Ancient Greek mythology is never far away from the theatre and the big screen, and on Saturday a re-telling of the Greek tragedy Elektra will be screened in Limassol. The Rialto Theatre will offer those of us who are not familiar with the myth a chance to get to know it and, for those of us who do, a new way of getting to know it through Richard Strauss’s opera, with libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal.
The modern, expressionistic telling of the tale performed at the New York Metropolitan Opera was directed by the French theatre, opera and film director Patrice Chereau. This was the director’s last staging and he did not live to see it presented at the Met.
Hofmannsthal and Strauss’s adaptation of the story focuses tightly on Elektra, single-mindedly expressing her emotions and psychology as she meets with other characters, mostly one at a time.
In this version, soprano Nina Stemme portrays Elektra’s quest for vengeance for the murder of her father, Agamemnon. Legendary mezzo-soprano Waltraud Meier is chilling as Elektra’s fearsome mother, Klytaemnestra. Soprano Adrianne Pieczonka and bass-baritone Eric Owens are Elektra’s troubled siblings, while Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Strauss’s mighty take on Greek myth.
The story takes place in Mycenae, Greece, some years after the end of the Trojan War. This mythically resonant era has inspired opera composers for centuries. The Met’s production is set in an unspecified contemporary space.
The orchestra for Elektra is often cited as the largest for any repertory opera. It opens and closes the drama with a crashing motif that represents Agamemnon, Elektra’s father, who even in death dominates the lives of his family.
The score carries the tragedy through to its end, with moments of sublime lyricism when the characters express love alternating with harsh dissonance when they are pressing on the line between sanity and madness.
Screening of the opera. May 7. Theatre Rialto, Limassol. 7.55pm. €18/13. With Greek and English subtitles. Tel: 77-777745