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The craftsman
Vol. XVII, Number 3 (December 1909)

Roof, Katharine M.
Elektra in Dresden: Richard Strauss's latest opera,   pp. 281-295 PDF (5.0 MB)


Page 282


ELEKTRA IN DRESDEN
N    "ELEKTRA," Richard Strauss's latest opera, the composer
   has used Hugo von Hofmansthal's play of the same name for his
   libretto. The first public performance was given in Dresden on
January twenty-fifth, nineteen hundred and eight. The composer
was present during the preparation of the opera, but did not conduct.
Since then it has been given in Berlin, Leipsic, Munich and Frank-
fort-am-Main. It is to be given at the Manhattan Opera House
in New York in midwinter, where three singers,-Mme. Eve Grippon,
Mine. Mariette Mazarin, Mime. Carmen Melir will alternate in the
r6le of Elektra. The original cast consisted of Frau Annie Krull
as Elektra, Frau Schumann-Heink as Clytemnestra, Fraulein Siems
as Chrysothemis, Herr Perron as Orestes, and Herr Sembach as
Aegisthus. The present Dresden cast is the same, with the excep-
tion of the substitution of Frau Chavanne for Frau Schumann-
Heink, who is not a member of the company and who became voice-
less from the strain of the rehearsals, so that she was obliged to with-.
draw from the cast after the second performance.              lrý
   Those sensational head line reports-which emanate from all
countries even when not expressed in large type in the newspapers-
informed us that in "Elektra" Strauss had out-Heroded "Salome,"
that all the extravagances and violations revealed in the precedin
opera were multi lied a thousandfold, and that musical chaos reigneZ
supreme. This fast statement at least is not true, for while the com-
poser's theories are pushed somewhat farther in "Elektra," and
the
orchestra employed has been still further increased, the effect, far
from being one of disintegration, is that of a great barbaric tonal pic-
ture painted with supreme technical skill. Strauss's genius, if genius
it be, is of the theater, and he is past master of its effects. Some
musicians and critics contend that he is not original, but that he is
master of musical pigment upon the Titanic scale is undeniable.
The score is full not only of spectacular- effects,-strange juxtaposi-
tions of tonal colors, bizarre, grotesque, unimaginable,-but of pathos,
even of brief moments of repose.
   The composition, conditioned by the loftier character of the theme,
is upon a higher plane than "Salome." The only drawback to the
effect lies in the sustained nature of the composition, which con-
tinues without break or intermission for two hours and a quarter, so
that toward the last the nerves are scarcely able to respond to the
sustained pressure. If this be true for the passively receptive listener,
what must it be for the performers!
   The orchestra contains sixty-two string instruments-thirty-six
to forty-two being the ordinary number-divided into first, second
and third violins-and twenty-four wood winds, and the augmentation
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