Term Paper: Opera Review of Igor Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex

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Opera Review

In Oedipus Rex, Igor Stravinsky is telling a classic tale from Greek mythology. This is achieved by discussing the various challenges. Oedipus is facing, in his quest for discovering a murder. During this process, he is able to learn the truth about many things and how they have impacted his life. To fully understand what is occurring requires looking at the Opera in more detail. This will be accomplished by focusing on its historical / cultural significance, the importance of the piece in the composer's life, how it has been grandstanded and the production itself. Together, these elements will highlight the setting of opera and Stravinsky's underlying message.

The Historical and Cultural Background of the Opera

Historically, the opera takes place in the ancient Greece city state of Thebes. Oedipus is someone who has conquered the Sphinx. The plot is following a similar theme from the Greek tragedy with him trying to figure out who is the murder of the former King. During this process, is when the plot mirrors many of the ideas presented in the original play. ("Stravinsky Oedipus Rex," 2012) (Osborne, 2004) ("The Libretto," n.d.)

These elements are showing how the opera is following the historical events which occurred in ancient Greece. The way that this is represented is to parallel the characters, themes, and plots. At the same time, there is the reference to the ancient Egyptian empire with Oedipus being known as the person who killed the Sphinx. This was the guardian of the tombs and the pyramids of the Pharos. The direct reference to these events is a sign of the historical significance with what actually occurred in Greek mythology. ("Stravinsky Oedipus Rex," 2012) (Osborne, 2004) ("The Libretto," n.d.)

Moreover, the play is mirroring history by following a similar format in all Greek tragedies. This is occurring through the use of the chorus during the opera. In many traditional plays, this was utilized as a way for everyone to sing, dance and draw emotionalism upon the problem itself. What makes this so unique is Stravinsky is taking these ideas and using them in a similar format which was historically embraced in ancient Greece. This helps to draw attention to the emotions and feelings of the main characters. (Walsh, 1993) ("The Libretto," n.d.)

These insights are showing how he is following the same basic model that is utilized in many Greek tragedies. The only difference is these ideas were taken one step further though incorporating classic techniques with more modern elements. It is at this point when everyone can effectively understand what is occurring and relate to the characters. In many ways, one could argue that this is one of the ways in which historical elements were embraced to provide the same kind of effect. (Walsh, 1993) ("The Libretto," n.d.)

Culturally, the opera is something that is a life lesson for everyone to follow. This is occurring with the main character trying to figure out who is the murderer and seeking out the facts. However, in the process, is when he learns the truth about his life and where he comes from. This leads to Oedipus cutting out his eyes in the end in order to never be corrupted by what he sees. Instead, he wants to observe things for how they really are. This means that he cannot let the world influence him or the way he reacts to different events. ("Stravinsky Oedipus Rex," 2012) (Osborne, 2004) ("The Libretto," n.d.)

These insights are following cultural lessons from the ancient Greeks. This is taking place through demonstrating how a person can be deceived based upon the people around them and those who they trust the most. On the contrary, someone should question the actions of different people and see the truth for themselves. This is something that is directly linked to the ideas of Plato. He felt that a person should see things for what they really are not let their eyes or anything around them impact these insights. Instead, they must use their ability to reason, question and come to logical explanations to fully understand what is happening. (Osborne, 2004)

The Importance of the Piece in the Composer's Life

Oedipus Rex was an important part of Stravinsky's life. This is because he was focused on his previous works in illustrating the singing and dancing using a traditional Russian format of composition. The opera is a change in these styles with him utilizing a completely different language (i.e. Latin). At the same time, he is looking at contrasting kinds of musical genres and the way it unfolds. (Osborne, 2004)

For instance, when the production was first shown to audiences, Stravinsky was focused on creating a unique work which involved more French and Western European musical styles. To help him with these areas, he collaborated closely with Jean Coteau. They took the traditional Greek play and changed the language. Moreover, they added musical numbers and different themes in Latin to make it have more of a modern feel. When this happened, there was a change in the way these ideas were presented and the underlying plot of the opera. (Osborne, 2004)

These areas are significant to Stravinsky, as he wanted to show that he had greater amounts of flexibility in his talent and can reach out to a larger audience. Oedipus Rex is one way that he could achieve these objectives by moving away from the traditional Russian themes he utilized in the past. Instead, he could concentrate on making things more entertaining by embracing Greek tragedy and incorporating it with modern concertos. As a result, the opera is illustrating how he has flexibility, creativity and can adapt his works to make them more entertaining to mainstream audiences. (Osborne, 2004)

The Way it has been Grandstanded

The play has been grandstanded through Stravinsky adding different elements to impress the audience and help them to be more entertained in the process. For instance, the traditional Greek play had very little theatrics and it was often considered to be very dry. What Stravinsky did, was to take these ideas and incorporate them as a part of his overall plan to utilize more modern themes. This helps the audience to connect more closely with the emotionalism of the main characters. ("Stravinsky Oedipus Rex," 2012) (Osborne, 2004)

This is taking place through the use of the orchestra, the narrator, soloists and the male chorus. These elements help to create an environment which catches their attention and keeps them drawn to the play. This is a certain amount of grandstanding, by illustrating how these issues are shaping the way the characters see the world around them and their close relationship to the audience. When this happens, everyone can connect with the plot and the emotions of the different individuals. ("Stravinsky Oedipus Rex," 2012) (Osborne, 2004)

The Production

The production is very moving. This is because it can be performed in numerous formats to offer the audience with the maximum effect. For instance, when it first opened in 1927, a concert hall was selected. This is because it provided everyone with an oratorio type of feel. However, over the course of time, other formats have been utilized. The most notable include: as a staged opera and musical production. (Walsh, 1993)

The staged opera is the most effective. This is from the play being written in Latin and utilizing many of the same elements which are common with this genre. These factors help to connect the audience with the characters and the emotionalism. This is achieved through the traditional songs and dance (which is augmented with various modern day elements). (Walsh, 1993) (Osborne, 2004) ("Stravinsky Oedipus Rex," 2012)

In the case of a musical production, it is providing specific insights that are helping to connect the audience with the main themes… [END OF PREVIEW]

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