Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Elektra. It was last on stage 23 September—12 October 2013 as part of the Autumn 2013/14 season.
Klytämnestra has murdered her husband, King Agamemnon. Her daughter Elektra determines to avenge her father’s death.
With the first chords of Elektra, we are plunged into a psychologically intense and violent world. The opera shocked audiences (and even its performers!) when it had its premiere in Dresden in 1909. Today, as then, Elektra’s desperate need to avenge the murder of her father by her mother makes for gripping drama. At 90 minutes, the opera is one of Strauss’s most concentrated works, and in style and instrumentation one of his most modernist scores.
The political and social fractures in early 20th-century Europe, and emerging concepts of psychology, provide a rich subtext in Charles Edwards’s production. The set and costumes allude to Classical and early 20th-century art and architecture, and highlight the moral decay at the heart of Klytämnestra’s kingdom. Strauss’s richly-orchestrated score takes the principal singers to their vocal limits. It is characterized by dramatic musical motifs, including the distinctive ‘Agamemnon’ motif, used to represent Elektra’s obsessive thoughts of revenge. This highly dramatic opera also contains passages of great vocal beauty, including Elektra’s rapturous recognition of her brother Orest, returned to avenge his father.
News and features
15 September 2016
Debate: Are intervals a frustrating distraction from the drama or a valuable break to gather thoughts?
24 February 2015
11 August 2014
26 June 2014
13 June 2014
27 May 2014
Elektra, Op. 58, is a one-act opera by Richard Strauss, to a German-language libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, which he adapted from his 1903 drama Elektra. The opera was the first of many collaborations between Strauss and Hofmannsthal. It was first performed at the Dresden State Opera on 25 January 1909. It was dedicated to his friends Natalie and Willy Levin. While based on ancient Greek mythology, the opera is highly modernist and expressionist. Hofmannsthal and Strauss's adaptation of the story focuses tightly on Elektra, thoroughly developing her character by single-mindedly expressing her emotions and psychology as she meets with other characters, mostly one at a time. The other characters are Klytaemnestra, her mother and one of the murderers of her father Agamemnon; her sister, Chrysothemis; her brother, Orestes; and Klytaemnestra's lover, Aegisthus. Various aspects from the myth are minimized as background to Elektra's character and her obsession. Other facets of the ancient story are completely excluded, in particular the earlier sacrifice by Agamemnon of his and Klytaemnestra's daughter Iphigenia, which was the motivation for Klytaemnestra's subsequent murder of Agamemnon. These changes tightened the focus on Elektra's furious lust for revenge. The result is a very modern, expressionistic retelling of the ancient Greek myth. Compared to Sophocles's Electra, the opera presents raw, brutal, violent, and bloodthirsty horror. Ståle Wikshåland has analysed the use of time and temporality in the dramaturgy of Elektra. Elektra is one of the most frequently performed operas based on classical Greek mythology. Elektra received its UK premiere at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1910 with Edyth Walker in the title role and Thomas Beecham conducting. The first United States performance of the opera in the original German was given by the Philadelphia Grand Opera Company at the Academy of Music on 29 October 1931, with Anne Roselle in the title role, Charlotte Boerner as Chrysothemis, Margarete Matzenauer as Klytaemnestra, Nelson Eddy as Orest, and Fritz Reiner conducting.