Oedipus the King

Scope and Content

Michael Langham, Artistic Director at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota commissioned Burgess to write a new English translation of Sophocles' play, Oedipus the King, in 1972. The production opened at The Guthrie Theatre on 24 October 1972. Performances were accompanied by a series of Indo-European chants, composed by Stanley Silverman to a text by Burgess, which anticipated the languages Burgess would later devise for the 1981 film Quest for Fire, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud.

After Oedipus the King opened, Burgess and Silverman adapted the script and music for concert performance as King Oedipus, for Speaker, Chorus, and Orchestra. The cantata was presented on 16 May 1973 at the Whitney Museum in New York, with Burgess narrating.

This series contains drafts of Burgess's adaptation of Sophocles' play, his introduction to his translation of the text, a galley proof of Burgess's adaptation (prior to publication), and an etymological dictionary, compiled by an unknown individual for Burgess, possibly in support of this project. The series also includes draft lyrics for a sacrificial chant in reconstructed Indo-European and a theatre programme for the original production of the play at The GuthrieTheatre in 1972.

Source: "A Clockwork Counterpoint: the Music and Literature of Anthony Burgess" by Paul Phillips (Manchester University Press, 2010)