The premiere performances are on November 26 and 29, 2020.
For the first time in Bulgaria, opera lovers will have the opportunity to enjoy the opera “Elektra” by Richard Strauss. The idea for the realization of the production came from Plamen Kartaloff. Thus, the Sofia Opera will join the most prestigious opera houses in the world, which have in their repertoire the modernist work of Richard Strauss.
“Elektra” is yet another extremely complex creative task facing the troupe of the first opera house in Bulgaria. Following the tetralogy “The Ring of the Nibelung”, “Tristan and Isolde” and “Parsifal” by Richard Wagner, the inclusion of “Elektra” in the non-traditional repertoire programme shows the enormous artistic potential of the Sofia Opera. Only Bulgarian singers are included in the soloists’ ensemble. Richard Strauss’s vocal style is atypical and this provokes a new, different performance of the soloists and the chorus. The score is variegated with high orchestral difficulties, and the directorial idea of Plamen Kartaloff, as always, sculpts the artistic images and puts them in new dimensions of creative search.
The premiere of “Elektra” comes during a pandemic and a series of trials of the spirit. But it is also a proof of the courage of the Sofia Opera at this very moment to present to its loyal audience a captivating performance, which outlines a clear vision for the development of the theatre in the near future.
In the main roles we will see Lilia Kehayova and Diana Guglina as Elektra, Gergana Rusekova, Mariana Zvetkova and Yordanka Milkova – in the role of Klytaemnestra, Daniel Ostretsov and Emil Pavlov as Aegisth, Veselin Mihailov and Atanas Mladenov – in the part of Orest.
The conductor of the performance is maestro Evan-Alexis Christ, set designer Sven Jonke, and the director is Plamen Kartaloff.
Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal met on the eve of the 20th century at the home of the German writer Richard Dehmel in Berlin. Hofmannsthal immediately expressed a desire to work with the composer and at their next meeting in Paris offered him a libretto for a ballet. “The Triumph of Time” did not impress Strauss, and he declined the offer. At that time, he enjoyed the fame of a famous and sought-after conductor throughout Europe.
In 1903, Richard Strauss attended the premiere of the play “Elektra”, adapted by Hofmannsthal for the Max Reinhardt Theatre in Berlin. The composer immediately understood that the drama could serve as a basis for an opera libretto and contacted the writer. The two set the beginning of an extremely fruitful collaboration that would last 20 years and would create six operas.
Richard Strauss established himself as an opera composer after the astonishing success of "Salome" in 1905. It is interesting to note that his new idea had the same origins as "Salome": a play seen in Berlin, directed by Max Reinhardt and with the actress Gertrud Eysoldt in the lead role. But the similarities end there. In their joint work, Strauss and Hoffmannstal achieve a perfect balance between text and score, raising this symbiosis to an extremely high level. Hoffmannstal complied with the composer's notes and reworked parts of the libretto. All this happened through letters in the mail, as the writer lived in Vienna and Richard Strauss – in Berlin.
“Elektra” is an extremely innovative work in one act, whose plot includes murder, fraud and revenge:
Elektra is obsessed with her desire to avenge the death of her father Agamemnon. She incites her brother Orest to kill the culprits – their mother Klytaemnestra and her lover Aegisth. Finally, amazed and embarrassed by her act, Elektra dances in ecstasy, but before the end of the dance she falls dead to the ground.
After three years of work, Elektra was completed. The world premiere was on January 25, 1909 at the Royal Opera House in Dresden.
The modern musical language of “Elektra” provoked mixed reactions from the audience at the premiere. From the first chords the composer puts the listener in a state of intense anticipation. Based on ancient Greek mythology and the eponymous tragedy of Sophocles from 410 BC as a libretto, Strauss wrote the work in an extremely modernist and expressionist style. The composer creates a canvas for dramatic voices and a huge orchestra, but also a penetrating musical and psychological portrait, which impresses with its exceptional emotionality and expressiveness.
As a musical line, orchestration and aesthetics, “Elektra” contrasts sharply with Strauss's earliest operas and his later career. “Elektra” is Strauss's most modern work and the only opera in which he extends the boundaries of tonality to the impossible. After “Elektra”, he retreated to a more conservative style of composition.
The score of “Elektra” is dedicated to Natalie and Willy Levin – close friends of the composer.
Good luck to Elektra on the Sofia stage!