- Elektra (opera)
Mourning Becomes Electrafor a reference to the 1967 opera, based on the 1931 Eugene O'Neillplay."
"Elektra" is a one-act
operaby Richard Strauss, to a German-language libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthaladapted from his drama of 1903—the first of many such collaborations between composer and librettist. It was first performed at the Dresden State Opera on January 25, 1909, and remains a part of the standard operatic repertoire.
The plot of "Elektra" is based upon the great Greek tragedy of the same name by the tragedian
Sophocles. The unrelenting gloom and horror that permeate the original play produce, in the hands of Hofmannsthal and Strauss, a drama whose sole theme is revenge. Klytemnästra ( Clytemnestra), helped by her paramour Aegisth ( Aegistheus), has secured the murder of her husband, Agamemnon, and now is afraid that her guilt will be discovered by her children, Elektra ( Electra), Chrysothemis, and their banished brother Orest (Orestes). Elektra, who is the personification of the passionate lust for vengeance, tries to persuade her timid sister to kill Klytemnästra and Aegisth. Before the plan is carried out, Orest, who had been reported as dead, arrives and, upon being told the truth by Elektra, determines upon revenge for his father's death. He kills Klytemnästra and Aegisth; Elektra, in an ecstatic dance of triumph, falls dead in front of her horror-stricken attendants.
tyle and instrumentation
Musically, "Elektra" deploys dissonance, chromaticism and extremely fluid
tonalityin a way which recalls but moves beyond the same composer's Salome of 1905, and which represents Strauss's furthest advances in modernism, from which he later retreated. The bitonal or extended Elektra chordis a well known dissonance from the opera while harmonic parallelismis also prominent modernist technique [DeLone et al, eds., "Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music" p.333, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall ISBN 0-13-049346-5.] .
To support the overwhelming emotional content of the opera, Strauss uses a very large and in some ways unusual
orchestra, with the following instrumentation:
flutes (third flute doubling a second piccolo)
oboes (third oboe doubling English horn)
** 4 clarinets in B-flat and A
** 8 horns (horns 5-8 doubling 2 B flat tenor and 2 F bass
** 2 tenor trombones
** 1 bass trombone
** 1 contrabass trombone
**1 contrabass tuba
timpani(handled by two players)
** bass drum (with switch)
** an unorthodox strings grouping, viz.
violins 1, 2, 3, and 4 (violin 4 doubles viola1)
violas 2 and 3
violoncellos 1 and 2, and
Motives and chords
The characters in "Elektra" are famously characterized in the music through motives or chords including the
Elektra chord. Klytamnestra, in contrast to Agamemnon's clearly diatonic minor triad motif, is characterized by a bitonal six note collection most often represented as a pair of two minor chords a tritone apart, typically on B and F, rather than simultaneouslyLawrence Kramer, "Fin-de-siècle Fantasies: "Elektra", Degeneration and Sexual Science", "Cambridge Opera Journal", Vol. 5, No. 2,July 1993, pp. 141-165.] .
Agamemnon is depicted through a triadic motive:
Despite the much admired "orchestral virtuosity" and "musical structure" Kramer criticizes the portrayal of Elektra, as with Salome, as
misogynist, comparing it to the portrayal of women in Otto Weininger's "Sex and Character".
* [http://www.amadeusonline.net/almanacco.php?Start=0&Giorno=25&Mese=01&Anno=1909&Giornata=&Testo=&Parola=Stringa Amadeus Almanac]
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