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Music Text

Libretto by Cocteau based on Sophocles (L-F,L-E,L-G)

Scoring

M,2T,Bar,3(or 2)B,narrator; male chorus
3(III=picc).2.corA.3(III=Ebcl).2.dbn-4.4.3.1-timp-perc(2):tamb/
t.mil/BD/cyms-harp-pft-strings


Abbreviations (PDF)

Territory
This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

Opera
For full details on this stagework, including synopsis and roles, please visit our Opera section.


World Premiere
5/30/1927
Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt, Paris
Russian Ballet Orchestra / Igor Stravinsky
World stage premiere
2/23/1928
Staatsoper, Vienna
Lothar Wallerstein, director / Vienna Staatsoper / Franz Schalk
Repertoire Note

Stravinsky called Oedipus Rex an “opera-oratorio” and instructed that it be staged with minimal movement; the principal singers are to wear masks. Crucial to the work’s aesthetic was the decision to set a Latin text - a choice, Stravinsky wrote, with “the great advantage of giving me a medium not dead but turned to stone and so monumentalized as to have become immune from all risk of vulgarization.” The impersonal grandeur of Stravinsky’s retelling is signalled by the opening chorus. At the same time, Oedipus’ downfall is vividly delineated by the gradual defoliation of his vocal line. The musical trajectory - a throbbing engine of fate - is as undeflectable as the drama. In spite of Stravinsky’s principles and pronouncements - that music “is powerless to express anything at all” - the opera culminates in catharsis. Sophocles’ great tale of submission to fate resonates with Stravinsky’s religious sensibility: of submission to God.

Reproduction Rights
This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with credit to Boosey & Hawkes/Joseph Horowitz.

Recommended Recording
cd_cover

Vinson Cole, Anne Sofie von Otter, Simon Estes, Hans Sotin, Nicolai Gedda, Swedish Radio Chorus, Ericson Chamber Choir, Orphei Drängar, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen
Sony SK48057

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