Sphinx Costume from the English National Opera production of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera Greek, 1990. Museum no. S.1095-1995

Sphinx Costume from the English National Opera production of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera Greek, 1990. Museum no. S.1095-1995

Sphinx Costume from the English National Opera production of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera Greek
1990
Fake black leather jacket edged with black feathers and fringing, worn over a tight fitting black "stretch-fabric" bodice and skirt. The costume is decorated with red paint, studs, and chains
Museum no. S.1095-1995

Based on Steven Berkoff’s play, this was the Oedipus myth transferred to 1980s London. It became a scathing parable of the greed, poverty and intolerance of the 1980s. The plague of Sophocles’ original  became the urban decay of Thatcherite Britain. Turnage’s scores were always notable for their eclecticism, and critics spotted influences as diverse as Benjamin Britten, Miles Davis and Charlie  Mingus, Igor Stravinsky, Puccini and Chas & Dave, but they were influences, not plagiarism, and the final effect was uniquely Turnage. Like the music, the costumes, designed by David Blight, drew on contemporary influences. This extraordinary punk-inspired costume for one of the bald female Sphinx has overtones of Jean Paul Gaultier and Madonna, biker’s gear, and the band painted with Greek figures links it to the classical origins of the sphinx figure.