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Richard Strauss (born Munich, 11 June 1864; died Garmisch, 8 September 1949)

Hugo von Hofmannsthal.

Hofmannsthal’s play (1903), in turn adapted from tragedy (411 or 410 BC) by Sophocles (496-406 BC).

First performance: Dresden (Semper Opernhaus), 25 January 1909.
First UK performance: London (Covent Garden), 19 February 1910.
First performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 26 March 1912.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.

Elektra, his fourth opera, has been widely seen as the end of the period during which Strauss experimented with new forms and violently aggressive subject matter and musical style. It is also thought to be one of his most successful pieces, and the intense drama is cannily paced over one concentrated act lasting much less than two hours.

Main Characters
Elektra, daughter of Klytemnestra (soprano)
Chrysothemis, her sister (soprano)
Klytemnestra, widow of Agamemnon (mezzo-soprano)
Orestes, her son (bass-baritone)
Orestes’ Tutor (bass)
Aegisthus, Klytemnestra’s lover (tenor)
Five Maidservants (2 sopranos; 3 mezzo-sopranos)

Plot Summary
Before leaving to take part in the Trojan War, Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, had his daughter Iphigenia sacrificed to ensure a good outcome. This act so infuriated his wife, Klytemnestra, that on his return she murdered him. Their daughter Elektra, fearing for the safety of her brother Orestes, still a child, sent him abroad with his tutor, but stayed behind, with Chrysothemis, awaiting her own opportunity for revenge against her mother. She secretly buried the axe used to kill Agamemnon to have it ready when needed.

As the drama opens, several years have passed, and Klytemnestra rules in tandem with her lover Aegisthus. Elektra, still obsessed by ideas of vengeance, is barely tolerated in the palace, and lives the life of a wild animal. Most of the house servants mistreat her, and only her milder sister keeps contact. Elektra longs for the day when she and Orestes will kill Klytemnestra and Aegisthus, and she will dance with joy. But Chrysothemis only longs to escape from her mother’s clutches. Klytemnestra hates Elektra, who accuses her of plotting to have Orestes murdered. News comes that Orestes has been killed, and Elektra resolves to kill Klytemnestra herself. Chrysothemis refuses to help and runs off. As Elektra digs up the buried axe a young man interrupts her. He confirms that Orestes is dead, but is taken aback by her extravagant reaction. She admits that she is Elektra, but she only recognises him when some old servants greet him as the long-lost Orestes. Brother and sister join in a powerfully written Recognition Scene. Orestes and his tutor are invited inside the palace, as unknown but welcome guests who brought the news about Orestes. The execution of Klytemnestra is heard offstage. When Aegisthus enters the courtyard he is surprised by the pleasure with which Elektra greets him as she escorts him in to his death. As Chrysothemis and panicking servants run into the courtyard, Elektra launches into her dance of triumph, until she at last drops dead.

The Cast

 Klytämnestra's lover
 sister to Elektra and Orest
 daughter of Klytämnestra and Agamemnon
Fifth Maid
First Maid
Fourth Maid
 widow of Agamemnon
Old Servant
 son of Klytämnestra and Agamemnon
Second Maid
Third Maid
 in Orest's service
Young Servant

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