Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex

Julie Taymor (stage director), Seiji Ozawa (conductor) – With Jessye Norman (Yocasta), Bryn Terfel (Creon), Philip Langridge (Oedipus)...

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Julie Taymor — Stage director, masks, sculptor

George Tsypin — Set designer

Emi Wada — Costumes

Jean Kalman — Lighting designer

Bobby Bukowski — Director of photography

Reiko Kruk — Make-up artist

Suzushi Hanayagi — Choreographer

Kayoko Shiraishi — Narrator

Jessye Norman — Jocasta

Philip Langridge — Oedipus

Bryn Terfel — Creon

Harry Peeters — Tiresias

Min Tanaka — Dancer (Oedipus)

Saito Kinen Festival Dancers

Program notes

A masterful Japanese production featuring Julie Taymor’s costumes and image-rich sets (worthy of Chéreau or Wieland Wagner!), Seiji Ozawa’s direction, and an impressive vocal cast (a stunning Jessye Norman as Jocasta, the tenor Philip Langridge as Oedipus, Bryn Terfel as Creon). “We singers have a different level of responsibility from other musicians. We have words that we must convey; we have meanings that we must convey through these lyrics” affirms the soprano – a particularly big responsibility for this adaptation of the Greek tragedy in which the value of words did not escape the Russian composer.  

Impressed by Jean Cocteau’s rewrite of Antigone, Stravinsky asked the poet for an adaptation of Oedipus Rex. The resulting libretto brings together the key scenes of Sophocles’s tragedy translated by the Abbé Jean Daniélou into Latin—a language that, according the composer, “is not dead but engraved in stone, and so imposing that it is immune to any popularization”. A narrator outlines the plot for us: when Oedipus, King of Thebes and unlucky descendant of Laïos, discovers his double crime of patricide and incest, he gouges out his eyes, and Jocasta, widow and accomplice in the crime of incest with her son, hangs herself… The opera-oratorio is written for voice, narrator, soloist, and men’s choir, and received its 1927 premiere in Paris under the baton of the composer himself!

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