OEDIPUS REX/SYMPHONY OF PSALMS by Igor Stravinsky, directed by François Girard, with Michael Schade, Ewa Podles, Peteris Eglitis, Robert Pomakov, Michael Colvin and Don McKellar. Presented by the Canadian Opera Company at the Hummingbird Centre (1 Front East). October 3, 9 and 12 at 8 pm, October 6 at 2 pm. $20-$138. 416-872-2262. Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
A hit at the recent Edinburgh festival, the Canadian Opera Company's 1997 production pairing Stravinsky's opera oratorio Oedipus Rex with his choral and orchestral Symphony Of Psalms returns home, easily one of the strongest shows in COC history.Director François Girard and set/costume designer Michael Levine create a living, moving, singing stage picture evoking tragedy that transcends time and place.
During the opening Symphony Of Psalms, the names of people who've died of AIDS are scratched out on a huge screen. This leads symbolically to the opening plague-ridden first scene of Oedipus Rex, where dead or dying bodies literally support the king's throne.
What's astonishing here is how Girard and Levine make the opera, which can be static, come alive dramatically.
Jocasta's sensuous aria is accompanied by an erotic scene of female bodies cavorting. Visual elements reinforce the theme -- Oedipus's long blood-red cape, for instance, suggests an umbilical cord and a trail of blood.
Well cast and sung, Ewa Podles's Jocasta is blood-curdlingly good; Michael Schade's title character is firm and arrogant in his early scenes, suitably pitiful in his later ones. This is music drama at its finest, not one image, gesture or note wasted.