When Richard Strauss’ Elektra was ushered on-stage in Dresden in January 1909, it was greeted by the critical equivalent of fits and screaming. Strauss, whose name was synonymous with artistic scandal was no stranger to controversy, but even so, many of the opera’s original commentators were unusually vitriolic in their condemnation. One writer raged, “The whole thing impresses one as a sexual aberration. The blood mania appears as a terrible deformation of sexual perversity.” Yet beneath some of those early comments lurked distorted vestiges of the truth. The opera had hit raw nerves. Each age reinvents classical mythology in its own image and Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal had held up a mirror to their times and many didn’t like the reflection. 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

Supported by

The Elektra Syndicate