“As tenderly as you close the eyes of the Dead,
as tenderly you have to open the eyes of the Living.”
Around 400 B.C., Sophocles created a stage play based on the ancient Myth of Oedipus tyrannous. 2400 years later this play is still relevant. Perceived and interpreted throughout the ages – from Aristotle and Freud to Lacan and Bloch, Oedipus remains a cipher for the guilty, for the violation of taboo. He is the prototype of the individual investigating his own truth and destiny through pain, finally being able to recognize it and accept it.
Friedrich Schiller referred to Oedipus’ remorseless self-questioning as a tragic analysis, which inspired Freud’s use of the term “psychoanalysis” at beginning of the 20th century. Not least inspired by Freud and his work on Oedipus, along with the ideas of Modernity, Igor Stravinsky and Jean Cocteau created their own version of the myth in Paris in 1926.
An hour-long opera for male choir, vocal soloists and symphony orchestra: Oedipus Rex
Sophocles closes his drama with a chorus that warns of human hubris:
“Therefore thou shall look on the day that is last to remain. And thou shall not bless any mortal, unless he gained the goal of life without suffering.”
In response, assuming pain to be an essential component of life, Cocteau and Stravinsky demand compassion and sympathy for man’s suffering. Their chorus closes:
“Farewell Oedipus, we did love you.”
In regards to their artistic direction, Cocteau and Stravinsky’s idea was that compassion and solidarity, as the only position against the solitude of the individual facing existence, are fundamental for the performance’s development.
At the same time, the forlorn, fallen and hollowed out industrial set design parallels the archaism of Oedipus Rex as witness to a past epoch. Constanza Macras designs tableaux vivants in her choreography that are inspired by the photographic hyperrealism of Gregory Crewdson and the staged photographs of Jeff Wall. The protagonist, Oedipus, is embodied by different performers, both male and female, in different scenes, which amplifies the disassociation of Oedipus Rex. Oedipus Rex, consciously conceived by Cocteau and Stravinsky as musical theater beyond the confines of opera, is predestined to examine new forms of presentation in new places. At the same time, Macras’ production will be a premiere; the narrator´s lines were translated by none other than Hans Magnus Enzensberger specifically for this performance.
The stage design will be created by the Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota. We are very proud to continue this very successful collaboration. Last year we realized with Chiharu Shiota the project In Silence at the Kanagawa Art Foundation Yokohama.
A production by Constanza Macras | DorkyPark and HELLERAU – Europäisches Zentrum der Kuenste Dresden in coproduction with HEBBEL Theater am Ufer Berlin and Théatre de la Place Liege sponsored by Kulturstiftung des Bundes and the Regierenden Buergermeister von Berlin – Senatskanzlei – Kulturelle Angelegenheiten.