Director Michael Cavanagh on Elektra

Edmonton Opera Blog

Director Michael Cavanagh on Elektra

It's been said that every relationship and, especially, every family is dysfunctional; it's just the degree that differs. Even the healthiest inter-personal dynamics have tensions and issues that get in the way. When your father is butchered with an axe in the bathtub, by your mother and her new lover no less, the emotional challenges for your family relations become rather amplified. And what art form does amplified emotions better than opera?

This incredible score, which Richard Strauss has imbued with a darkness and intensity like almost no other, along with a libretto by one of the towering poetic talents of the Romantic period, Hugo Von Hofmannsthal, embraces the horror of this ancient myth of gods and mortals bent on revenge in a way that allows an audience a wonderful and rare experience: catharsis.

From the Greek for "purification", it denotes a release of emotions through any extreme change that results in renewal and restoration. The genius of Elektra is that the catharsis that's anticipated for the whole story, that of vengeance through bloodshed, is not that which is actually experienced. The revenge Elektra lusts for all night comes to pass, all right, yet she enjoys no release. Rather, she is brought down – as we must all surely be – by this darkest of desires. Instead, the catharsis comes through a dual epiphany: the only way to break the cycle of death is to embrace life; the only way to get past a wrong is to forgive. Elektra realizes this too late. The other witnesses, on stage and in the audience, realize it through her horrific ordeal and (we hope) learn to apply it to their own lives.

The big, loud lives of queens, princesses, gods, and heroes echo through the ages and resonate with our own, smaller, quieter lives. No art form makes this point more powerfully than opera. No opera makes a stronger statement of it than Elektra. This week, I invite you to embrace and enjoy the catharsis.

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Elektra storms the Jubilee stage March 11, 14 & 16. Tickets are selling fast, so get yours today from $40! 

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