Enescu: Oedipe

Enescu: Oedipe

by Michael Gielen
     
 

What will it take for Oedipe, George Enescu's operatic masterpiece, to find the permanent place it deserves in the repertoire? Despite a major 1989 recording, with José Van Dam in the title role surrounded by a starry supporting cast, it's still fair to characterize Enescu's take on the Oedipus story as one of the most unjustly neglected 20th-centurySee more details below

Overview

What will it take for Oedipe, George Enescu's operatic masterpiece, to find the permanent place it deserves in the repertoire? Despite a major 1989 recording, with José Van Dam in the title role surrounded by a starry supporting cast, it's still fair to characterize Enescu's take on the Oedipus story as one of the most unjustly neglected 20th-century operas. Offered at a fraction of the earlier recording's cost, this Naxos release will with any luck encourage listeners to take a chance and discover the opera's power. Although the familiar events of Oedipus Rex are at its core, culminating in the revelation of incest and the protagonist's self-blinding, the opera -- set to a French libretto, and composed after Enescu returned from Paris to Romania -- takes in a vivid series of tableaux, from the birth of Oedipus (literally, as the first vocal sounds we hear are his mother's cries during childbirth) to his death. Anyone familiar with Enescu's Romanian Rhapsodies should be aware that the style of this opera is quite different, tinged less by folk tunes and dance rhythms than by the music the composer had encountered in France. Even so, Oedipe seldom sounds anything like Debussy or Ravel (though it is somewhat akin to Honegger or Roussel), as the influences have been thoroughly absorbed into Enescu's own late-Romantic voice.

Recorded live at the Vienna State Opera in 1997, this set is also a significant posthumous addition to the discography of bass-baritone Monte Pederson, whose career was tragically cut short with his death, aged only 43, in 2001. Pederson's portrayal of Oedipus rivals Van Dam's in dramatic potency (if not quite in vocal beauty), reaching its peak in his eloquent Act IV soliloquy. But both recordings of Oedipe are nearly stolen by contralto Marjana Lipovsek, who's made a specialty of the small but indelibly strange role of the Sphinx, delivering an Act II aria full of microtonal sliding all over the singer's range. (In this recording, Lipovsek is double-cast in the role of Jocasta as well.) Michael Gielen leads a very strong performance, though there are moments that raise our awareness of the score's difficulty and unfamiliarity. Regardless, this is an important release of a major work at superb value -- in a word, essential.

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Product Details

Release Date:
01/17/2006
Label:
Naxos
UPC:
0730099616324
catalogNumber:
8660163-64
Rank:
223487

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Oedipe, opera, Op. 23  - George Enescu  - Michael Gielen  -  Buhnenorchester der Osterreichischen Bundestheater  -  Vienna State Opera Chorus  - Ruxandra Donose  - Walter Fink  - Peter Koves  - Marjana Lipovsek  -  Vienna State Opera Orchestra  - Monte Pederson  - Michael Roider  - Goran Simic  -  Vienna Boys' Choir  - Josef Hopferweiser  - Egils Silins  - Edmond Fleg  - Davide Damiani  - Mihaela Ungureanu

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