The Salzburg Festival’s Oedipe is both illuminating and distracting

'Oedipe' in Salzburg

(Financial Times) — Outfitted with boxing gloves, Oedipus sets out to vanquish fate. He may have killed his father and married his mother. In this version of the myth, he is still innocent, disappearing Jesus-like in a flash of light.

Enescu’s Oedipe traces the title character from his birth in Corinth, to his victory over the Theban Sphinx, to the downfall of his dynasty. Synthesising the monumentality of Wagner with the atmospheric textures of Debussy, neoclassical structures of Stravinsky and colours of Romanian folklore, the score is a 20th-century masterpiece in its own right.

In Salzburg, the Mount Olympus of summer festivals follows a modest revival of the opera over the past three decades with a production by Achim Freyer, whose signature cartoonish aesthetic is by turns illuminating and distracting. The veteran German director — who presides over his own stage and costume designs — deftly exploits the wide dimensions and stone-walled balconies of the Felsenreitschule to create a dreamscape where giant insects, ghouls and saintly creatures appear from the shadows. […]