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
Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by police in Ohio park
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Naked free runner captured in breathtaking photographs above London's streets
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Manchester United named Premier League's loudest fans despite late push by Chelsea according to 'Smart Meter' app
Hitler painting sells for 130,000 euros at auction despite controversy over Nazi dictator's artworks
Strictly Come Dancing results: Steve Backshall sent home after dance off with Sunetra Sarker
Naked free runner captured in breathtaking photographs above London's streets
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked clip of Lana Del Rey rape video
Band Aid 30: 'Do They Know It's Christmas' storms to number one
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Green Party Caroline Lucas interview: 'We could be on the edge of something very big'