Luiza Fatyol (Die Schleppträgerin), Maria Kataeva (Die Vertraute), Renée Morloc (Klytämnestra), Manfred Fink (Ein junger Diener) , Lukasz Konieczny (Ein alter Diener) | (c) Matthias Jung
Richard Strauss
Duration: about 1 ¾ hours, no interval
Duration: about 1 ¾ hours, no interval

Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, murdered Clytemnestra’s first husband and her child because he wanted to marry her. With Clytemnestra he had four children: Iphigenia, Chrysothemis, Electra and Orestes. On his way to the Trojan War Agamemnon provoked Artemis, goddess of the hunt, boasting of being the better hunter after killing a stag in her sacred grove. Artemis punished Agamemnon by becalming his fleet near Aulis. The seer Calchas deemed that the goddess was to be appeased only by a sacrifice, and that the sacrificial offering must be Agamemnon’s daughter Iphigenia. Clytemnestra planned revenge on him with the assistance of her lover Aegisthus. When Agamemnon returned victorious – and with a concubine, the seer Cassandra – from the Trojan War, Clytemnestra and Aegisthus murdered him. Electra took Orestes abroad to safety. Clytemnestra confined Electra and Chrysothemis in abject conditions in an outhouse.


The maids at work speak scornfully of Electra, whose deranged condition frightens them. Only the youngest of them shows understanding for Electra and sees in her the royal daughter who is stricken by the murder of her father.

Electra is obsessed with the desire to avenge Agamemnon. As on every day at the hour of his murder, she conjures up the details of the horrific deed and indulges in her visions of vengeance. She had hidden the axe with which her father was killed, so that Orestes, on his return from exile, can use it to kill Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. The deed of retribution is to be culminated by great and bloody rejoicing.

Chrysothemis has been listening at a door and has discovered that Electra is to be imprisoned in a tower. Her warning makes no impression on Electra. She herself longs for a life in freedom with marriage and children. Her attempts to distract Electra from hatred and expectance of the return of Orestes bear no fruit.

Hearing Clytemnestra approaching from the house, Chrysothemis again tries to warn her sister against a confrontation with her mother. However, Electra is determined to have it out with Clytemnestra. Clytemnestra’s harrowing nightmares continually rob her of any rest. Despite the warnings of her confidante and her train-bearer, she consults her daughter. Electra hints darkly that the nightmares will cease when the axe fells the right victim.

Clytemnestra fails to understand, so Electra unfolds the horrific vision of the retribution which she and Orestes will wreak on her. Clytemnestra’s two attendants whisper her information which they have obtained from two strangers and which evokes triumphant peals of mocking laughter from Clytemnestra. Left alone, Electra is for the moment at a loss.

Chrysothemis recounts the message of the two strangers to Electra. Orestes is reported to have died in exile. Electra cannot believe this. After a servant appears demanding a horse so that he can inform Aegisthus of the death of Orestes, Electra resolves that now she herself must carry out the deed alone. She demands the support of Chrysothemis, who tears herself away despite all Electra’s begging and pleading.

A stranger enters, the bearer of the tragic news. At the height of her sorrow Electra reveals who she is, and he is led by this to confess his own identity: he is Orestes himself, returning at last from exile. His tutor interrupts the ecstatic reunion and urges Orestes to make haste to commit the deed.

Orestes enters the palace. Though Electra realizes with despair that she has forgotten to give him the axe, from inside the screams of the dying Clytemnestra are heard.

The maids, servants and Chrysothemis are terrified. Aegisthus comes back and with feigned servility Electra lights his path. Aegisthus also meets his death at the hands of Orestes. Chrysothemis rushes in with an account of the deed of Orestes and the turmoil among the staff.

She calls for a celebration for her restored brother, but Electra, seeing only that justice has been wrought, is carried away with the exultation of vengeance and the calls of her sister can no longer reach her. “In such joy as ours it is fitting only to be silent and to dance!” At the climax of her ecstasy Electra falls dead.


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