CLASSICAL MUSIC : Oedipus Rex: Philharmonia / Dohnanyi RFH, London
Monday 02 December 1996
So at least, somewhat miraculously, a full cast is gathered. But what bad luck for the two main protagonists - Oedipus and Jocasta - both to be substitutes in a piece where the luxury of repetition (six fully staged performances) had so obviously brought confidence in other quarters. Oedipus is a problematic (and expensive) work to mount; six soloists are required but none of them, save Oedipus, has full roles. Vocally, Oedipus stands or falls largely on the proficiency of the male chorus. In the Czech Radio Choir with members of the Chatelet Chorus (singing without scores), Cocteau's Latin translation was spat out with deadly, precise articulation ("Solve, Oedipus, solve" [solve it, Oedipus, solve it]) plus full rhythmic and dynamic intensity as the horrifying sequence of events unfolds. Franz- Josef Kapellmann as Creon brought a confident matter-of-factness to the role, whereas in Willard White's Tiresias, his reigned-in anger and pity as Oedipus wrongly accuses him of being in league with Creon, quickened the dramatic pace.
In the smaller roles of Messenger and Shepherd, Cheyne Davidson and Peter Keller were outstanding although unhelpfully positioned (with the chorus) behind the orchestra. Davidson brought a terrible urgency to Stravinsky's orchestral scream in his announcement of Jocasta's death, while Keller, in one of the few tender passages, brought a touching sweetness to his sorrow at having revealed Oedipus's origins. Anthony Rolfe-Johnson's Oedipus was keenly felt but the voice sounded strained and, using a score, he seemed restrained. Stefania Kaluza made a deeply dignified Jocasta, the voice rounded and velvety although in her dramatic coloratura "Oracula mentiuntur" [the oracles lie], she was hard to hear, as were most of her words.
But the real miscalculation was in the casting of the Narrator: Robert Wilson who had staged the Paris performances, seemed ill at ease, trying too hard to project ee cummings's English text. Christoph von Dohnanyi appeared well in control, quite marvellous playing coming from individuals (the timpanist and oboe) and sections (the horns and strings) of the Philharmonia. Which was certainly not the case in Stravinsky's Violin Concerto, where almost doggedly, soloist and orchestra were at moments beats apart. But in Viktoria Mullova, Dohnanyi could scarcely have found a more stiff and disengaged soloist. Where was the skittishness and neo-classical fun? Revenge of the gods, perhaps? Annette Morreau
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 2 Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
- 3 Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
- 4 Refugee crisis: Aylan's life was full of fear - in death, he is part of 'humanity washed ashore'
- 5 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
First Look at Bryan Cranston transformed into LBJ for HBO’s ‘All the Way’ film
Idris Elba is ‘too street’ to play 007, says James Bond author
This little boy loves books so much that he cries when his mother stops reading to him
Does this Game of Thrones season 6 filming location give away an important character death?
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 100,000 back our campaign
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up