This 1992 film of the 2-act opera-oratorio by Stravinsky is taken from the Saito Kinen Festival in Japan, so obviously the production is more oriental than western. Notwithstanding this fact, Sophocles' "classic tragedy" is brilliantly portrayed in all its grand barbarity and at times unbearable cruelty. Jocasta's suicide in particular is a stark re-enactment of "harakiri", so the attempt by producers Peter Gelb and Pat Jaffe to give the story a Japanese flavour works pretty well, although George Tyspin's set design and Emi Wada's costumes could have been less grotesque.
The two main parts are sung with conviction and a consuming passion that heighten the tension the more the story evolves. The opera is sung in Latin but the narrator's part is in Japanese, something which might not go down well with the fastidious.
Ozawa's attention to detail brings out the best from soloists, chorus and orchestra, and his strong sense of drama bedecks the performance with an overwhelming sense of foreboding. Sound and picture are also excellent.
This DVD also includes an hour of very enlightening interviews with Julie Taymor (director), George Tyspin, Ozawa and Jessye Norman. An unusual production of an unusual masterpiece by one of the 20th century's greatest masters which should strike a strong chord in one's imagination. Challenging but rewarding.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech