Morenike Fadayomi as Chrysothemis
©Matthias Jung

On Saturday September 22, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein opened its current season with the premier performance of Elektra, a one-act opera with music by Richard Strauss and a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. This opera was first performed in 1909 and was the first of many joint ventures between the two artists.  

The story is based on ancient Greek mythology. Elektra was the daughter of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae.  In the opera we first see her in the courtyard of the palace of Mycenae.  Her family is very dysfunctional and has been plagued by betrayal, cruelty and killings. Those who have survived, so far, are broken and wounded people haunted by terrible nightmares.  

Strauss and von Hofmannsthal interpreted this ancient story in a modern and expressionistic way.  There is a psychological examination of the characters and a great deal of emotion is expressed, although nearly all the focus is on Elektra. The style of the music was clearly influenced by Wagner and was played by a huge orchestra (around 100 musicians).  Like Wagner, Strauss characterised the figures in the story with leitmotifs.  

On Saturday, Linda Watson, a world-renowned Wagnerian soprano, superbly performed the complex and demanding role of Elektra.  Another Wagnerian whose performance stood out was Hans-Peter König (bass) in the role of Orestes.

The set throughout was the Palace of Mycenae, which also has a role as a metaphor for its inhabitants.  It revolves in a sort of vicious circle, it too is broken and wounded and, ultimately, we cannot know the full horror of what goes on inside.

There are just 3 more performances of Elektra in the next two weeks so you'll have to hurry if you don't want to miss this great opera. 

Jadwiga Bobrowska for RhineBuzz