I’m currently taking a level 400 German Literature and Music class. I’ve got an assignment to write an essay about “music and society” on selected works by Beethoven (“Fidelio”), Nietzsche (“The Dionysiac World View”), Schubert (“Winterreise”), or Richard Strauss (Elektra).
“Fidelio” is an opera about freedom, Nietzsche is just plain weird and his writing style is messed up. I was torn between Schubert or Strauss. Schubert’s “Winterreise” is a solo singer and piano accompaniment about a man spiralling down into insanity due to needing to leave his lover. Strauss’s “Elektra” is a opera about a bloodthirsty young woman spiralling down into insanity due to wanting revenge for the death of her father. I chose “Elektra”. ***(trigger warnings below for violence and blood)***
“Elektra” is a violent, tragic, and raw opera based on the story of Elektra in Greek mythology. The soprano part of Elektra requires great stamina and is complex to perform well. The music is unsettling and makes one feel uncomfortable by the purposely disharmonic and clashing tones. I am drawn to the character of Elektra and fascinated by her sheer passionate rage against the murderers of her father. By the way, her father (the King Agamemnon ), was murdered by Elektra’s mother and her mother’s lover by an axe to the head while he was bathing. Elektra literally sings a whole song about the gruesome scene and how the dead body was dragged out and shamed. The opera is sometimes classified as a horror for being so explicit due to the tones about death and violence. Long story short, Elektra has the original dysfunctional family amplified by 10000x. She and her siblings conspire and succeed in murdering her mother (the Queen Clytemnestra ) and her mother’s lover by the same axe that killed King Agamemnon (complete with the dead king’s dried blood on the axe!!). What makes this a classic Greek tragedy is the death of insane and depressed Elektra due to a sudden wave of ecstasy/ecstatic happiness at the success of her bloody revenge. Many opera productions will include the blood and violence in their interpretation of the opera … don’t watch if you get sick at blood. Gotta love Greek tragedies … time to start on the assignment. It is due tomorrow.