abstract. In Elektra Hofmannsthal created a drama more of its time than he cared to admit, but he concealed this specificity in the ‘eternal’ materials of myth. Donor challenge: Your generous donation will be matched 2-to-1 right now. Your $5 becomes $15! Dear Internet Archive Supporter,. I ask only. HOFMANNSTHAL’S ELEKTRA. Herman K. Doswald. Huco voN HOFMANNSTIIAL was one of the early writers in the 20th. Century to question the power of.
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W hen Richard Strauss’s Elektra was ushered on-stage in Dresden in Januaryit was greeted by the critical equivalent of fits and screaming. Strauss, whose name was synonymous with “artistic scandal” on both sides of the Atlantic, was no hofmaannsthal to controversy, but even so, many of the opera’s original commentators were unusually vitriolic in their condemnation.
This applies all the more because not only Elektra, but all the women are sexually tainted. Hofmannsthal – who had reworked his own “free adaptation” of Sophocles’ Hofmwnnsthal to form hofmanbsthal libretto – was depicted holding the Greek dramatist down while Strauss battered him to death with a cymbal stick. 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. Strauss and Hofmannsthal were holding up a mirror to their times and many didn’t like the reflection.
A study of pathological hatred elemtra self-perpetuating violence, Elektra forms a grim prophecy of the convulsions that dominated hofmanbsthal 20th century and continue into the 21st. The myth of Electra forms part of the vast classical saga of the house of Atreus, whose nominal founder, after a row with his brother, Thyestes, killed the latter’s children and served them up to him to eat.
Thereafter, the gods compelled various members of this tribe to take one life for another, then to be murdered in revenge in their turn. The Atreidan myth is the only subject common to all three extant Greek tragic dramatists, though they approached it in different ways. Aeschylus’s Oresteia focuses on chains of retribution and guilt. Euripides’ Electra ironically questions belief in a metaphysical system that encourages crime only to punish it.
Sophocles’ Electra, centring on the heroine’s grief for her father and her overwhelming desire for Orestes to return to shed his mother’s blood, is widely regarded as the most psychologically advanced of Greek tragedies though Sophocles still presents the Atreides as motivated by divine commandments. Hofmannsthal wrote his own Elektra in in response to a request for a version of Sophocles’ from the Berlin-based director Max Reinhardt, and what he hofamnnsthal up with elektrs groundbreaking.
Fastidious, intellectual and precociously erudite, Hofmannsthal’s head was full of both the naturalistic theatre of Ibsen and Strindberg, and the murky psychological probings of symbolist poetry. His response to Reinhardt’s request was to haul Sophocles into the present. Much has been made of his ditching of many overt trappings of Greek drama, such as turning Sophocles’ single-minded chorus into a gaggle of squabbling maids. Infinitely more important, however, was his decision to jettison the myth’s metaphysics in their entirety.
There is no divinely imposed pattern of retribution, no Furies to goad and torment his Orest, and the characters are consequently at the mercy of their own uncontrollable psyches and irrationalistic obsessions. Myth becomes the embodiment of psychological extremism as Hofmannsthal collides with his contemporary Freud.
Elektra has often been cited as the first play to take Freudian theory on board. In some respects this is erroneous, since the only psychoanalytic work Hofmannsthal knew at the time was Studies on Hysteria, co-written by Freud and Joseph Breuer and published in Elektra does, however, anticipate not only psychoanalysis, but other developments in psychiatry.
Hofmannsthal depicted Elektra as an obsessional neurotic long before Freud went public with his analysis of the condition. She and her mother are locked in a horrific co-dependency.
Elektra’s relentless thirst for blood fuels Klytemnestra’s guilt, which she seeks in turn to assuage by turning to her daughter in the hope of some sort of solace. Terrified by nightmares of Orest’s return, Klytemnestra asks Elektra to interpret and cure her dreams. In Hofmannsthal, however, unlike Freud, there are no cures: Elektra tells her mother her nightmares must continue until the axe falls and extinguishes her life. Throughout, both sexual motivations and repression dominate. Elektra has sacrificed her sexuality to keep her obsession alive, and describes, in a hofmannsthaal passage, how she gave birth, parthenogenetically, to “curses and despair”.
Hofmannsthal, far from emphasising Freud, admitted that his principal influence was Hamlet. Both play and opera form an examination of the neurotic bifurcation between fantasy and action.
Opera: Elektra complex | Music | The Guardian
Nowadays, it is impossible to think of Hofmannsthal’s text without Strauss’s music, though the play proved influential in its own right, opening the way for later dramatists to reinvent classical myth as psychodrama. The playwright most strongly influenced by Hofmannsthal was Eugene O’Neill, who first read Elektra in the mids, and was inspired to write Mourning Becomes Hpfmannsthal as a result. Strauss, meanwhile, saw Elektra during its opening run in the winter of and promptly contacted Hofmannsthal with a view to turning it into an opera.
It wasn’t until that they could actually start work together on Elektra, by which time, Strauss, to Hofmannsthal’s alarm, began dithering.
He wanted a libretto on a different subject, he told Hofmannsthal, who quietly held firm. Once elwktra on the score was begun, Strauss, usually the most fluent and confident of musicians, began to suffer from composer’s block. Strauss was a secretive man, and his chirrupy letters to Hofmannsthal make no mention of the trauma he was going through, namely that the text was triggering deep anxieties deriving from his own ambivalent attitude towards his parents.
Elektra (opera) – Wikipedia
Strauss’s father, a domineering man, who encouraged his son’s compositions but repeatedly disparaged the results, had died inan event which in turn caused Strauss’s mother whose mental health was never less than precarious to have a massive breakdown, necessitating confinement in a sanatorium. The subject matter of Elektra touched every raw nerve in Strauss’s being and explains why he took so long over the score.
Those same raw nerves, however, also spilled into every bar of the opera’s music and also explain the torrential savagery of the emotions it recreates in the listener.
Elektra is at once terrifying and elating, and to experience it is to go beyond the limits of reason into a world of naked, uncontrollable emotion. The collaboration between Strauss and Hofmannthal lasted for more than 20 years and became one of the most famous partnerships in operatic history, though neither was to produce work of such dreadful intensity again.
Elektra – Elektra
At the time of the premiere, the integrity of the imperial houses of Europe was being threatened both hogmannsthal their own Atreidan dramas and the slow slide towards war. The Mayerling scandal – the double suicide of the drug-ridden heir to the Hapsburg empire and his hkfmannsthal mistress – would have been fresh in the memories of the opera’s first audiences.
Divisive political treaties were hardening into the configurations that led to the cataclysm of InElektra may have been disturbing, but it was also disturbingly familiar and at the start of the 21st century, it seems so again. The new production at Covent Garden later this month serves, hofmannnsthal, as a timely reminder that the obsessions of those who consider themselves our leaders are in danger of plunging the world into a self-perpetuating cycle of madness and destruction once more.