Opera Vlaanderen's Elektra explores Strauss' dark side


Opera Vlaanderen is taking on the dark and twisted side of Richard Strauss with a new production of Elektra

A tale of youthful rebellion

After staging the comic crowd-pleaser Der Rosenkavalier last season, Opera Vlaanderen is now taking on the dark and twisted side of Richard Strauss with a new production of Elektra. First staged in 1909, it was the composer’s most significant venture into modernism, pushing into the fringes of atonality. It even contains the “Elektra chord”, famed for its dissonance.

The subject matter is also a lot stronger than the romantic Der Rosenkavalier, exploring the dark psychology of a family caught in a vicious circle of murder and revenge. This is Greek tragedy filtered through the sensibility of Freud’s Vienna, in the person of playwright and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal.

King Agamemnon has sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to the goddess Artemis before sailing for the Trojan War. When he returns victorious, his wife Clytemnestra takes revenge by having him killed. As a result, their daughter Electra swears vengeance, but since she is now marginalised in the court she needs an ally.

When her exiled brother Orestes also appears to have been killed, she must try to persuade her remaining sister to help. But Chrysothemis would rather forgive and move on.

Tightly focused on Electra, the opera explores her desperate struggle against forgetting and her hidden desire for power. It can also be read as a tale of youthful rebellion, an uprising against the older generation.

Elektra’s jagged music often inspires productions to adopt an expressionist look, all tilting floors and heavy eye-shadow. But hints dropped about the approach taken by rising German director David Bösch suggest a setting that combines a torture chamber and a child’s bedroom. There will be blood.

Swedish soprano Iréne Theorin takes the title role, with Lithuanian soprano Ausrine Stundyte as Chrysothemis and German alto Renée Morloc as Clytemnestra. The opera will be sung in German with Dutch translation. 

12 September to 3 October at Opera Antwerp & Ghent

Opera Vlaanderen is taking on the dark and twisted side of Richard Strauss with a new production of Elektra.

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Royal Ballet of Flanders

The Royal Ballet of Flanders is the only classical ballet company in Belgium. Based in Antwerp, it has long been considered one of the top dance companies in Europe.
Merge - The ballet company is set to merge with the Flemish Opera by 2014.
Budget cuts - The Australian-born artistic director Kathryn Bennetts is credited with reinvigorating the company after it languished in the early 2000s but left in 2012 due to budget constraints.
Award - The ballet company won the Critics’ Circle Award for Outstanding Company at the 2013 National Dance Awards in London.

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