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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

Vlepondas (1996)
Text Writer
compiled by Mother Thekla
Chester Music Ltd
Solo Voice(s) and up to 6 players
Year Composed
20 Minutes

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Programme Note
John Tavener Vlepondas (1996)
Вλεπουτας literally means “seeing” or “sight” in Greek. The text was compiled by Mother Thekla, abbess of the Orthodox Monastery of the Assumption, Normanby, and it is taken from the story of the blind man in St John’s Gospel; Oedipus the King by Sophocles; and a brief passage from King Lear.

The paradox of these two events is presented poetically in the form of an isosceles triangle. Oedipus, the king, in remorse for his inadvertent murder and incest, gouges out his eyes, and is subsequently acclaimed as a tragic hero, expiating his sin by his own hand, in traditional Greek heroic style. On the other side of the triangle, the man in the Gospel, blind from birth through some unidentified sin, receives his sight in repentance. Here we have two kinds of blindness, two kinds of King, and a clue to the enigma of sight.

Oedipus, the tragic, popularly acclaimed hero-king, Christ the complete antithesis of this, in the absolute denial of man’s sovereign authority. Oedipus – acclaimed: Christ – crucified. The everlasting mystery: Man-King – adored! Man –God – driven out!

The music is presented austerely, with three “voices”: soprano, baritone and cello. Each voice should be prepared as a virtuoso part in its own right. The musical triangle reaches its spiritual peak at the words “Jesus the King”, where it flowers like a lotus, the still point of the turning world. The style of singing in this section derives from the Indian “druped” style, and it is suggested that performers listen to recordings of the Dagar Brothers, masters of this most ancient and sacred music.


  • 21 JAN 1998
    Vlepondas UK Premiere
    Queen Elizabeth Hall
    Patricia Rozario, soprano / Spiros Sakkas, baritone / Raphael Wallfisch, cello

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