Funded by the Pew Cheritable Center for the Arts & Heritage through the Philadelphia Music Project, Thyestes is written for The Crossing, directed by Donald Nally. As part of the choir's Seneca project, I chose the text from Seneca's Thyestes. In it the type of revenge taken by a king against his brother for seducing his wife and taking over the kingdom shows the level of debth human hatred and cruelty can go to: to tell your brother that not only did you just killed his sons but that the fiest you just shared was from their meet. This drama was written at the same time the debth of human love and capacity for forgiveness had been shown by Christ and the first Christians. The drama ends with the disbelief of such violence and hatred, which to me shows that at the core humans are good and know what is bad. They are yearning for good, but are possessed by bad.
Magical effects, by accident or design, gave audiences some heady contradictions to wrestle with at the Month of Moderns festival Saturday by the Crossing choir. As Kamran Ince's Thyestes ended, someone brushed a light switch, plunging Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill into darkness but for the bulbs on the singers' music stands. It was strangely appropriate: The Turkish American Ince took on a grisly text from the ancient Seneca play Thyestes, about the chaos of the universe's dismembering mankind, with musical choices curiously devoid of hysteria, punctuated by choral exhalations suggesting disillusionment beyond words. Sophisticated vocal constructs grew like sand castles destined to collapse - words from a corrupt Roman era, music from 2011, a time of uncertain economy and waning humanitarian loyalty. Still, you didn't expect the earth beneath them to vanish into an abyss. And the lights' going out? It felt like an act of God underscoring an exposé of hopelessness.
David Patrick Stearns
Philadelphia Inquirer, Classical Music Critic
Ince’s “Thyestes” sets one of those ancient Greek legends that reveal the primitive barbarism at the foundation of western civilization. One can only wonder if such events ever really took place and, if so, whatever can be learned from their retelling. All the same, Ince’s unaccompanied score is a masterpiece of concise structure, eloquent word‐setting, evocative harmonies, and exquisite voicings.