Belle » Mon Mar 18, 2019 5:20 pm

John F wrote:
Mon Mar 18, 2019 3:57 pm
Belle wrote: doddery people like Judy Dench
"Doddery"? Have you seen her on the stage? I have, in plays ranging from Shakespeare's "All's Well that Ends Well" to Noel Coward's "Hay Fever," and I assure you that if she seemed doddery in some movie, that was acting.

We are limited by circumstances, including our age, in what we can see for ourselves. I was just in time to see Olivier, Gielgud, Richardson, Ashcroft, Dench, and Worth in roles ranging from the classics to new plays, most recently Glenda Jackson in Albee's "Three Tall Women," at age 80 anything but doddery. While I would like to have seen them in their younger years, I was rewarded, and grateful, to have seen them at all.
No, I haven't seen any of these people on the stage (and it's wonderful for you that you have). I'm mainly referring to 'doddery' roles, eg. "Iris". Films about Alzheimer's Disease, lost children, evanescent relationships and old folks in films about the "needs" of old people which are generally mawkish and cloying. In short, films which my PC sister would refer to as "brave".

I loved seeing an aging Gielgud in "Arthur" years ago where he played the role of a steely mentor and virtually stole the picture from Dudley Moore. And I adored Peggy Ashcroft in "Passage to India"...."Mrs. Moore"!!!!! And, never forgetting, the absolutely amazing Clint Eastwood!! There's poetry in that man; not for him the sunsets of greeting cards and the depredations of age; he's still with-it!! The first film I ever saw which upset me because it was about 'old people' was the boring and embarrassing "On Golden Pond".

The last film I saw about old folks and their end-of-life frolics was "The Last Marigold Hotel" and it was the bitter end!! (The cynic in me is showing!) Friends would come up - as though they'd had an interview with the Dalai Lama - waxing lyrical about some film they'd seen concerning 'age' issues. Some years ago at a film screening in Sydney an elderly couple was talking to me about some similar kind of film and how good it was; we were waiting to see 'In Search of Haydn". I replied, "you'll find far more inspiration about age in learning about Joseph Haydn than anything confected in a film script". They took it extremely ill. :roll:

jserraglio
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by jserraglio » Mon Mar 18, 2019 8:06 pm

Sean Penn said about Eastwood after making the deep Mystic River: "the least disappointing American icon I ever met."

I am fascinated by the religious allusions in Eastwood's films: e.g. the death scene in Gran Torino. The clerical ring worn by Dave's pedophile kidnapper in Mystic River. The premise behind the action of Hereafter.

Belle
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by Belle » Tue Mar 19, 2019 2:02 am

jserraglio wrote:
Mon Mar 18, 2019 8:06 pm
Sean Penn said about Eastwood after making the deep Mystic River: "the least disappointing American icon I ever met."

I am fascinated by the religious allusions in Eastwood's films: e.g. the death scene in Gran Torino. The clerical ring worn by Dave's pedophile kidnapper in Mystic River. The premise behind the action of Hereafter.
I'm so glad you mentioned the religious allusions in Eastwood's films - the more recent ones, at least. I've thought so for ages myself and, of course, the priests and confessionals in Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino. Mystic River is an absolutely magnificent film. I didn't notice the clerical ring in that film, I have to admit. And I haven't seen "Hereafter". What I love about Eastwood is that he isn't preachy; his films have values that you can interpret as you want to, but they never insinuate themselves into audiences.

And he does have a fine ear for music and actually composes music for his films. Champion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoLc43YuuTw

John F
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by John F » Tue Mar 19, 2019 4:14 am

Belle wrote:I'm mainly referring to 'doddery' roles
OK, I get it. Certainly that kind of play doesn't appeal much to me, as it's rather close to home - my father suffered from dementia in his last years, and while he didn't realize it and wasn't unhappy, it was a sad and unexpected decline from what he had been.

That said, one of my great experiences in the theatre was David Storey's "Home," about two old men whose home, it turns out, is a mental asylum. The old men were played by John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson, and I thought they and the play were brilliant. That was in 1970, when both men were in their 60s and had many more years to go in their careers, but they were entirely persuasive in their roles.
John Francis

jserraglio
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by jserraglio » Tue Mar 19, 2019 5:51 am

Belle wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 2:02 am
Mystic River is an absolutely magnificent film. I didn't notice the clerical ring in that film, I have to admit.
Neither did I. My students did.

I've always felt that in Gran Torino (cf. the confession and crucifixion scenes), Eastwood was making amends for what he perceived as his past offenses as an actor in films promoting violence, viz. Dirty Harry and Magnum Force, both of which I love, BTW. I guess if your flick has to advance a "white savior" narrative, as does Gran Torino, it's only honest to have the savior lay down his life for his friends. Even Spike Lee might concur with that ending.

Hereafter (2010) is a minor film, beloved by neither critics nor audience. But when I saw it in the theater, I could not leave afterwards, spellbound by its power. Only had that experience twice before at the movies: Dreyer's Joan of Arc and Peter Brook's King Lear with Paul Scofield. I remember thinking at the time that if this film had been made in Europe, it would be hailed as an art-house masterpiece.

BTW, I thought Eastwood was wonderful opposite Meryl Streep in The Bridges of Madison County, a stunningly beautiful work of art. I bought the famous novel it was based on afterwards. Never read it. It couldn't possibly have lived up to the experience of that movie.
Last edited by jserraglio on Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

Belle
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by Belle » Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:19 am

jserraglio wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 5:51 am
Belle wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 2:02 am
Mystic River is an absolutely magnificent film. I didn't notice the clerical ring in that film, I have to admit.
Neither did I. My students did.

I've always felt that in Gran Torino (cf. the confession and crucifixion scenes), Eastwood was making amends for past misdeeds as an actor, viz. films like Dirty Harry and Magnum Force, both of which I love, BTW. I guess if your flick has to advance a "white savior" narrative, as does Gran Torino, it's only honest to have the savior lay down his life for his friends. Even Spike Lee might concur with that ending.

Hereafter (2010) is a minor film, beloved by neither critics nor audience. But when I saw it in the theater, I could not leave afterwards, spellbound by its power. Only had that experience twice before: Dreyer's Joan of Arc and Peter Brook's King Lear with Paul Scofield.
The Dreyer "Joan of Arc". Absolute poetry in every frame.

About "Gran Torino"; I didn't read it as essentially a 'white saviour' narrative (sorry, our English spellings are so different at times I'm beginning to lose what I learned in more than 60 years thanks to American spellcheck!). I felt it was essentially a film about family bonds (Walt's dysfunctional family versus the "gooks" next door"), belonging, society, race and culture, duty and vulnerability (Walt's as well as his neighbours, juxtaposed). Such a rich and wonderful film; one of Clint's very best. I enjoyed Dirty Harry but that dreadful, evil character whom he hunts down and kills in San Fran still haunts me; that terrible limping killer hopping away from Harry still sends shivers down my spine.

"American Sniper" is also a very fine film with some iconic scenes and the spectacularly beautiful and convincing Bradley Cooper. (PS: You're never too old!!)

jserraglio
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by jserraglio » Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:32 am

I thought at the time that American Sniper was Eastwood's rejoinder to, maybe even critique of, The Hurt Locker.

Belle
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by Belle » Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:44 am

jserraglio wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:32 am
I thought at the time that American Sniper was Eastwood's rejoinder to, maybe even critique of, The Hurt Locker.
I have not seen that film.

What would be a modern - or even fairly modern - equivalent of Lysistrata, if that's even possible? You've mentioned Spike Lee, and you suggest he explicitly adapts the play to focus on American gun violence. Is this satire?

jserraglio
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by jserraglio » Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:59 am

Belle wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:44 am
jserraglio wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:32 am
I thought at the time that American Sniper was Eastwood's rejoinder to, maybe even critique of, The Hurt Locker.
I have not seen that film.

What would be a modern - or even fairly modern - equivalent of Lysistrata, if that's even possible? You've mentioned Spike Lee, and you suggest he explicitly adapts the play to focus on American gun violence. Is this satire?
Setting aside the 2013 Houston, Texas-made commercial film version of Lysistrata, Spike Lee's Chi-raq (2015) would be the closest analogue I know of on film to what Aristophanes was trying to do in his play. Admittedly I haven't seen it yet, but yes, it was intended to be satire. I just saw a clip of Lee the other day patiently explaining that his movie was not comedy. It was satire, he said, and satire, he also said, is not comedy [sic]. Lee was trying to explain that he was not making light of the victims of gun violence in his film. Lee endured the same kind of shock and incomprehension with Chi-raq that Aristophanes might have faced in the wake of Lysistrata, well, maybe not so much, since I seem to recall that Lysistrata did win first prize for comedy at the Festival of Dionysus.

That and Antigone are for me the most influential Greek plays ever written on political themes and, curiously, they both feature strong women. Contrasting with the one opera based on Lysistrata, how many Antigone operas have been written I couldn't even begin to enumerate, the latest perhaps being the operatic version of Seamus Heaney's magnificent adaptation of Antigone, entitled The Burial at Thebes for the Abbey Theatre centennial in 2004.

Belle
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by Belle » Tue Mar 19, 2019 4:10 pm

Strong women in Greek plays! I taught Euripides "Medea" for 'Revenge Tragedy' (Extension English students for their final HS year) and she was a piece of work!! Otherwise, apart from back in the days in Drama at university (which I can barely remember now), I have scant knowledge of this subject. Opera would seem to be the ideal medium to explore these plays (and, of course, there are many such works).

Will check out that Spike Lee film.

Belle
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by Belle » Tue Mar 19, 2019 10:49 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Mon Mar 18, 2019 5:01 pm
Which reminds me, I need to see that iconic 88-year-old actor/director's new movie, The Mule.
I think "The Mule" has only recently been released here in Australia. Haven't heard or read anything of criticism about it thus far.

And Spike Lee's comment that satire isn't funny; that can be quite true. Look at Jonathon Swift's "A Modest Proposal".

https://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/modest.html

lennygoran
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by lennygoran » Fri Mar 22, 2019 4:05 am

John F wrote:
Sun Mar 17, 2019 12:37 am
Bronx Opera used to give some performances in the John Jay College theatre in Manhattan but now they only perform at Lehman College in the Bronx.
We saw some of their work at the Danny Kaye Auditorium at Hunter College-very enjoyable. Regards, Len

jserraglio
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by jserraglio » Fri Mar 22, 2019 6:08 am

Belle wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 10:49 pm
satire isn't funny; that can be quite true. Look at Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal".
A few Brit gourmands took Swift quite literally: licking their chops at the prospect of Paddy-pie, a new delicacy to enliven their bland cuisine, not to mention the benefits resulting from a diminution in the numbers of free-range Papists that, if allowed to reach full maturity, would infest HM's isle with beggary, superstition and seditious disaffection against the Crown.

Belle
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Re: Lysistrata revisited

Post by Belle » Fri Mar 22, 2019 2:59 pm

Those you mention would be indigestion-inducing blandishments to the British diet in an era which literally anticipated the 'celebrity chef'!!!

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