Elektra by R. Strauss. 20-24 April 2004. Conducted by Alain Lombard, directed by Henning Brockhaus, with Janice Baird, Karan Armstrong, Stuart Kale. This operas libretto by Hugo von Hoffmansthal is based on Sophocless play; it was first performed in Dresden in 1909. The first fruit of the Strauss/Hoffmansthal partnership, it is often regarded as Strausss greatest opera. Elektra is a powerful, harsh and frenzied setting of Sophocless tragedy, and the title role is one of the most vocally demanding in all opera. See Opera Notes.
At the Teatro dellOpera in Rome, Elektra by Richard Strauss returns 20-24 April, in a version first seen in February 1997. The opera is directed by Henning Brockhaus; costumes are by Nan Cecchi; and the set design is by Ezio Toffolutti. The latter is particularly striking, featuring a complete reconstruction of the foyer of the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, which burned down in 1996. This is the setting for the death of Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus, to avenge the murder of Agamemnon. While the opera builds up to this, Strauss and the libretto writer Hofmannsthal investigate the corruption and disintegration of Agamemnons court, and explore the very depths of the souls of Elektra and her sister Chrysothemis, who have been humiliated and enslaved by their fathers usurpers. There is one musical and emotional highlight that particularly stands out, when Elektra remembers the time when she was a true princess, beautiful and bedecked in bright gold and precious clothes. This aria really brings home the association with La Fenice: the once-glorious theatre completely reduced to ashes. Of course, many years have gone by since that disaster, and the theatre has since been rebuilt and next year a regular opera season will recommence. Nonetheless, its never too late to reflect upon and condemn human actions that stem from nothing but stupidity and the desire to inflict harm on others. Paolo di Nicola