With Nina Stemme in the Title Role
To Be Aired Sunday, September 18 at 12 p.m. on PBS
Elektra, Richard Strauss’s blazing tragedy about an ancient Greek princess hell-bent on revenge, comes to THIRTEEN’S Great Performances at the Met. The opera, the final opera production by the legendary director Patrice Chéreau who died in 2013, airs Sunday, September 18 at 12 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). (In New York, THIRTEEN will air the opera at 12:30 p.m.)
Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts an extraordinary cast headed by Nina Stemme as the obsessed and bloodthirsty title character. Waltraud Meier sings her first Met performances of Klytämnestra, Elektra’s mother and the object of her fury, with Adrianne Pieczonka as Elektra’s sister, Chrysothemis; Eric Owens as her exiled brother, Orest; and German tenor Burkhard Ulrich, in his Met debut, as the corrupt monarch Aegisth.
Elektra was originally seen live in movie theaters on April 30 as part of the groundbreaking The Met: Live in HD series, which transmits live performances to more than 2,000 movie theaters and performing arts centers in over 70 countries around the world. The Live in HD series has reached a record-breaking 20 million viewers since its inception in 2006.
Elektra premiered in Dresden in 1909. Shortly after conquering the opera world with his scandalous masterpiece Salome, Strauss turned to a recent adaptation of Sophocles’s “Electra” by Austrian author Hugo von Hofmannsthal for his next project. The drama unfolds in a single act of rare vocal and orchestral power.
The resulting opera (World premiere: Court Opera, Dresden, 1909; Met premiere: December 3, 1932 with Artur Bodanzky conducting and Gertrude Kappel in the title role) is an intense and still-startling work that unites the commanding impact of Greek tragedy with the unsettling insights of early-20th-century Freudian psychology.
In the courtyard of the Palace of Mycenae, the servants are wondering whether Elektra will be grieving over her father, as is her daily ritual. Daughter of King Agamemnon and Klytämnestra, Elektra appears and locks herself up in her solitude straight away. The servants all criticize and mock her, except for one, who takes her defense.
By herself, Elektra remembers how Agamemnon was assassinated upon his return from Troy, slain with an axe by Klytämnestra and her lover, Aegisth. Devastated with grief, Elektra is obsessed with the revenge she intends to take together with her sister, Chrysothemis, and her brother, Orest. The latter grew up far away from the palace and Elektra is keenly waiting for him day after day.
Chrysothemis interrupts Elektra, who is caught up in her thoughts, and warns her that Klytämnestra and Aegisth have decided to lock her up in a tower. Chrysothemis asks her sister to renounce vengeance and let life take over again. Elektra rejects the idea with disdain. Continue reading