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
this production first seen March 19 2023
Sung in German with German & English surtitles
Introductory talks (in German) in the Holzfoyer 30 minutes before performances begin and on video HERE
BACKGROUND Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia in return for favourable winds for the Greek fleet under his command. When the King returned victorious from Troy his wife Clytemnestra took her revenge by murdering him, with her lover Aegisthus’ help, in his bath. Then sent her son Orestes into exile. YEARS LATER … Day after day Elektra conjures up the image of her dead father. She’s obsessed by one thing alone: revenge on her mother Clytemnestra and Aegisthus for murdering Agamemnon. Her sister Chrysothemis just wants to lead a normal life: get married and have children. Clytemnestra’s tormented by sleepless nights and terrible dreams. In the company of her minders she encounters Elektra, who – for once – is friendly towards her. Clytemnestra casts her confidante and trainbearer’s warnings to the wind and asks her daughter for advice. Elektra seems willing, but steers the conversation towards a horrifiying vision; vividly describing to her mother the only thing can bring her relief: her own death, which Orestes will deal her. News reaches them that Orestes, whose return Elektra so desperately longs for, is dead. She tries to persuade her sister Chrysothemis to help her take revenge with their own hands; but she refuses. A stranger appears saying he witnessed Orestes fatal accident. Elektra’s violent reaction makes him ask what her name is. When he recognises his sister, he drops his disguise: It’s Orestes, who managed to get in by pretending to be a messenger bringing news of his own death. Or is he just a figment of Elektra’s imagination? Orestes’ companion urges haste. Suddenly all hell breaks loose in the house. When Aegisthus comes, Elektra lights his way. Chrysothemis reports that revenge has been carried out. Elektra begins a dance of joy; but collapses, lifeless on the ground.
Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenie in return for favourable winds for his fleet’s voyage to Troy. Since he was killed by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisth on his victorious return from war 10 years ago, Elektra has been obsessed by one thought alone: avenging her father’s murder. She and her sister Chrysothemis, who only wants to lead a normal life, are kept like prisoners. Her brother was sent into exile as a child; Elektra longs for his return. Two strangers bring news of Orestes' accidental death. Elektra tries, in vain, to persuade her sister to help her take revenge on their mother. She realises she must carry out the deed alone – then Oreste appears. Or is Elektra imagining it? Hofmannsthal and Strauss concentrated on the title figure’s psyche, but Claus Guth goes one step further, using the driving force of the music to make the fragile state of a wounded soul visible.