Richard Strauss 1864–1949
Tragedy in one act
Libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal based on Sophocles
First performed January 25 1909, Royal Opera House, Dresden
Sung in German with German & English surtitles
Introductory talks (in German) in the Holzfoyer 3o mins before performances begin and available here on video shortly before opening night
Elektra's obsessed with taking revenge for her father Agamemnon’s murder.
He was killed by her mother Klytämnestra and her lover Aegisth; Klytämnestra taking revenge for Agamemnon sacrificing her daughter Iphigenia to ensure favourable winds for his fleet sailing to Troy. Elektra and her sister Chrysothemis, who just wants to lead a normal life, are being held prisoner. Their brother was sent into exile as a child; Elektra longs for his return. Two strangers bring news of Orest’s accidental death.
Can Elektra persuade her sister to help her kill their mother, or must she do it alone? And who are the two strangers? Hugo von Hofmannsthal wrote his drama in 1903, based on Sophocles, a few years after Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud published their studies on hysteria. Unlike the ancient tragedy, Hofmannsthal focusses on Elektra’s psyche. Richard Strauss’ opera digs even deeper into her soul than the play; this was the beginning of an extremely fruitful collaboration between composer and poet.
With unbelievable force and outrageous harmonies the huge orchestras allows us to hear the woman being overwhelmed, again and again, by her fantasies of revenge. The work takes up the insights of the founder of psychoanalysis, which were spreading at the beginning of the century, to such a degree that Elektra almost seems like a clinical study.