The saying “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” might as well have been in direct reference to Strauss’s Elektra, widely regarded as one of the most chilling operas ever composed. Both the protagonist and antagonist of this opera are brutal, remorseless, and possessed by a vengeance that obscures all their humanity.
The Greek myth of Electra, which is the basis of Strauss’s masterpiece, starts with the murder of an innocent and is written entirely in blood — King Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to ensure victory in the Trojan War, against his wife Clytemnestra’s wishes. Clytemnestra promises revenge on her husband, and upon his return from the war, murders Agamemnon in cold blood.
Electra — Clytemnestra and Agamemnon’s other daughter — is completely devastated by her father’s death. She cannot forgive her mother’s deeds and becomes obsessed with plotting revenge. Colluding with her exiled brother Orestes, Electra avenges her beloved father and kills Clytemnestra.
When Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal adapted the story of Electra in 1909, they put a magnifying glass on her descent into madness. Influenced by the recent wave of psychoanalytic studies by Freud, Elektra incorporates dissonance and chromatic music to create the psychological landscape of its protagonist. As Elektra becomes frenzied, so does the music. As the orchestra’s pace becomes feverish, Elektra begins to drown in her own turmoil.
Elektra is a solid 100-minute dose of non-stop intensity, and will bring some hauntingly dramatic music to the Jubilee in this Alberta premiere. Starring soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs, acclaimed for her portrayal of opera’s famous ‘madwomen’ (Salome, Elektra, Lady Macbeth), this production also welcomes Alex Prior, newly appointed chief conductor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
Do you dare to face the wrath of Elektra? Tickets are on sale now starting at $40!
Photo: Soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs in the 2015 production of Elektra at Teatro Comunale di Bologna.