08 August 2016

Richard Strauss's Elektra

I was at the opera again a few weeks ago, this time watching Elektra by Richard Strauss. This would be my second opera, and I think I am liking this art form more and more.

The first time I saw an opera was when I watched Madama Butterfly when I was in Bergen. This time, I watched Elektra in Berlin, in the Deutsche Oper. While the venue isn't the most visually attractive venue, I have to say that the music is definitely amazing here.

As this is now the second time I have seen an opera, I can now compare this with the previous opera I have seen. I should say there were major differences, not only in music but also in production. While Madama Butterfly was anachronistic, which jarred me a little bit, Elektra was produced in a modern abstract way. The stage was set very minimally, with a barren main floor filled with sand, and a multi-story backstage, so people could appear either at the ground level on either side of the stage, or at an elevated area in the middle of the stage. These entrances can be closed, creating a locked space.

There were no other props, so the audience has to fill in the gaps, and only later one would realize that the setting is actually a palace, where Elektra and her family lives.

Speaking of the story, the story is based on the Greek mythology of Elektra, who has siblings (a brother and a sister). Their father is dead, Agamemnon. Their mother is later revealed to be the one who killed Agamemnon, and now she has her new lover, Aegisthus. The children don't like their mother and are planning to kill her and her lover.

The story moves slowly, focusing on Elektra, and her obsession on revenge. Her emotions are developed slowly, as she meets various characters one by one, individually. This is, after all, psychological thriller at its best.

It is a tragedy, you probably already know that, but sometimes there were aspects which were rather complex and in my opinion, needed explanation. For example, I don't know why Elektra dies just after dancing, upon hearing that her brother has successfully killed their mother. Why did she just fall down dead?

Anyway, I should say that this is also complex music. I don't know much about Richard Strauss's music, the only piece I know of his is Also sprach Zarathustra, which was made popular because of Stanley Kubrick. So in some respects this was a complex work for me and a little hard to comprehend. Add to that the fact that it is opera, so on the one hand I would like to concentrate on the music, but on the other hand I also want to follow the story, and doing those two things at the same time is a little hard to do.

In any case, I think I enjoyed that evening. I definitely would want to see another opera again in the near future!

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