When Richard Strauss’ Elektra was first performed in Dresden in January 1909, it was greeted by and explosion of critical condemnation of extraordinary savagery. One writer raged, “The whole thing impresses one as a sexual aberration. The blood mania appears as a terrible deformation of sexual perversity.” Yet these comments had substance – the opera certainly hit home reflecting the violence in society at the time that people would have preferred not to have been aired in public. Orchestrally, this study of pathological hatred and self-perpetuating violence is simply unique in its sheer scale and visceral impact. Every element of drama is encapsulated in possibly the most contrapuntally complex orchestral score ever written, proving that Strauss’ musical opulence even outdid that of Berlioz and Wagner.

Works and composers

R Strauss Elektra