Personalities | Jean Cocteau | Modern Era | Opera

1889–1963, French

Cocteau was an exceptional and prodigious talent. Inspired by everything around him, he gained an international reputation as a playwright, novelist, poet, artist, opera librettist and filmmaker. After designing the set for Debussy’s opera Pelléas et Mélisande (1926), Cocteau wrote his first libretto for a Stravinsky opera-oratorio. Based on the Oedipus trilogy of plays by Sophocles, Oedipus Rex was translated from French into Latin by Jean Daniélou, thus distancing the text from the audience and creating characters who appear both formal and imposing. For Le Pauvre Matelot (‘The Poor Sailor’, 1927), Cocteau teamed up with Darius Milhaud to create a three-act mini-tragedy about a woman who unwittingly murders her husband whom she has not seen in over 20 years. Posthumously, Cocteau’s films and screenplays have contributed to a Philip Glass trilogy: Orphée, La Belle et la Bête and Les enfants terribles.

Introduction | Modern Era | Opera
Personalities | Eric Crozier | Modern Era | Opera


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