Gilgamesh is the first "known" hero apparently. The story goes back about 3,000 BC. It is a story
about "he who saw the deep" that is, death. Gilgamesh is not a traditional hero. He is depicted as a tyrant who uses his kingly right to deflower the bride-to-be at the wedding. Still, the epic celebrates him. The goddess Aruru creates Enkidu from the desert sand so that there might be someone to protect the people from Gilgamesh (not such a hero after all). Well Enkidu and Gilgamesh fight so that the men's brides will be safe. Gilgamesh wins and Enkidu becomes his sidekick. They travel around fighting beasts and monsters. One of the beasts has been sent by a goddess that Gilgamesh dumped. Gilgamesh kills it but the gods decide to kill Enkidu as revenge. Enkidu dreams of death ("who, my friend, is not defeated by death"?) and slowly fades away. Gilgamesh, in his grief, continues his journeys and sails across the waters of death. He races against time but realizes he cannot defeat sleep and will also die. He calls forth the spirit of Enkidu and they embrace. Gilgamesh (and the chorus) speak with the spirit of Enkidu asking questions about death, but Enkidu's replies are enigmatic. So it goes. With its mix of modally based orchestral themes, long-spanned rhythmic ostinatos, and phrases chanted by a bass soloist on a single note, this Oratorio sounds at times like a Martinů transmutation of Eastern Orthodox sacred services. It is a powerful work, deftly drawing upon three sections from the neo-Assyrian redaction of this sprawling and fragmentary religious cycle. Good stuff. Enjoy.