Oedipus Rex and the Symphony of Psalms
Esa-Pekka Salonen and Peter Sellars have quite a record as a team of conductor and stage director, having collaborated on such works as Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Messiaen’s Saint François d’Assise and Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande.
They first staged Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and Symphony of Psalms in 2009 in Los Angeles, but in 2016 they brought the works to the Aix-en-Provence Festival. Praising the production, the French magazine Diapason spoke of “total art at the crossroads of opera, oratorio, symphonic music, dance and the visual arts.”
Sellars takes an eclectic approach, adding African colour to Oedipus Rex with sculptures by Ethiopian artist Elias Sime and opting for modern dress for Oedipus (Joseph Kaiser) and the male chorus, but Classical robes for Queen Jocasta (Violeta Urmana) and the Narrator – the young French actress Pauline Cheviller. Sellars does not use the text prepared for Stravinsky by Jean Cocteau, but instead draws on Sophocles, transforming Cheviller into Antigone, Oedipus’s daughter. Sir Willard White takes on three roles – Creon, Tiresias and the Messenger – while the chorus comprises three choirs from Scandinavia. The orchestra is London’s Philharmonia, of which Salonen is Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor.