Oedipus Rex by Igor Stravinsky, 1882-1971
Of the many modernist composers who broke new stylistic ground at the turn of the twentieth century, Russian-born Igor Stravinsky was arguably the most eclectic. After achieving international renown with a series of compositions for Sergei Diaghilev’s ballets russes (among them his most famous work, The Rite of Spring), Stravinsky embarked upon a “neoclassical” phase, so-named on account of the composer’s newfound predilection for subject matter and artistic forms of bygone eras. Premièred in Vienna in 1928, Oedipus Rex is one of Stravinsky’s earliest “neoclassical” works, the libretto for which is adapted from Sophocles’ great Athenian tragedy. This production, directed by Julie Taymor and featuring acclaimed soprano Jessye Norman in the role of Jocasta, was originally conceived for the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto in Japan and incorporates certain elements of Noh theater into its mise-en-scène—a mixing of cultural and aesthetic codes that the iconoclastic Stravinsky assuredly would have endorsed.