I hope I’ll have time to add a little more about this fascinating music that was so important to ancient Greek drama. — Tom.
There are several good recorded performances. The earliest modern (mono) recording was made in Cologne in 1951, with Stravinsky conducting and Jean Cocteau reading the narration in French. In the 1960’s, Stravinsky (or his shadow, Robert Craft) conducted a stereo recording, which was narrated in English. While the earlier performance may be a little more raw (as befits the music), the latter recording is much fuller and clearer in sound and packs a powerful wallop of its own. Both are readily available on CD.
|Finally, on a less elevated level yet still a work of genius, the MIT mathematics professor, Tom Lehrer, wrote his (in)famous song, Oedipus Rex, in the late 1950’s. I’ve posted his performance here.|
PS: I attach here the Libretto for Stravinsky’s “Oedipus Rex” (from Colin Davis’ CD), as these days CDs don’t always include it.
And here is a link to Comments on Stravinsky’s Oedipus by AL Malone (from Allmusic.com) that discusses some of the history and motivation behind Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex.
If anyone is wondering what Ancient Greek might have sounded like, I’ve found an Internet link to an old friend of mine reading 4 minutes from Sophocles’ Elektra:
Prof. Rachel Kitzinger has had a distinguished career as a classicist at Vassar College, where she went after teaching at Amherst College in the late 1970’s. While at Amherst, she staged a production of Antigone with her students in the original Greek. The final performance took place at sunrise, on the Amherst War Memorial whose large, round surface served as the slightly-raised stage. Built into the side of Memorial Hill facing the athletic fields and the Holyoke hills, the commemorative space suggested some of the feeling of a Greek amphitheater.
The production was a strikingly dramatic and beautiful experience. By mixing dance, mime, masks and broadly-gestured acting, the audience could follow the action pretty well. The political context of the time helped, too, since many of us were preoccupied with arguments about the power of the state over individuals, in general, and women, in particular.
Rachel was one of the first teachers anywhere, I believe, to put on a production like this – and she continued producing Greek dramas in their original language with her students at Vassar and on stages elsewhere in the world. She pursued further study about ancient Greek performance practices and collaborated on at least one translation (Oedipus at Colonus) with her husband, the Irish poet Eamon Grennan. She’s written specifically about the function and significance of the Greek chorus, her major work being a book, The Choruses of Sophokles’ Antigone and Philoktetes: a Dance of Words. Here are some excerpts from a 2010 review of the book that outline some of Rachel’s views about the Greek chorus:
The Pronomos vase, a red figured volute, c. 400 bce, Athens, depicts a scene from a Satyr play.
Detail of the Pronomos vase showing the Herakles and Papposilenos performers, faces of two chorus members, and a female mask.
Note the detail of the masks held by the two actors, but I’m not sure about the female mask. Is that it on the upper left, all hair and no face?
|Dec. 1||2:00-3:30||Woodbury Room||Antigone|
|Dec. 8||2:00-3:30||Amherst Room||Oedipus the King|
|Dec. 15||2:00-3:30||Amherst Room||Oedipus at Colonus|