The Music of Tragedy: Performance & Imagination in Ancient Greek Theater

Every year in classical Athens, thousands would gather at the theater to see the latest tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and their contemporaries. The production of these plays was not simply a theatrical event: it was a musical one. Each tragedy featured a chorus, who would regularly sing and dance to the accompaniment of pipes; sometimes actors would sing with them or perform show-stopping arias of their own. Professor Weiss will demonstrate how we can access some of the vibrant musicality of ancient theater through the silent scripts and images that survive. Focusing in particular on Aeschylus and Euripides, she will explore how Greek playwrights were experimenting with music’s dramatic potential throughout the fifth century, often producing their most innovative songs by adapting traditional lyric styles and motifs for the tragic stage.

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