Oedipus Rex: PG-13 or R?

On the train back to Boston with my coworker yesterday, I was looking over the sheet music for our next TFC concert when my coworker asked about my next performance. I told him, “The first week in May we‘ll be doing Stravinsky’s Œdipus Rex.”

“Cool,” he said. “I’ll have to bring my daughter. She’s thirteen and taking voice lessons. She’d love it.”

Ah, I thought. But will she—or you—love the story? It’s such a nice story too—just in time for Mother’s Day.

The music, though, is absolutely astonishing. Stravinsky wrote some of the most amazingly inventive, sinuous melody lines for this work, which sports a libretto by Jean Cocteau. I think my personal favorite is the herky-jerky chromaticism of the passage where Œdipus batters down the door, kills his mother/wife, and puts out his own eyes. The music, if you’re not careful, sounds a little like a circus act. Last night in practice it sounded like the arrival of the Furies: after a couple of rehearsals John Oliver’s intensity kicked up a notch and he urged us deeper into the meaning of the music, and the results were unsettlingly good. I am looking forward to hearing the orchestration next week.

Of course, the question is, can I in conscience recommend the piece to my co-worker? I guess I’ll have to do what I would want him to do for me when I have a kid: send him the synopsis and a pointer to some of the music and let him make up his own mind.