Beowulf has found expression as a chamber opera.
I guess there’s life in this old story yet.
Setting aside whatever your impression of opera may be, it sounds like this opera (also named Beowulf) is most entertaining. This is a glowing review, but I’d like to think that just as some people might approach opera with rolling eyes and negative preconceptions, a reviewer might approach something based on Beowulf (even if its in a form that they’re generally fans of) with the same rolling eyes and negative preconceptions. So I think that this adaptation must legitimately be good.
Though this opera sounds like it’s not just a straight adaptation of Beowulf to the same kind of stage that might see Madama Butterfly or Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
The story in this opera is that the character named Beowulf has come back from a war with PTSD and so can’t quite reconcile the home of here and now with what happened in his past. This Beowulf’s nursing home-bound mother has similar troubles reconciling aspects of her past home with her current home and is also harassed by a wicked nurse (who seems to be this take’s version of Grendel). After a confrontation between Beowulf and the nurse, he and his mother reach an understanding and the story ends.
All in all, how the creator of this piece, Hannah Lash, took all of the war and PTSD-related themes from the original and splashed them over a modern canvas makes for an interesting sounding piece.
Unfortunately, the performance’s somewhat limited showing means that only a few people will ever see it. Nonetheless, I wanted to share this article because it shows how old stories can still be useful as jumping off points for new tales and new ways to try to make sense of our present.
You can read Christian Gentry’s full review of the chamber opera Beowulf here: