THE STORY: (49 minutes) Agamemnon doesn’t dare launch his invasion of Troy until Achilles – Greece’s very own “weapon of mass destruction” – is part of the operation. So Odysseus, the cleverest of the warlords, is dispatched to find the elusive Achilles. Act One of today’s episode is a cleverly constructed mystery. And Act Two? Well, let’s just say that Act Two is more than a bit of a drag.
THE COMMENTARY: ACHILLES, THE OPERA! (15 minutes; begins at 49:00) Stories, myths and legends are like any other element of fashion; they wax and wane in popularity over the decades and centuries. In this episode of post-story commentary I explore the “Achilles on Skyros” story. The story, ancient enough that Homer makes passing mention of it in The Iliad (c. 700 B.C.E.) is a wonderfully light and inconsequential moment of candyfloss inside the massive story arc that is the Trojan War Epic. And the story, as a consequence, has been largely ignored by artists. Except for a hundred year span in the 18th century, when a total of twenty-seven complete operas were staged, all based on the candyfloss diversion that is “Achilles on Skyros”. Then, just as suddenly as the story came into fashion, it fell out of fashion. And almost no artists have shown interest in the story ever since. In this episode I playfully explore what made “Achilles on Skyros” such a sensation for those hundred years, by creating and badly performing the libretto to “Jeff’s own version” of the opera. Then I turn serious and explore how artists throughout history have always managed to mine, from the stories of the Trojan War Epic, the particular artistic gold that their culture requires. Jeff