April, Fathom events – On Saturday, April 30, 2016, I had the privilege and pleasure of viewing a screening of a live performance of Richard Strauss’s inexorable one-act opera Elektra,*  the concluding operatic work in a year-long 10th anniversary celebration of “MET: LIVE in HD,” which had featured ten of the world’s greatest operas on giant cinema screens  throughout the US.

The production premiered at the  Aix-en-Provance Festival in France in 2013 and is considered to be a landmark contemporary staging of Strauss’s masterpiece.  It was produced by the renowned Patrice Chereau who tragically died shortly after the opening at the age of 68.  (A DVD is available of that production.)

The superb cast is headed by the smoldering intensity of soprano Nina Stemme in the title role whose Elektra is unremittingly consumed with a passion for vengeance upon her mother Klytamnestra, widow of Agamennon, performed masterfully by mezzo-soprano Waltraud Meier, and her lover, the cowardly Aegisth, convincingly portrayed by Burchard Ulrich, who have brutally murdered Elektra’s father Agamemnon.  Bass-baritone Eric Owens gives a strong rendering of her sympathetic brother Orest and Adrianne Pieczonka rounds out this incomparable cast as her weakling sister Chrysothemis who plays a perfect counterpoint with her banal domestic aspirations to her possessed sister Elektra who has dedicated her life to revenging her father’s murder, She realizes her goal in the end, but at the expense of her sanity.

Staged in an ominously sparse gray space with costumes to match, Chereau’s smoldering rendering of Strauss’s masterpiece is a production for the ages and opera at it’s best!

* * * Significantly, Sigmund Freud used Sophocles’ Elektra in his analysis of a daughter’s attachment to her father, and Oedipus Rex as the basis for his theory of a son’s attraction to his mother.  The so-called “Oedipus” and “Elektra” complexes continue to be very much a part of Freudian psychoanalysis.


by Lidia Paulinska and Hugh McMahon