Elektra [2005]

There is a special category of German opera--we might call it the repellent masterpiece--in which some works of Richard Strauss are prominent, and Elektra is perhaps the pinnacle, certainly a unique experience. This production fulfills all the opera's requirements for mastery and repulsion. Opera frequently deals with dysfunctional families, but the clan of Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Elektra, and Orestes stands out even when compared with those of Oedipus or Medea. Deep, burning hatred, a thirst for revenge, a violent distaste for one's nearest and dearest are the driving forces in this work, which is essentially about the imperative of killing Mommy because she has murdered Daddy, who long ago killed Little Sister. Creating a musical masterpiece out of such material was a daunting challenge, and Richard Strauss fulfilled it spectacularly with music that celebrates the powers of darkness. This Vienna State Opera production captures the music's shadowy, muscular essence. --Joe McLellan

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