Edmonton Opera Blog

Entries from February 2017

The dystopian fashions of Elektra

Tuesday, February 28. 2017

Edmonton Opera’s upcoming production of Elektra takes you on a thrilling 100-minute journey into the mind of a woman possessed by hatred. Based on the Greek tragedy by Sophocles, this opera delves into the psychological dysfunction of its protagonist both through music and staging. While the story is set in ancient Greece, our new production goes far into the future with post-apocalyptic designs to reflect a crumbling, dystopian world.

Costume designer Deanna Finnman was inspired by the decaying nature of Elektra’s family, rocked by murder and betrayal. The glory of the house of Atreus ended when Elektra’s mother Klytämnestra killed Elektra’s father Agamemnon. Now, their mansion lies in ruins and Elektra spends her days in anguish.

The only person who retains a sense of royalty is Klytämnestra, since she and her lover Aegisth have taken over the kingdom after murdering Agamemnon. Klytämnestra is the queen bee of this post-apocalyptic world, and her costume is easily the most glamorous and colourful. Her maids are also better dressed than the other servants.

Elektra’s brother Orest has travelled back home after spending time in exile, and his costume is more desert-inspired. Elektra herself perhaps looks the most disheveled in the entire cast, considering that she no longer has any sense of self. Having spent her time dwelling outside the palace, her clothes are frayed and she appears completely neglected.

Even the scenic design presents a dark, shattered world. The set is based on a real-life house of horrors – Gonjiam Hospital in South Korea, an abandoned psychiatric facility where patients were apparently kept in abhorrent conditions leading to their deaths. The building has earned iconic status as one of the creepiest places on earth, with many reports of supernatural activity and unexplained screams.

The set invokes feelings of abandonment, despair, and rotting foundations to reflect Elektra’s own trapped world. Much like the deserted hospital, Elektra’s family home is no longer a place of humanity.


Experience the dysfunction and dystopia in our post-apocalyptic production of Strauss's Elektra! Tickets are selling fast, get yours today from $40.

Elektra: 100 minutes of operatic genius

Friday, February 24. 2017

At its 1909 premiere in Dresden, Germany, Elektra left the audience shocked by its sheer brilliance. The New York Times review pictured here is one of many reactions that established this piece’s insane magnificence.

When you consider that “beads of actual perspiration stood out upon many a forehead” in Elektra’s opening night audience, and the reviewer declared “such demoniacal orchestral and vocal effects have never before been set to music”, then Strauss’s status as “a genius and a wizard” is gloriously justified.

The music of Elektra is also particularly inventive because it seeks to both mirror and fuel the protagonist’s emotional states. When the orchestra becomes dissonant, Elektra’s mind descends into chaos; when she runs around the stage frantically, the orchestra keeps up with tremendous pace.

Stylistically, Strauss almost belongs in his own category. Both Elektra and his previous opera Salome (1905) defied the musical conventions of the time, and embodied an expressionism that was not yet mainstream. The orchestra in Elektra is large and produces clashing sounds, which create a dissonant and chromatic landscape for the opera. The music is not always ‘pleasant’, rather it relies on some degree of sensory assault. On the other hand, there are also some moments of lush, lyrical romanticism that reflect Strauss's 19th century influences. 

Elektra runs at a solid 100 minutes with no intermission, taking you along for an intense roller coaster ride through its protagonist’s turbulent emotions. This is definitely not your typical opera, and pushes the boundaries of the art form itself. 

Violence that’s sung, not shown

Often referred to as ‘the bloodiest opera ever’, Elektra goes deeper into the troubled human psyche than any piece before it. In a time when graphic violence on shows like Game of Thrones dominates, Strauss’s opera still has the ability to create hair-raising moments with the sheer force of music.

The horror does not necessarily come from actual depictions of blood and gore, in fact, there is no on stage violence in this opera. Elektra’s words, however, are the true source of terror throughout. She gives the audience vivid descriptions of how her mother will be killed, the rivers of blood that will flow from their house, and how she will stand over her mother’s writhing body to declare her father’s victory. Elektra chillingly illustrates how her father was murdered and ferociously describes the ways Klytämnestra will be butchered by her own son Orest.


Experience Strauss's intense genius with Elektra March 11, 14 & 16 at the Jubilee. Tickets from $40!

Elektra: Richard Strauss's hellish masterpiece

Saturday, February 18. 2017

In just three weeks, Edmonton Opera will present the Alberta premiere of Richard Strauss’s groundbreaking theatrical triumph Elektra. Based on an ancient Greek play by Sophocles, this opera follows the terrifying tragedy of its protagonist as she becomes consumed with lethal revenge.

Devastated by the murder of her beloved father, Elektra takes justice into her own hands and pursues the killer, who happens to be her own mother Klytämnestra. But when calculated revenge turns into overpowering obsession, Elektra can no longer maintain her grasp on reality — in a spine-chilling climax, Elektra’s fragile psyche shatters completely.

Intrigued? Here is more of what you can expect in our new production set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future. You do not want to miss seeing the axe-wielding protagonist of Elektra in action.

There will be blood.

Elektra was born into a family ripped apart by war and chaos. Her father, King Agamemnon, had chosen to sacrifice his oldest daughter Iphigenia as a way to appease the gods before heading to battle. This decision was fiercely opposed by his wife Klytämnestra, and she swore to avenge the spilling of her innocent daughter’s blood.

When Agamemnon returned home victorious after several years at war, Klytämnestra and her lover Aegisth murdered him and took over the kingdom. Elektra and her sister Chrysothemis became prisoners in their own home, while their brother Orest was banished for threatening to ascend the throne that was rightfully his.

All of this happens before Elektra even begins, setting the stage for an opera that could only end in more tragedy.

Honour thy father, not thy mother

Elektra is beyond furious at the killing of her beloved father; the only thing on her mind is revenge. She also misses him with an intensity that affects her physical and mental health, causing her to wander around in grief.

This opera’s greatest aria is Elektra’s 10-minute long soliloquy dedicated to her father. She shouts “Agamemnon, Agamemnon!” almost like an incantation, praying for his return from the dead.

Elektra’s anguish soon transforms into rage — now all she wants is revenge. Her mother Klytämnestra needs to die. Nothing and no one can come in Elektra’s path to slaughtering her nemesis.

Opera’s most dangerous woman

The polar opposite of our recent production Cinderella, Strauss’s tormented heroine is determined to take fate in her own hands and pursue the brutal revenge she spends all her waking hours thinking about. From the moment Elektra appears on stage, you know that terrible things are about to unfold in the next hour and a half. With axe in hand and fire in her step, Elektra charges forward to complete her murderous mission.

There’s more to come! Watch for our next blog post where we explore the origins of this opera in a violent Greek tragedy. And learn more about the hair-raising music of Elektra!


Experience the intense psychological thriller March 11, 14 & 16 at the Jubilee. Tickets from $40!