WORKS: Oedipus Rex
PERFORMER: Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Marjana Lipovsek, John Tomlinson, Alastair Miles, John Mark Ainsley; London Philharmonic Choir, London Philharmonic/Franz Welser-Möst
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 7 54445 2 DDD
Stravinsky wrote Oedipus Rex in 1926-27. He had wanted to write a large-scale dramatic work for some years but could not settle on a suitable plot or language. Latin was his ultimate choice. The text was based on Sophocles’ tragedy and written, first in French, by Jean Cocteau, who also suggested that a spoken narration would be helpful. Subtitled an opera-oratorio, Oedipus Rex was written to celebrate Diaghilev’s 20 years of theatrical activity and the work does not benefit at all from this recording in a church.
The orchestral playing is superb, but there are some ragged passages with the chorus in Act I, where a firmer hand at the helm would have helped the elements cohere: they must have had difficulty judging each other’s sound in such a reverberant acoustic.
Anthony Rolfe Johnson gives a taut, exciting impetus to Oedipus’s lines and copes well in the notoriously difficult florid passages. His fluid sound is most effective in his final, poignant ‘Lux facta est’. Marjana Lipovsek has a rich, lustrous voice and the vocal range to deliver the lower notes of Jocasta’s ‘Oracula’ without resorting to over-articulation. The speaker (in French) and other soloists maintain a high standard. Alastair Miles as Tiresias and John Mark Ainsley as the Shepherd give particularly impressive performances. Elisse McDougall