Elektra at The Royal Opera House

‘… Normally at this point I end by wishing that you enjoy the opera but, as it’s Electra, I’ll say I hope you enjoy the drama…’ said the ROH member of staff as she introduced the dress rehearsal.

The curtain lifted, there were women on their knees scrubbing blood off the floor.  A futile job as later Clytamnestra, Electra’s mother, goes on another killing spree triggered by a nightmare.  Electra already exiled from the palace becomes her mother’s confidante and fortune teller but all the time pursues her agenda to avenge her father Agamemnon’s death at the hands of Aegisthus also Clytamnestra’s lover.

A complex plot it was told in one act and over 90 minutes.  It had drama.  It was a league away from most other operas I’ve seen in terms of complexity plot and concise re-telling.  As you might expect from the ROH the production and casting were superb, I heard that there was a full standing ovation on opening night.

I liked the complexity of story told using the opera form.  Overall there were four stories.   The principal one centred on Elektra’s need to avenge the death of her father.  The remaining three were for the secondary characters: Clytamenstra  wanting to get rid of her nightmares about her exiled son Orest,  Electra’s sister wanting the two sisters to run away and finally the exiled brother Orest who returns…   When Electra learns that her brother is probably dead she decides to take on the job of killing her mother and step-father thus freeing the remaining family from their curse.

Yes, there was blood everywhere and the body count was high.  Yes it was a tragedy and therefore not a fun night out.  For me it was inspiring.

I try to see most operas at least once and I of course I enjoy the classics.  This goes deeper, explores the complexity of human nature rather than skirts over the top using stock characters and crams it all in to 90 minutes.  Perhaps the opera form is past it’s sell by but if we had more Elektra’s it might have a chance of revival.

Elektra, Royal Opera House


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