Pretty hideous to look at, but musically it's wonderful
Oedipus Rex, introduced to me by the Phillip Langridge/Jessye Norman performance, is one of Stravinsky's best works, so this had a fair bit to live up to. Not to mention that it had Bernard Haitink conducting and Felicity Palmer and Claudio Desderi in major roles. There are a lot of good things about this performance, but it was also rather disappointing. Visually, some may find it fascinating but others including me will find it hideous. The setting is stark and rather simplistic, while the ancient-period costumes for the principals and the dinner jackets for the chorus made me confused as what the period was primarily. Because of the mix of opera stage directing and the chorus standing in a line reminiscent of a choir concert, whether it was meant to be stage production and concert version wasn't entirely clear to me. And before you get confused, I am well aware that Oedipus Rex is an opera-oratorio. The stage stuff also was rather static. Musically on the other hand, it is wonderful with electric and haunting orchestral playing, a crisply enunciated and highly involved chorus and enigmatic conducting by Bernard Haitink. Neil Rosenschein sings with a powerful and unstrained tenor voice, his voice had the ability to be lyrical and hefty. The stage directing doesn't allow him to act as well as he could have done but he still delivers with intelligence. Claudio Desderi has a commanding presence, rising above the stage direction, and has a voice that is beautiful and rich voice also with a dark cavernous quality, very different to his Rossini. Felicity Palmer is my personal favourite of the three, although the role of Jocasta is somewhat brief she acts with depth, chills and pathos, and her voice has the strong plummy firmness that I associate her with. On the whole, musically wonderful but visually left wanting for my liking. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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