5 Reasons to See Elektra
Vengeful, implacable, pathological—the character of Elektra has gripped writers for nearly 2,500 years. This mesmerizing protagonist, with her notorious lust for revenge and morbid father fixation, has appeared in places as diverse as Greek tragedy, Expressionist opera, contemporary theater and film, Marvel comics and Jungian psychology. Richard Strauss’ Elektra is an intense masterpiece of early 20th-century opera that sets the title character on an inexorable path leading to a final cataclysm of violence, accompanied by a revolutionary score that is, in the words of one critic, “the color of blood.” Here’s five reasons why you shouldn’t miss this masterpiece opera.
1) It’s not five hours long
After his sensational 1905 setting of Oscar Wilde’s Salome, Strauss turned to Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s adaptation of Sophocles’ Electra. Like Salome, the new work unfolded in real time and was relatively brief—about 100 minutes. Such compression let Strauss sustain a mood of intense anguish and sonic excitement in one unbroken hearing. Later in his career, he would compose much lengthier operas, such as Der Rosenkavalier and Capriccio. But early on, Strauss knew that less is more.
2) The story is pure drama and action
The title character of Elektra is a daughter utterly horrified and driven to revenge by the death of her warrior-father, King Agamemnon. And the killer? None other than Elektra’s mother, Klytämnestra, who conspired with her lover Aegisth to do the bloody deed (this is all back story). The action of the opera is vengeance-starved Elektra’s yearning for the death of her mother, which her brother, Orest, eventually arrives to carry out. When the work had its London premiere in 1910, critic Ernest Newman condemned Strauss for wallowing in madness and perversion. Where do we sign up?
4) Strauss’ music will make your ears happy
Classical composers are expected to be gifted orchestrators, but few goaded the forces of a pit to such rapturous intensity and audacity as Strauss. Some of his music is angular and harsh, other parts are soaring and sensuous. Blogging in the New York Review of Books last year, Tim Page says of Elektra: “Dark, chaotic, and crushingly dissonant, it may be the only work of early modernism that retains the power to shock an audience silly; after more than a century, it has lost none of its horrible fascination. Our production stars German soprano Sabine Hogrefe who just performed the titular role of Elektra at the Metropolitan Opera in 2018.
There are 87 musicians in the Minnesota Opera Orchestra for Elektra, making it the largest orchestra in the company’s history. This production is HUGE!
Don’t miss out when Strauss’ powerhouse one-act, Elektra, hits the Ordway stage on October 5-13. Get your tickets today at mnopera.org/elektra!