Center for Contemporary Opera: Outcast at the Gate
Outcast at the Gate is a drama about refugees: a blind old man, supported by his daughter, seeking food and shelter. It is also a drama of redemption: the old man is "stained to the core of his existence," and at the same time somehow innocent: he is Oedipus, former king of Thebes, who has unwittingly killed his father and married his mother. The end will reveal him as a prophet, blind, but leading his daughters and the King of his new homeland to a miraculous appointment with the waiting Gods. The two refugees have found themselves in a beautiful, peaceful grove when a terrified stranger arrives and tells them to leave: the grove is sacred to the Furies, the horrifying deities of vengeance. But Oedipus knows that he has found his final home, and he offers prayers of thanks to the deities of the grove for the "great consummation" he knows is near. The townspeople arrive, searching for the imposter, and when they learn his name they order the strangers to leave their land. Oedipus insists that he is innocent, that he had committed his horrible crimes unknowingly, and the elders decide to summon the King of Athens, Theseus, for the final decision. Suddenly, a woman arrives—Ismene, the remaining daughter of Oedipus, joyfully greeting her father and her sister, Antigone. Ismene brings disastrous news from Thebes: the old man's younger son has seized the throne of Thebes; his brother Polynices has fled and plans to attack the city. But new oracles have arrived, declaring that the fate of Thebes rests in Oedipus's hands alone. Theseus enters, greets the old man and his daughter with compassion, and declares Oedipus a citizen of Athens. The King promises to protect the blind man from the Thebans who will come to seek his support. Invited to take refuge in the King's palace, Oedipus choses to remain in the sacred grove. Theseus leaves, and the chorus sings of the beauty of the wanderer's new home. Creon, the Theban elder, arrives, and failing to persuade Oedipus to return, seizes the old man and his daughters. They are saved by Theseus and his army, and the king tells Oedipus that a stranger has come: 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 he is summoned by the Gods. 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".
Venue: Symphony Space
2537 Broadway Map
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