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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 287


ELEKTRA IN DRESDEN
is upon a similar scale throughout. There are also the expected
orchestral innovations.-infrequently used or unusual uses of instru-
ments. An alto clarinet, with a dark-colored tone, employed by
Mozart in "The Magic Flute," is one of these means to effect.
    Opinions as to the effect of an art work must differ with the
individual, and it is, of course, only large general impressions that
one can receive from a single hearing-which, except in the case of
obvious worthlessness can never be conclusive-yet it is difficult
to see how anyone not temperamentally antipathetic to Strauss's
musical personality can fail to feel the power of "Elektra.."
    So much of modern German criticism has a morbid tendency,
seeming to vary between reading horrors into an innocent text and
defending the indefensible, that it is not a safe guide to opinion. It
must be admitted that neither the music nor the theme of "Elektra"
is normal, in the sense that nothing pushed beyond the border
of everyday experience seems quite sane, yet though it may do violence
to modern sensibilities it cannot be called degenerate as "Salome"
is. One's enjoyment of the music of the earlier opera was not unlike
the Tsthetic pleasure derived from certain wonderful but unsanitary
old Italian cities, which can only be enjoyed with handkerchief to
the nose. "Elektra" does not seem decadent, but rather the drama
of life transposed to another key. The theme is an obsession, that
of the idea of vengeance-not revenge. In Frau Krull's wonderful
interpretation-and having seen it, it is impossible to separate it
from the text--Elei-tra stands not only as a prophetic figure of ven-
geance, but of tragic desolation, a girl who has foregone love, the joy
of life, her womanhood, even her individuality, for her purpose.
Royal in blood as in nature, possessed once of beauty, youth, tender-
ness and charm, because of her fidelity to her father's memory, she
is beaten, disgraced, made to eat with the servants, even the dogs.
Yet the little serving maid who loves her says, "There is nothing in
the world so royal as she. She lies in rags upon the threshold, but
there is no one in the house can endure to look into her eyes."
LEK TRA, like Hamlet, broods persistently upon .the conviction
       that she must avenge the murder of her noble and beloved father.
       But the mental condition is different. Where Hamlet is in-
trospective, philosophic, his mind clouded with a doubt, Elektra
knows no consideration but the means of vengeance. All this is in
the music, which while barbaric, volcanic, terrific, in its sweep of
passion, holds always the concentrated unswerving purpose of that
vengeance which was a religion. The events that have preceded the
beginning of the drama are, briefly, that Clytemnestra,7Elektra's
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