Written by: Richard Whitehouse
This month sees the UK stage premiere of one of the 20th-century’s best kept operatic secrets, when George Enescu’s Oedipe is given at the Royal Opera House (London) in a production by Catalan company La Fura dels Baus, with Johan Reuter in the title-role and Leo Hussain conducting.
Working to a libretto by French author Edmond Fleg, Enescu wrote the score quickly during 1921 and 1922, but the orchestration was not completed for almost a further decade. The premiere in Paris in March 1936 was well received, but its dramatic scope and musical complexity meant the opera received only a handful of performances that season and was not heard again until a Brussels production in 1956 (a year after the composer’s death). A concert performance at the Edinburgh Festival in 2002 is the only previous occasion the work has been heard in Britain.
This ROH staging has already been seen at La Monnaie in Brussels, where it attracted controversy for the graphic violence of certain scenes. The present cast also features Sir John Tomlinson as Tirésias, Sophie Bevan as Antigone, Sarah Connolly as Jocaste, Hubert Francis as Laïos, Claudia Huckle as Mérope and Marie-Nicole Lemieux as The Sphinx. The production is directed by Àlex Ollé and Valentina Carrasco. Leo Hussain had conducted the opera at La Monnaie as well as in Bucharest, where it was part of last year’s Enescu Festival.
Further information on the background to Oedipe can be found on the following link.