This summer, the Glimmerglass Festival will premiere a new opera based on Homer’s Odyssey. Our hour-long romp, with music by Ben Moore and libretto by yours truly, features the Glimmerglass Children’s Chorus alongside members of our Young Artists Program.
For young audience members, this is a perfect chance to begin to get to know one of the greatest stories ever told; for the rest of us, it’s a wonderful opportunity for a refresher course.
Odyssey opens August 11 and runs through August 20. Meanwhile, here are a few reading suggestions to whet your appetite.
The Odyssey, by Gillian Cross, with illustrations by Neil Packer
Gillian Cross begins before the beginning, giving us a snapshot of Odysseus’ years in Troy before turning her attention to his journey home. The highlights of the journey are relayed chronologically, in simple language, perfect for reading aloud (over several sittings). Illustrations are plentiful and stunning in this large-scale, hardbound book.
Tales from the Odyssey, by Mary Pope Osborn (in three volumes)
The storytelling here is similar to that of the version above–Osborn begins with the Trojan War and proceeds chronologically, in kid-friendly prose. The pocket-sized paperback books are laid out in chapters, with a small black-and-white drawing at the beginning of each. If you are looking for a version that won’t take up much room in your kid’s carry-on bag, this is it.
The Odyssey, a graphic novel by Gareth Hinds
This has to be my favorite find of the year. Gareth Hinds sticks close to Homer’s storytelling, skipping backwards and forwards to weave together the adventures of Odysseus, his wife Penelope, and his son Telemachus. The graphic novel format–a more sophisticated version of a comic book–is perfect for conveying the excitement, danger, and wonder of the tale.
(A note for parents of very young children: there’s one frame of Odysseus under the sheets with a goddess; later, our hero has a conversation with another while she’s in the process of dressing. If this kind of image is likely to spark a conversation you’re not ready to have, wait a few years before sharing this book with your kids. Meanwhile, enjoy it for yourself!)
And, of course, there’s the real deal. If you haven’t already read it, or if you can barely remember reading it, do yourself a favor and dive in! I’ve bounced back and forth between a number of different translations as I’ve worked on the libretto, but I think the one by Robert Fagles is my favorite. (At least, it is today. Ask me tomorrow and you may get another answer.) Because I travel a lot, I like the ultra-portable paperback version published by Penguin Classics, but this translation is also available with larger print on heavy paper.