Elektra - Synopsis

Richard Strauss: Elektra. Agnes Baltsa, Gabriele Schnaut Richard Strauss: Elektra. Agnes Baltsa

Elektra

Richard Strauss
Hugo von Hofmannsthal

 

On his return from the Trojan War, King Agamemnon was murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra, and her lover, Aegisthus. Electra, the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, wishes to avenge her murdered father. She is awaiting the return of her brother, Orestes, who was removed from the court as a child after the murder of his father.

The maids taunt and jeer at Electra, who is forced to live as an outcast before the palace gates. The only one to remain loyal to her is the youngest of the maids, who is abused by the others as a result. Electra invokes the ghost of her dead father and conjures up the image of his murder before her mind’s eye. She has a vision of the day on which she and Orestes will have their bloody revenge.

Her sister, Chrysothemis, warns Electra that their mother, Clytemnestra, is planning to have her locked up. Chrysothemis, who longs passionately for love and a life of fulfilment, is afraid that she might meet with a similar fate. She blames her sister for the situation in which they both find themselves. Clytemnestra is tortured by nightmares in which Orestes appears to avenge his father. She approaches her daughter, hoping that Electra will say something to stop her having these dreams. She does not, however, understand what Electra means when the latter tells her that she will no longer be plagued by these nightmares once the right person has been killed by the axe. Just as Electra, overcome by hate, flings her plans for revenge in her mother’s face, the Queen receives the news of Orestes' death. She laughs at her daughter scornfully and disappears into the palace.

Electra is now determined to carry out her plan for revenge on Clytemnestra and Aegisthus with the sole help of Chrysothemis. But Chrysothemis refuses to become involved.

A stranger now appears, claiming that he is the messenger who has come to inform the court of Orestes’ death. When Electra curses the messenger and announces who she is, the messenger reveals himself as Orestes. He has come to avenge their father. Before Electra can hand him the axe with which Agamemnon was slain and which she has kept for Orestes, he is called into the palace to appear before the Queen. The Queen’s scream, as she dies, release Electra from her suspense.

Aegisthus now returns. Electra greets him with feigned friendliness, confirms the news of Orestes’ death and accompanies Aegisthus into the palace, where Orestes awaits him.

In her joy at the vengeance which has been wreaked, Electra is hardly aware of Chrysothemis when the latter comes to tell her that Orestes has arrived and has killed Clytemnestra and Aegisthus.

Translation: Susan Bollinger


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