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Oedipus Rex

From Academic Kids

This article is about the piece of music by Stravinsky. For the play by Sophocles, see Oedipus the King. Other musical works on the same subject include "Oedipus Rex" by Tom Lehrer, and Oedipus Tex by P. D. Q. Bach.


Oedipus Rex is an "Opera-oratorio" by Igor Stravinsky. The libretto was written by Jean Cocteau in French and then translated by Abbe Jean Daniélou into Latin (the narration, however, is performed in the language of the audience). The work is sometimes performed in the concert hall as an oratorio (as was its original performance in the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt in Paris on May 30, 1927) or onstage as an opera (first onstage performance at the Vienna State Opera on February 23, 1928.

Stravinsky's music is an example of neo-classicism. He had considered setting the opera in Ancient Greek, but decided ultimately on Latin, in his words "a medium not dead but turned to stone."

Contents

Characters

Plot Synopsis

Act I

The Narrator greets the audience, explaining the nature of the drama they are about to see, and setting the scene: Thebes is suffering from a plague, and the men of the city lament it loudly. Oedipus, king of Thebes and conqueror of the Sphinx promises to save the city. Creon, brother-in-law to Oedipus, returns from the oracle at Delphi and declaims the words of the gods: Thebes is harboring the murderer of Laius, the previous king. It is the murderer who has brought the plague upon the city. Oedipus promises to discover the murderer and cast him out. He questions Tiresias, the soothsayer, who at first refuses to speak. Angered at this silence, Oedipus accuses him of being the murderer himself. Provoked, Tiresias speaks at last, stating that the murderer of the king is a king. Terrified, Oedipus then accuses Tiresias of being in league with Creon, who he believes covets the throne. With a flourish from the chorus, Jocasta appears.

Act II

Jocasta calms the dispute by telling all that oracles always lie. An oracle had predicted that Laius would die at his son's hand, when in fact he was murdered by bandits at the crossing of three roads. This frightens Oedipus further: he recalls killing an old man at a crossroads before coming to Thebes. A messenger arrives: King Polybus of Corinth, who Oedipus believes to be his father, has died. However, it is now revealed that Polybus was only the foster-father of Oedipus, who had been, in fact, a foundling. An ancient shepherd arrives: It was he who had found the child Oedipus in the mountains. Jocasta, realizing the truth, flees. At last, the messenger and shepherd state the truth openly: Oedipus is the child of Laius and Jocasta, killer of his father, husband of his mother. Shattered, Oedipus leaves. The messenger then reports the death of Jocasta: she has hanged herself in her chambers. Oedipus broke into her room and put out his eyes with her pin. Oedipus departs Thebes forever as the chorus at first vents their anger and then mourns the loss of a king they loved.it:Edipo re (Stravinsky)

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